Well this is conflict with my own show somewhat as the times overlap but I can’t NOT plug it. So many of my friends are competing I dasn’t single any out. I wish I could be there today myself! More details at coneyislandtalentshow.com
Archive for July, 2012
Today is the birthday of one of America’s greatest comedians, Gracie Allen (see my full Burns and Allen post here). The “greatest thing ever” is this clip, a Vitaphone recording of their vaudeville sketch “Lamb Chops”. If someone were to ask me what vaudeville means to me, what I love about vaudeville, and what sums up the vaudevillian spirit, I would show them this clip. When I first saw it projected by Ron Hutchison at the Film Forum, I nearly wept, I find it that touching and beautiful — in addition to being very funny.
To learn more about the roots of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
Wednesday night at Dixon Place, Theatre Askew will be presenting a workshop production of a section of my play The Fickle Mistress, about the original “Naked Lady” Adah Isaacs Menken. I’ve known Askew’s director Tim Cusack since the Todo Con Nada days….I first saw him in Ian W. Hill’s production of Ten Nights in a Bar-Room, and later he played a villainous priest in my play Columbia the Germ of the Ocean at Chashama (2002). We have always bonded over our mutual admiration for the Theatre of the Ridiculous. I have much enjoyed (and written about) several of Askew’s productions: I, Claudius (which I reviewed for Time Out New York); Busted (a.k.a A Night in the Tombs), which I wrote about in my Villager column; and Cornbury, reviewed right here. So this is the first mega-positive. It’s a wonderful feeling to be produced by a company whose work you so admire.
But that’s just the beginning! The cast includes Everett Quinton, heir apparent to Charles Ludlam, OBIE-award winner, and the performer of a scene-stealing turn in the Quentin Tarantino-Oliver Stone collaboration Natural Born Killers. Every so often during a rehearsal I look over and it sinks in that he’s actually doing my play. It is surreal indeed.
But wait, there’s more. Also in the cast is another OBIE winner, actress Jan Leslie Harding (she won for her performance in Mac Wellman’s Sincerity Forever in 1990). Jan also starred in Julie Taymor’s Green Bird on Broadway and had a principal role in Hal Hartley’s 1997 movie Henry Fool .
Jan also appeared in Ruth Margraff’s Red Frogs, directed by Elyse Singer. Elyse is someone else whose work I’ve admired for a long time, starting with her revival of Mae West’s play Sex in 1999 ( which I wrote about for American Theatre magazine. Go here for that artifact). And Elyse’s co-production of Beebo Brinker is the very first review I wrote for Travalanche, my second post ever. It is here.) In addition to being a terrific director, she’s also a scholar; her research on West and Eva Tanguay was hugely helpful to me on No Applause). So I’m beyond thrilled that she is bringing her prodigious talents to bear on the current play, and that she brought with her Chuck Montgomery (Chuck, like Jan not only appeared in Henry Fool but in several productions at the legendary Cucaracha theatre, of which you will find many fond memories here). I’ve never forgotten Chuck’s performance in Elyse’s production of Sex — not because he had any Hamlet moments, but because he has excellent stage presence, the kind of face and voice you associate with old-school Hollywood.
So what are we up to now? Five extremely classy artists. And we haven’t even gotten up to the star yet! Molly Pope is just that: a bona fide star. Time Out New York loves her, calling her “a downtown retro-diva” and the “next best thing of 1963”. The Village Voice’s Michael Musto recently devoted a whole “Rising Star” column to her here. This is a lot of freight to lay on her but it really is like watching a young Streisand or Bette Midler: terrific acting and comic chops, and a big brassy Broadway voice (and rest assured we’ve got her singing a couple of songs — some of them quite dirty). This is a big personality and we’re so fortunate to have her at this moment — in a few months we’ll probably have to book her through William Morris, if we can come up with the 5 gs!
Rounding out the cast is Karl O’Brien Williams, artistic director of the Caribbean performing arts organization Braata Productions and a drama professor at BMMC; and Natalie Paul, who just finished Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program. No slouches either!
To find out how you can see all these amazing people, go here!
And to hear me, Tim and Elyse speak talk about the production with nytheatre.com’s Martin Denton go here.
Today is the centennial anniversary of the launch of the Shubert Organization’s Passing Show series of Broadway revues. The Passing Show was the first attempt to compete with Ziegfeld’s successful Follies which had sprung up five years earlier. Many other annual revues would follow in its wake, and many would last longer; the last edition of Passing Show was in 1924. But while it existed it fostered the talents of many well known entertainers, including Willie and Eugene Howard, Ed Wynn, Fred Allen, George Jessel, Fred and Adele Astaire, Marilyn Miller, Charlotte Greenwood, Bessie Clayton, and Francis Renault.
In honor of the anniversary, my current show Travesties of 2012 is featuring a tribute to the Passing Show, including two songs written for two editions of the show, “Ragtime Jockey Man” by Irving Berlin, and “Carolina in the Morning” by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. The songs are being performed by the lovely Meghan Murphy. You simply must attend!
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.
Today is the birthday of the prototypical American stage Irishman, Chancellor “Chauncey” Olcott (1858-1932). Starting out in minstrel shows, he had moved up to Broadway by the turn of the century, largely with the sponsorship of Lillian Russell. In addition to having been an actor and performer he was also a songwriter. His most lasting legacies are the songs “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “My Wild Irish Rose”.
To learn more about the roots of variety entertainment, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
No fooling! Not only is former middleweight champion Jake LaMotta (subject of Martin Scorcese’s film Raging Bull) still ALIVE, but, at the age of 90 he’s starring in a new show called Lady and the Champ through July 29. Sharing the stage with Denise Baker (I’m guessing she’s the lady) LaMotta promises “an evening of stories, videos, and song and dance.” Raging Bull, indeed. I wonder if he was inspired by Mike Tyson’s recent Broadway run?
“Lady and the Champ” plays from Thursday July 19 through Sunday July 29, at Richmond Shepard Theatre, 301 East 26th Street (at 2nd Avenue). The Off-Off Broadway opening is set for Sunday July 22. Tickets are $25 for reservations call the theatre’s box office at 212/684-2690.