Category Archives: Theater

The brilliant “King Charles III” comes to DVD after critical UK and Broadway acclaim

A willful king . . . a prophetic ghost . . . family betrayals . . . revenge! It sounds like a play by Shakespeare, but it’s a drama about the future. Masterpiece presents an adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway show King Charles III, starring the late Tim Pigott-Smith as Prince Charles after his accession to the throne, sometime in the years ahead.

King Charles III, a co-production with the BBC, will be available on DVD June 27. The program will also be available for digital download.

Pigott-Smith, who died unexpectedly on April 7, had appeared in several Masterpiece productions, including The Jewel in the Crown and Downton Abbey. “The Masterpiece family is heartbroken at the loss of Tim Pigott-Smith, a wonderful actor and a warm and charming man,” says Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. “We are going to miss him.”

King Charles III playwright Mike Bartlett remembers him as “one of the real greats, both as an actor and a man.”

Daringly scripted in blank verse by Bartlett and directed by Rupert Goold King Charles III focuses on the crisis-strewn transition of power after the eventual death of Queen Elizabeth II, currently the longest-serving monarch in British history. For his part, Charles is the longest heir-in-waiting ever, and Bartlett envisions the turmoil that rocks the monarchy when his turn finally comes.

Also starring are Oliver Chris as Charles’s heir, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge; Charlotte Riley as William’s bride, Kate; Richard Goulding as Charles’s younger son, Prince Harry; Tamara Lawrance as Harry’s love interest and self-proclaimed revolutionary, Jess Edwards; Margot Leicester as Charles’s doting wife, Camilla; and Adam James as the polished British prime minister, Tristan Evans.

The original London staging of King Charles III won Best New Play accolades from both the Laurence Olivier Awards and the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards. Moving across the Atlantic, it garnered five Tony nominations during its Broadway run. The New York Times hailed the production as “flat-out brilliant … dazzlingly presumptuous.” And in London, The New Statesman marveled at the playwright’s audacity: “If the Lord Chamberlain still policed the stage, Bartlett would be in the Tower.”

Shakespeare-lovers will detect echoes of Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, and Henry IV, among other of the Bard’s works. They will also revel in the rhythmic music of blank verse—unrhymed iambic pentameter—which captures the natural flow of the English language and which Elizabethan dramatists helped popularize, revived by Bartlett to startling effect.

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” That piece of blank verse is from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, and it perfectly portrays the hero’s quandary in King Charles III.

 

Deborah Cox may (or may not) be starring in the musical take of “The Bodyguard”

Deborah Cox is drowning in good reviews, starring as fictional musical legend Rachel Marron in the stage musical The Bodyguard. Yep, it’s the same role Whitney Houston played in the 1992 flick of the same name.

Those wishing to see where and when Cox performs the role should visit thebodyguardmusical.com, and take note of the warning on the website: Please note that Ms. Cox is not scheduled to appear at all performances. Please check the venue website and ticketing agency for each city for the schedule. The producers of The Bodyguard cannot guarantee the appearance of any particular artist, which is always subject to illness and holidays.

Yet you can listen to Cox, now that Broadway Records’s president Van Dean and Deco Recording Group have announced that Deborah Cox: I Will Always Love You will be released digitally and in stores on March 31. The album is currently available for pre-order at BroadwayRecords.com and Amazon.com.

I Will Always Love You is an 8-track EP featuring the most requested songs from the smash-hit musical, including such iconic fan favorites as “All the Man that I Need”, “I Have Nothing” and “I Will Always Love You.”

Says the 42-year-old Cox: “I’ve always been a fan of the songs in the movie so it has been a dream to perform them on stage every night. This project was born out of continuous requests from my fans and people who have seen me in the show. They wanted to have something with me singing these songs so I listened and went to work putting this EP together.”

Consider Tyce another bat out of hell. That’s a compliment. Read on . . .

For the record, whenever Van Dean, President of Broadway Records, speaks, we listen.

“I first heard Tyce sing Steinman in a concert in New York and knew immediately that he was a rare talent who could pull off these extraordinarily difficult to sing songs and make them his own,” Dean says. “It’s no surprise that Steinman trusted Tyce with his material and we are excited to unveil Tyce’s debut album to the world.”

Indeed. Every so often a new artist comes along with a debut album that not only raises eyebrows, but curiosity in that the songs are so perfectly matched with the talent. In Tyce’s case, with today’s release of his debut Broadway Records album, Hero, his voice is perfectly in sync with the celebratory music and lyrics of noted Meatloaf collaborator Jim Steinman.

No ordinary talent would ever dare to record such treasured songs as “Holding Out For A Hero,” “Total Eclipse Of The Heart,” “I’m Gonna’ Love Her For Both Of Us” and “Braver Than We Are,” without the imprimatur of wordsmith Steinman, who was catapulted to international fame and renown with the debut album from Meatloaf, Bat Out of Hell.

Tyce is the first male vocalist to have recorded with Steinman since Meatloaf. Says Tyce: “I also fit Jim’s original vision of a young blond, honorable, noble-boy, that he first had in mind when he wrote Bat Out Of Hell.”  (Steinman is currently prepping the musical Bat Out Of Hell which opens June 5 in the U. K.)

Bravely produced and boldly re-imagined by Zak Lloyd (with Tony Heyes as executive producer and Nicky James as producer), with Steinman’s blessing, the album features nine Steinman-tracks; plus seven bonus tracks. Don’t be fooled, these tunes perfectly balance Steinman’s original vigor with a twist of modern.

Tyce, who has long been key player in the Broadway community and recently appeared at last year’s Rockers On Broadway event (performing Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” to a rapturous reception) services Steinman’s work with a bold, fresh take and a passion that immediately demands an audience.

Tyce first met Steinman after honoring him at a special concert in New York City. A surprise performance followed, with Tyce receiving a standing ovation after singing “Bat Out of Hell” in its 9-minute 51-second entirety in the original key. This was the first time the song was ever officially performed live since the Meat Loaf rendition. From there, it was kismet and a new interpreter of Steinman was born and reborn, for Jim.

We give Jim the last words. He calls Tyce “brilliant! virtuosic!” and gushes again over Hero: “It was like you wrestled with a fire-breathing dragon and came out on top!”

Sometimes love has to lick you in the face. Proof: The new CD “A Dog’s Story”

We’ve always said that Broadway Records and its president Van Dean is the cat’s meow. Now they have gone to the dogs. And that’s a compliment.

The company’s latest release? The Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording of A Dog Story. It ill be released digitally and in stores on Friday, January 20. The album is currently available for pre-order at BroadwayRecords.com.

A Dog Story is a charming new musical comedy with music and lyrics by Gayla D. Morgan and a book by Eric H. Weinberger about Roland, a career-driven lawyer, who thinks he must be married to make partner. To solve his dilemma, he gets a puppy as a chick magnet. Through first dates, angry tangos, and a sudden disappearance, Roland discovers there’s more to life when you “get a dog!”

Here’s the cast recording the CD. Those who can’t name who is who: Go to the doghouse!

The cast of A Dog Story includes David Perlman as Roland, Lindsie VanWinkle as Miranda, Stefanie Brown  as Blair, Brian Ray Norris as Guy.

You just got to love a musical who reminds us that sometimes love has to lick you in the face!

 

Holiday Gift Guide 2016: The Year’s Best Last-Minute Gifts

FOR TV FANS
Get an exclusive look behind the scenes of the first two seasons of Outlander with The Making of Outlander: The Series: The Official Guide to Seasons One & Two (Delacorte,$50), an official, fully illustrated companion to the hit TV series based on the bestselling novels. Millions of readers captivated by the epic romance of Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser have eagerly followed. Now the must-watch drama has inspired this must-have guide, which reveals that it takes a village (or perhaps a Scottish isle) to bring the breathtaking world of Outlander to life in front of our eyes. Spanning the first two seasons of the small-screen, The Making of Outlander leads readers behind the scenes and straight into the action as cast members, writers, producers, musicians, costume designers, set decorators, technicians, and more share the many adventures and challenges they face to make this sweeping saga come alive on the screen.

In the special treat Wild Kratts: A Creature Christmas (PBS Distribution), the Wild Kratts crew is resting and relaxing as they get ready for the Wild Kratts Christmas party after a busy year filled with amazing creature adventures. It’s too bad their arch villains Donita Donata, Gaston Gourmand, and Zach Varmitech are about to spoil the fun. The sound of jingle bells is replaced by alarm bells as the team discovers that Donita, Gaston, and Zach are capturing baby animals from around the globe. With Christmas fast approaching, can Martin and Chris rescue their baby animal friends and return them to their homes in time for the holidays?

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: Daniel’s Winter Wonderland (PBS Distribution)features four stories including “A Snowy Day,” “Daniel’s Winter Adventure,” “Neighborhood Nutcracker,” and “Baking Mistakes.” In the stories “Daniel’s Winter Adventure” and “Neighborhood Nutcracker,” Daniel discovers that when sledding, ice skating, or learning a dance for “The Nutcracker” ballet, “if something seems hard to do, try it a little bit at a time!” In addition to these grr-ific stories, kids can watch Daniel and Miss Elaina play snow astronauts in “A Snowy Day,” and Daniel and Prince Wednesday make cookies with Baker Aker in “Baking Mistakes.”

FOR NATURE LOVERS
In The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World (Greystone Books, $24.95), Peter Wohlleben shares his deep love of woods and forests and explains the amazing processes of life, death, and regeneration he has observed in the woodland and the amazing scientific processes behind the wonders of which we are blissfully unaware. Much like human families, tree parents live together with their children, communicate with them, and support them as they grow, sharing nutrients with those who are sick or struggling and creating an ecosystem that mitigates the impact of extremes of heat and cold for the whole group. Drawing on groundbreaking new discoveries, Wohlleben presents the science behind the secret and previously unknown life of trees and their communication abilities; he describes how these discoveries have informed his own practices in the forest around him.

Countless books and blogs have extolled the virtues of the Cat Lady, now photographer David Williams celebrates cat-owning men and the precious kitties who have stolen their hearts. Men With Cats: Intimate Portraits of Feline Friendship (Quirk Books, $12.95) represent a cross-section of American society—musicians and artists, soldiers and CEOs, truck drivers and tattoo artists—with one very furry common denominator. These fun, fuzzy, and offbeat portraits are full of personality, and the accompanying stories share everything from “how we met” to how the cats earned their names. Men with Cats is a delightful gift book for anyone who appreciates the bond between pets and their people.

Small is size, big in tips and hints. Miniature Garden Grower (Mitchell Beazley, $14.99) from garden designer and writer Holly Farrell shows how to grow a variety of miniature gardens from scratch, using inexpensive, everyday equipment and materials. Projects include: one-pot gardens, terrariums, wildlife gardens, water gardens, herb gardens and vertical gardens. Heavily illustrated with diagrams and photographs, and packed with charts and tables, this book is a gardening book the whole family can enjoy.

FOR POP-UP PRAISERS:
LEGO Pop-Up (Scholastic, $29.99) is the first-ever LEGO pop-up book Matthew Reinhart creates another spectacular pop-up book, this time telling the LEGO story with equal amounts facts, fun and adventure. Packed with a variety of features- pop-ups, pull tabs, turning wheels and more, this “fun-formative” book will be a delight for both LEGO and pop-up fans alike. Part book, part comic strip, all fun, this is the ultimate collector’s item for LEGO fans.

In this spectacular pop-up guide to the White House by bestselling paper engineer Robert Sabuda, readers can take a tour behind the scenes of the office of the executive branch and the residence of the president and his family. Enter The White House: A Pop-Up of Our Nation’s Home (Orchard Books, $29.99) and travel through time as you open each spread and discover the North Face of the White House, the East Room, the Lincoln Bedroom, the Rose Garden, the Oval Office, and the South Lawn of the White House. year. According to First Lady Michelle Obama, “It’s the ‘People’s House.’ It’s a place that is steeped in history, but it’s also a place where everyone should feel welcome.”

The iconic art of Japanese artist Hokusai, from great waves to waterfalls and mountains, are reimagined in dramatic 3-D pop-ups in Hokusai Pop-Ups (Thames & Hudson, $29.95). Realized in jewel-like colors, Hokusai’s simple views of everyday scenes in Japan, his sense of balance and harmony, and his highly stylized but ever-changing techniques seem to capture the spirit and traditions of his homeland. Hokusai Pop-Ups brings this stunning art to life.

FOR MUSIC MAVENS
As the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love floods the media with debates and celebrations of music, political movements, flower power, acid rock and hippies, The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965–1975 (PM Press, $22.95)  offers a critical re-examination of the interwoven political and musical happenings in San Francisco in the Sixties. Musician and native San Franciscan Mat Callahan uses dozens of original interviews, primary sources and personal experiences to show how the intense interplay of artistic and political movements put San Francisco, briefly, in the forefront of a worldwide revolutionary upsurge.

Prince: Life & Times (Chartwell Books, $24.99) is a lavishly illustrated authoritative chronicle of his ground-breaking career, covering every album, every movie and every tour. Jason Draper includes profiles of key collaborators such as The Time, Sheila

E and Vanity 6, assesses his various business dealings, reviews of every album and details his many side-projects, on stage, on record, on screen, and beyond. This updated second edition includes detailed information on Prince’s activity from 2008 up to his death this year.

In the new book Fleetwood Mac: The Complete Illustrated History (Voyageur Press, $40) music historian Richie Unterberger digs deep into the band’s entire career, highlighting details that will surprise even the most loyal fans. The scope of the book is as large and varied as Fleetwood Mac’s career, starting with their formation as a blues band in the ’60s to the pop superstardom of the ’70s and ’80s to their 2015 reunion. Each chapter features separate reviews of each of Mac’s 17 studio albums, authored by noted rock critics such as Barney Hoskyns, Tom Moon Martin Popoff and Gary Graff. In addition, there’s a myriad of photographs and images and memorabilia, including rare and little-seen items.

He is, without a doubt, one of the most popular and controversial artists of all time. Now, for the first time ever, author Daryl Easlea explores the life and history of Michael Jackson, in reverse, in Michael Jackson: Rewind (Race Point Publishing, $40). Starting with his tragic death and rewinding to his early hits with the Jackson 5 and life in Gary, Indiana, this is a complete illustrated history of the King of Pop: his genius, his life and his demons.

Life Amplified World Tour: Live at WVU (City Drive Films) is the new live concert DVD and CD from multi-platinum country superstar Brad Paisley. The concert was shot with 20 cameras in front of a hometown crowd of more than 15,000 people. Paisley played an electrifying two-hour show that included many of his 23 number one singles, such as “Mud on the Tires,” “Then,” and a surprise rendition of “I’m Still A Guy,” featuring Chris Young.  The show also includes a very special version of the John Denver song “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” which has become an anthem for WVU.
The early ’50s was a heyday for vocal groups, riding the wave of middle-of-the-road popular music in the Tin Pan Alley-dominated years before rock ‘n’ roll changed pop music for ever. The Ames Brothers were one of the most popular of those groups, making their US chart debut in 1948, and racking up a lengthy string of hits over the next few years.
Their following was such that despite the upheaval that rock ‘n roll occasioned in the pop landscape, they continued having chart entries right through to the start of the new decade. This 54-track two-CD collection from Acrobat comprises all of the Billboard Top 100 entries they achieved during their career. It’s an evocative and definitive souvenir of one of the most popular and successful groups of their era.

FOR THOSE WHO LIKE DEAD THINGS
The Driller Killer (Arrow Films) is the definitive look at NYC s underbelly a slasher that is as much at home in the arthouse as it is the grindhouse. None of Abel Ferrara’s films have quite managed to match the shock, extremity and downright notorious nature of the fright flick. Ferrara plays struggling artist Reno, a man pushed to the edge by the economic realities of New York living in the late seventies and the No Wave band practicing in the apartment below. His grip on reality soon begins to slip and he takes to stalking the streets with his power tool in search of prey . . . Remember, it’s only a movie. or is it?

The Walking Dead tells the story of Rick Grimes and his band of survivors living in the gruesome aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. This deluxe The Walking Dead Blood Globe (Running Press, $12.95) includes a one-of-a-kind blood globe, featuring a scene of walkers. When the globe is shaken, it fills with fake “blood.” The kit also includes a 32-page book with quotes and images from the show.

An Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Papyrus of Sobekmose (Thames & Hudson, $40)is the first-ever  translation of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead of Sobekmose―fully illustrated and explained by a leading Egyptologist. The Book of the Dead of Sobekmose, in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, is one of the most important surviving examples of ancient Egyptian Books of the Dead. Such “books”―actually papyrus scrolls―were composed of traditional funerary texts, including magic spells, which were thought to assist the deceased on their journeys into the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians believed in an underworld fraught with dangers that needed to be carefully navigated, from the familiar, such as snakes and scorpions, to the extraordinary: lakes of fire to cross, animal-headed demons to pass, and the ritual Weighing of the Heart, whose outcome determined whether or not the deceased would be born again into the afterlife for eternity.

FOR THE YOUNG AND YOUNG-AT-HEART

In a quiet wood, a gray squirrel declares war on the machines that invade his wood, threatening his nest and tree. Taught words and how to use simple machines like the wheel by a young boy who names him Jack, the squirrel shares what he’s learned with the other animals. And so we enter the world of Evolution Revolution: Simple Machines (CreateSpace Independent Publishing, $5.99.)
This
 is a smart and charming book for younger readers that will have them wondering just what the animals in the yard are up to! Watch for the next book in this series coming

With Jumbo Stickers for Little Hands: Jungle Animals (MoonDance Press, $5.99), sticker fans of all ages can play with large vinyl, resusable stickers of colorful, jungle animals. From Siamese fighting fish to lions, 
tigers, monkeys, zebras, butterflies and panda bears-what’s your favorite animal? With 24 pages of jungle scenes, monkeys can hang from trees. And so  can elephants and lions!

The battle between cats and dogs goes galactic! Star Paws (MVD Entertainment Group) stars Adventure Cat and his evil kitty army, who hope to snatch a magical galactic bone that will give them the power to take over the entire galaxy. It’s up to an elite group of space dogs, headed by the intrepid General Ruff to beat Adventure Cat to the bone. Four paws up!

Masterworks Broadway raises the curtain of three top-notch CDs

Once again, Masterworks Broadway has raised the curtain on a triumvirate of classic albums from the archives. Each CD is accompanied by new album pages and photos. Brava!

may-19-1958-rehearsing-new-negro-musical-comedy-a-rehearsal-was-held-e0r5nt
Claudia McNeill rehearsing “Simply Heaven,” May 19, 1958

Starring Claudia McNeil and Melvin Stewart, Simply Heavenly was written by Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes based on his novel “Simple Takes a Wife and Other Simple Stories.” With music by David Martin, Simply Heavenly was originally produced for the Off-Broadway 85th Street Playhouse. The show transferred to Broadway’s Playhouse Theatre on August 20, 1957, when fire violations forced the closure of the original venue.  Hughes continually looked to the musical stage for success following the groundbreaking 1947 original production of Kurt Weill and Elmer Rice’s Street Scene for which he wrote lyrics. Set in Harlem of the ‘50s, Simply Heavenly follows Jess Simple as he tries to raise enough money for a divorce so he can marry his new love and eloquently captures the color, humor and poetry of that time and place.
McNeil had made her Broadway debut as a replacement cast member in the groundbreaking original Broadway production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. She would later originate the role of Lena Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun both on Broadway and in the feature film.

Based on Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic novella, A Christmas Carol was presented annually at New York City’s Paramount Theatre in Madison Square Garden from 1994 through 2003.

Over its nine years, A Christmas Carol featured a slew of notable actors as “Scrooge” including F. Murray Abraham, Tim Curry, Tony Randall, Roddy McDowall (in his final role), Frank Langella, Tony Roberts, Jim Dale and Roger Daltrey.

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The cast of “Spoon River Anthology”; Joyce Van Patten (left) and Betty Garrett (center) . . . their backs, at least!

Charles Aidman adapted and starred in Spoon River Anthology, a play with music based on Edgar Lee Masters’ renowned collection of short free-form poems. With music by Naomi Caryl Hirshhorn and Hal Lynch, Spoon River Anthology weaves the epitaphs of the residents of fictional small town Spoon River into a chilling history of turn-of-the century America. Also starring Betty Garrett, Joyce Van Patten and Robert Elston, the show opened at the Booth Theatre on September 29, 1963 and ran for 111 performances. This original Broadway cast recording of Spoon River Anthology is making its CD debut.

 

City Theatre stages another winner: “Bryan Cranston in Conversation with Tracy Brigden”

We have always been spreading the news that Tracy Brigden is a major force in Pittsburgh . . . and that City Theatre (of which TB is Artistic Director) is right next to her. We are now pleased that a new chapter joins their stages: City Theatre and Classic Lines Bookstore will be hosting Bryan Cranston in Conversation with Tracy Brigden. The afternoon with the acclaimed Emmy and Tony Award-winning actor (his portrayals of LBJ and Trumbo remain forever etched in our minds) is on November 20, beginning at 4 p.m. Expect he and she to have a conversation about art, his life and career. fzeneioi

Tickets for Bryan Cranston in Conversation with Tracy Brigden go on sale, October 31, at 10 a.m. and are $35. Each ticket includes a copy of Cranston’s autobiography A Life in Parts signed by the author. Seating is general admission. City Theatre season subscribers can save on per-ticket fees by calling the box office to order. Tickets can be purchased by calling 412-431-2489 or at CityTheatreCompany.org.

His memoir is riveting memoir. The actor traces his zigzag journey from his chaotic childhood to mega stardom by vividly revisiting the many parts he’s played, on camera (think astronaut, dentist, detective, candy bar spokesperson, President of the United States) and off (paperboy, farmhand, security guard, dating consultant, murder suspect, dock loader, son, brother, lover, husband, father).unnamed-1

Discussing his failures as few men do, describing his work as few actors can, Cranston has much to say about innate talent, its benefits, challenges and proper maintenance, but ultimately A Life in Parts is about the necessity and transformative power of hard work. Savor that during his preteen years, he encountered a young Charles Manson while riding a horse at the Spahn Ranch. (This happened about a year before the nightmare.)

Expect a Sunday with Bryan in the Theatre to be blessing . .  and not because Cranston was ordained as a minister by the Universal Life Church, performing weddings at $150 a pop to help his income.

More information to remember: Classic Lines is an independent bookstore located at 5825 Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill. Owned by Dan Iddings, a former librarian, the bookstore welcomes readers of all ages, from babies to baby-boomers, with a selection of books that cross all borders, in a cozy, casual setting.