I admit, I wasn't expecting to see the visage of Miranda Priestly peer out at me on the front page of the NYT but an article about Meryl Streep should never be passed over for reading :D

That Unmistakable Streepness


FROM the moment it was announced on Feb. 2, Meryl Streep’s 16th Oscar nomination — best performance by an actress in a leading role for “Julie & Julia,” in case your attention has been otherwise occupied — seemed both richly merited and a bit redundant. Of course she would! How could she not?

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Well, at least now I sort of know where the reference for Venice Beach is coming from... and lovely to know that the portmanteau of Otalia has even made it to pages of the Old Grey Lady. :)

August 25, 2009

Love That Dares to Tweet Its Name Sparks Web Series

On the evening of Aug. 4 Twitter’s list of 10 “Trending Topics” reflected, as it usually does, the headlines of the day. But eighth on the list, nestled between the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, and AT&T, was a surprise: Crystal Chappell, an actress on the CBS soap opera “Guiding Light.” The big news? It was her birthday. As a present her fans had conspired to tweet her name until she landed a spot on the list.

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June 26, 2009

I Love You, You’re Perfect. You’re a Girl?


“Most wonderful.” The exclamation of joyous surprise that bursts from the lips of Countess Olivia at the climax of “Twelfth Night,” when she discovers that her new husband appears to have divided himself in two, seems an apt reaction to the scintillating new production of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy that opened Thursday night at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park.

“Twelfth Night” is a perennial favorite, and with its multifaceted plot mixing sweetness, sadness and silliness it is also about as surefire as Shakespeare plays get. If the romances are dreary, the comedy may still crackle. And vice versa. But this polished staging, expertly directed by Daniel Sullivan, is the most consistently pleasurable the city has seen in at least a decade. And it is certainly one of the most accomplished Shakespeare in the Park productions the Public Theater has fielded in some time. Incidentally — or perhaps not — the varied talents of its all-American lead cast help restore faith in the city’s ability to cast Shakespeare in depth.

All together now: most wonderful!

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Some days, I'm glad that there are nine justices on the Supreme Court because my mind boggles at having something like this decided by one Justice (especially if it was Justice Thomas who seems to always land opposite to my opinion).

June 26, 2009
Supreme Court Says Child’s Rights Violated by Strip Search

WASHINGTON — In a ruling of interest to educators, parents and students across the country, the Supreme Court ruled, 8 to 1, on Thursday that the strip search of a 13-year-old Arizona girl by school officials who were looking for prescription-strength drugs violated her constitutional rights.

The officials in Safford, Ariz., would have been justified in 2003 had they limited their search to the backpack and outer clothing of Savana Redding, who was in the eighth grade at the time, the court ruled. But in searching her undergarments, they went too far and violated her Fourth Amendment privacy rights, the justices said.

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Rethinking Gender Bias in Theater

When more than 160 playwrights and producers, most of them female, filed into a Midtown Manhattan theater Monday night, they expected to hear some concrete evidence that women who are authors have a tougher time getting their work staged than men.

And they did. But they also heard that women who are artistic directors and literary managers are the ones to blame.

That conclusion was just one surprising piece of a yearlong research project that both confirms and upends assumptions about bias in the playwriting business.

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June 21, 2009
The Three Sisters of ‘Twelfth Night’

AT the first preview performance of “Twelfth Night” this month two newcomers to Shakespeare in the Park — the actresses Anne Hathaway and Audra McDonald — were greeted by the sort of old friend oft seen at the Delacorte Theater: a raccoon, waddling across the stage during the first scene between Viola (Ms. Hathaway) and Olivia (Ms. McDonald). Audience members giggled, but the two women did not break focus.

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A quick recap of where the trends start... :)

June 11, 2009
Why Round Sunglasses? A Style Investigation


WAS it only last year that round sunglasses were considered square?

The hot eyewear look of 2008 was pretty much defined by plastic Wayfarer knockoffs, garish neon trapezoids often seen color-coordinated with a plaid shirt and sneakers. Or else it was “shutter shades,” those ventilated blinders popularized by Kanye West.

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June 7, 2009
An Evolving Portrait of Anguish

THE actress Alice Ripley lives on Long Island, and not long ago she was on her way to work at the Booth Theater on Broadway when she broke her index finger, catching it in a train station door.

“The train had pulled in, and it happened just then,” she recalled over lunch in the theater district recently, a splint on her right hand complicating her use of a soup spoon. “I wanted to scream and cry, but I didn’t. I didn’t want to be embarrassed by screaming out loud, and I decided to hold it all in. And I bent over, and I thought I was going to pass out. Or throw up. And I thought: ‘This is it. This is how Diana feels on her drugs. Everything is inside her, and nothing is coming out.’ ”

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May 24, 2009

Forget the Ingénues; Cue the Grown-Ups

HOLLYWOOD has always been a man’s world, but as Pink might sing, so what? On Broadway at least, women can still be rock stars. Among the big-name talents from film and television who have appeared behind Broadway marquees this season are Joan Allen, Jane Fonda, Allison Janney, Susan Sarandon and Kristin Scott Thomas. Along with more than a dozen other equally renowned actresses on New York stages, they have been playing rulers, heroes, scholars and terrorists. As lovers they have been pursued rather than pursuers; as angry combatants they have been the first to resort to violence. Once in a while they even get to sing. And they are all over 40.

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Interesting that this topic has come back up for debate. I get the feeling that it might be 'easier' for school children to pick up the simplified character sets, it makes going 'back' to learn traditional "fan-ti-tzi" that much more difficult when they are older. Consider simplified characters a form of short hand that then later became the common language instead of 'full' English (or any other language, so to speak). Without knowing what we are 'short handing' from, it makes learning the traditional/classical characters difficult. On the other hand, knowing only traditional characters and not being able to pick up the simplified characters makes reading signage and everything else... difficult.

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I'm fairly excited (okay, a lot excited) by this news. :) I really like Duffy's poetry because it is accessible. :D

May 2, 2009
After 341 Years, a Woman Is British Poet Laureate

LONDON — Carol Ann Duffy was named poet laureate of Britain on Friday, the first time in its 341-year history that the post — held by such poets as Dryden, Tennyson, Wordsworth and Ted Hughes — has gone to a woman.

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May 1, 2009
Sisterhood vs. Boss, on a New Battlefield

Give some credit to “9 to 5” — the overinflated whoopee cushion lodged at the Marquis Theater — for bucking this spring’s fashion trends. Can this gaudy, empty musical really be part of the same Broadway season that gave us the minimally decorated, maximally effective “Exit the King,” “God of Carnage,” “Next to Normal,” “Hair,” “Mary Stuart” and “Norman Conquests”?

Those shows strip down to modest sets (three of them use brick walls as backdrops) and, in many cases, small casts, the better to show off their considerable natural assets. But if ingenious austerity has replaced mindless opulence on main-stem stages, no one bothered to alert “9 to 5.”

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April 30, 2009
It’s Official: Models Look Good

“WHAT would ‘Dovima With Elephants’ have been without Dovima?” the curator Kohle Yohannan said last week, referring to a celebrated Richard Avedon photograph of 1955 that depicted the attenuated mannequin Dovima (nee Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba) wearing a Christian Dior sheath and sandwiched between monumental pachyderms.

One could just as easily ask what “Dovima With Elephants” would have been without the elephants, of course, but then three-ton pachyderms don’t rate the cultural attention devoted to beautiful clothes-hangers who weigh 100 pounds.

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April 29, 2009
An Out-of-Town Overhaul Helps a Musical Find Focus

Michael Greif sensed something was wrong. It was February 2008, and Mr. Greif — the director of the Tony Award-winning musicals “Rent” and “Grey Gardens” — was watching his latest production, “Next to Normal,” night after night during its Off Broadway run at Second Stage Theater. In a recent interview he recalled feeling that many audience members were not gasping or flinching at a pivotal revelation in Act I: the main character had just tried to kill herself.

“Everything on stage looked pretty — people weren’t getting that Diana had just bled out all over the living room,” Mr. Greif said, referring to the character Diana Goodman, whose struggle with bipolar disorder is at the heart of this musical. “It was one of several moments where the tone of the show was off. Big moments just weren’t landing.”

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April 26, 2009
With Kindle, Can You Tell It’s Proust?

SARA NELSON, the former editor of Publishers Weekly, was at a dinner party recently when Ed Rollins, the Republican campaign consultant, arrived carrying a Kindle.

“And I just said, ‘Can I see it?’ ” said Ms. Nelson, also the author of “So Many Books, So Little Time.” “In this honeymoon period of Kindle — when a lot of people don’t have them — you can look to see what someone is reading, in the guise of looking at the hardware.” (For the record, Mr. Rollins’s Kindle was crammed with the day’s newspapers.)

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I'm fascinated by this (today) because combines several things that I love: art, words, law (especially the SCOTUS), and (influential) women.

April 17, 2009
Television Review | 'Grey Gardens'
Decline and Fall, in Genteel Style

Genteel folly has many faces — Miss Havisham and Blanche DuBois are two of them — yet until 30-some years ago, there wasn’t a handy shorthand for both faded grandeur and alarming decay. “Grey Gardens,” a legendary 1975 documentary about the Beales of East Hampton, N.Y., filled the gap between Norma Desmond and the Collyer brothers.

The mere spectacle of Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and her daughter, Little Edie, an aunt and a first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, eating out of tin cans and sharing their dilapidated mansion with dozens of cats, raccoons and fleas was shocking. But that freak show alone would not have been enough to keep “Grey Gardens,” so vivid in the public imagination — and cultural lexicon — for so long.

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April 16, 2009
Fragmented Psyches, Uncomfortable Emotions: Sing Out!

No show on Broadway right now makes as direct a grab for the heart — or wrings it as thoroughly — as “Next to Normal” does. This brave, breathtaking musical, which opened Wednesday night at the Booth Theater, focuses squarely on the pain that cripples the members of a suburban family, and never for a minute does it let you escape the anguish at the core of their lives.

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April 1, 2009
A Frizzy, Fizzy Welcome to the Untamed '60's

You'll be happy to hear that the kids are all right. Quite a bit more than all right. Having moved indoors to Broadway from the Delacorte Theater in Central Park — where last summer they lighted up the night skies, howled at the moon and had ticket seekers lining up at dawn — the young cast members of Diane Paulus's thrilling revival of “Hair” show no signs of becoming domesticated.

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I'm surprised at the early exit and now part of my bracket is skewed... oy.

March 23, 2009
Women's: No. 12 Ball State 71, No. 5 Tennessee 55
Lady Vols Are Upset in Opener

A trying, exhausting season for Tennessee came to a stunningly premature conclusion Sunday night as the fifth-seeded Lady Vols, the two-time defending national women’s champion, lost to 12th-seeded Ball State, 71-55, in the first round of the Berkeley Region in Bowling Green, Ky.

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March 20, 2009
Our Gangs

Even when they’re flashing switchblades and kicking people in the ribs, the teenage hoodlums who maraud through Arthur Laurents’s startlingly sweet new revival of “West Side Story” seem like really nice kids. When a pure-voiced boy soprano (Nicholas Barasch) shows up to perform the musical’s banner anthem, the aching “Somewhere,” it feels like the manifestation of some inner angel who always lurks beneath the surface of the angry adolescents onstage.

Youth has always been the engine of this epochal musical from 1957, created by one of the most talented teams in showbiz history: Mr. Laurents (book), Leonard Bernstein (score), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and Jerome Robbins (director and choreographer). But usually it’s the scary, adrenaline-stoked energy of youth that sets the tone and rhythms of the show.

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March 19, 2009
Natasha Richardson, Actress, Dies at 45

Natasha Richardson, a Tony Award-winning actress whose career melded glamorous celebrity with the bloodline of theater royalty, died Wednesday in a Manhattan hospital, where she had been flown suffering from head injuries after a skiing accident on Monday north of Montreal. She was 45 and lived in Manhattan and Millbrook, N.Y.

"Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha,” said a statement from the family. “They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time."

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March 15, 2009
Same City, New Story

WHEN Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents created “West Side Story” in the mid-’50s, they lived within walking distance of the concrete alleys and playgrounds that were the backdrop for their updated version of “Romeo and Juliet,” the crowded tenements where new Puerto Rican immigrants rubbed up against the Irish, Poles and Italians who had preceded them.

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The Medium as the Messenger

There is no choreographer listed among the credits for the genial but bumpy new revival of Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” which opened Sunday night at the Shubert Theater. Yet for pure originality and expressiveness, it’s hard to imagine any Broadway chorus line topping the solo dances performed here by an 83-year-old woman with a superfluity of bad jewelry, the gait of a gazelle and a repertory of poses that bring to mind Egyptian hieroglyphs.

That’s Angela Lansbury as Madame Arcati, a very self-serious medium on the prowl for vibrations from the spirit world. And when Madame Arcati feels vibrations, she vibrates — sometimes like a tuning fork, sometimes like wind chimes in a monsoon. As for those little neo-Nijinsky dances, they are Madame Arcati’s method for making herself receptive for the arrival of errant ectoplasms. Were I a ghost, I would definitely make a point of revisiting the dreary world whenever this rare medium dances.

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March 13, 2009

Bonding Amid Blood Splatters: Two Sisters and Their Messy Lives
By A. O. Scott

I’m thinking of a movie. Wait, don’t tell me, it’s on the tip of my tongue. It takes place in Albuquerque. There’s a beat-up old van, a lot of family dysfunction, a cute kid, a get-rich-quick scheme that doesn’t quite work out as planned. Alan Arkin is the grandpa. The title? Something about “Sunshine.”

No, not that one. “Little Miss Sunshine” came out in 2006. Why on earth would I be reviewing it now? I’m wondering that myself. A better title for the movie I am supposed to review — for the record, it’s “Sunshine Cleaning,” directed by Christine Jeffs from a script by Megan Holley — would be “Sundance Recycling,” since the picture is less a free-standing independent film than a scrap-metal robot built after a shopping spree at the Park City Indie Parts and Salvage Warehouse.

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March 2, 2009
It's a Cinch That the Bum Is Under the Thumb of Some Little Broad

Certain words, in certain contexts, are best left unspoken. In Des McAnuff’s uninspired new revival of “Guys and Dolls” at the Nederlander Theater that word happens to be “chemistry.” It is dropped — with a thud and a shatter — and hovers for the rest of the evening like a neon-lighted reproach.

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February 20, 2009
Architecture Review | Alice Tully Hall
Boxy to Bold: A Concert Hall Busts Out

New Yorkers have been understandably impatient about the slow pace of Lincoln Center’s renovation plans.

While musical institutions from Los Angeles to Copenhagen whipped out dazzling new concert halls, New York’s vast cultural complex seemed mired in indecision. An ill-conceived proposal by Frank Gehry to cover Lincoln Center’s central plaza with a gigantic glass canopy stirred such outrage among constituents that it was shelved in 2001.

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February 20, 2009
Tamer ‘Rent’ Is Too Wild for Some Schools

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Theater directors and students at more than 40 high schools across the country have selected a new show for their big springtime musical this year: “Rent: School Edition,” a modified version of the hit Broadway musical that, while toned down a bit, remains provocative by traditional drama club standards.

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February 19, 2009, 12:30 pm
Ask About Broadway
By Erik Piepenburg
Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik, authors of “Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time,” will answer your questions about Broadway history and spring’s new offerings.

The economy may be in the dumps, but the Great White Way continues to thrive. Broadway will host a slew of new openings, ranging from intimate plays to splashy revivals, many with celebrities (Jane Fonda, Susan Sarandon, Jeremy Irons, James Gandolfini) along for the ride.

Do these shows signal a creative bump for Broadway, or are they a new batch of vanity projects accompanied by wishful thinking? How do they compare to shows that opened in other times of economic woe? Could there be a great new Broadway show around the corner?

Through Sunday, Ken Bloom and Frank Vlastnik, authors of the newly revised “Broadway Musicals: The 101 Greatest Shows of All Time,” will be taking readers’ questions about Broadway seasons past, present and future. We ask that readers limit comments on this post to questions for our guests, using the comments box below.

Look for their answers on ArtsBeat starting Monday.
I admit that I'm pretty excited that Darwin is still important enough that NYT will devote page space to him (200 year old birthday!). :) I first read The Origin of Species for an HPS course on the History of Science, and the later in History of Biology I and II, so I've read it from a science-based background and with an eye towards historical significance.

February 10, 2009
Darwin, Ahead of His Time, Is Still Influential

Darwin’s theory of evolution has become the bedrock of modern biology. But for most of the theory’s existence since 1859, even biologists have ignored or vigorously opposed it, in whole or in part.

It is a testament to Darwin’s extraordinary insight that it took almost a century for biologists to understand the essential correctness of his views.

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February 9, 2009
What’s the Cure for Those Depression Blues? Hoofing in Your Scanties

LOS ANGELES — If the battered but unbroken stimulus package Washington finally serves up does not turn the trick, perhaps the answer to the country’s economic woes could be something a lot simpler. Bring back burlesque!

In the nostalgia-steeped new musical “Minsky’s,” which had its world premiere here Sunday night at the Ahmanson Theater, dancing in your scanties while the world trembles is presented as noble service that might help keep a wounded country on its feet. Or better yet rolling in the aisles.

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January 25, 2009
Pat Summitt Makes Tennessee a Cradle of Coaches

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It happens to every Lady Volunteers basketball player who has gone into coaching. She’ll be railing about a lazy pass in practice. Glaring at a player who failed to box out an opponent. Lecturing how leadership is about being respected, not liked.

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January 25, 2009
Kay Yow, Hall of Fame Women’s Basketball Coach, Dies at 66

Kay Yow, the Hall of Fame basketball coach who became an inspiring figure while continuing to coach the North Carolina State women’s team during a long battle with cancer, died Saturday in Cary, N.C. She was 66.

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January 4, 2009

From a Goofy Smile to a Baring of Teeth

WHEN Anne Hathaway shows up for an interview at a coffee shop on Melrose, her smile precedes her.

It always has. Lots of actors have wonderful smiles, but Ms. Hathaway’s was a star before she was. In the “Princess Diaries” movies, in which she played a pratfalling royal in development, a single flash of that grill could nervously apologize, awkwardly charm and girl-next-door seduce, all in a few seconds.

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December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt, a Seducer of Audiences, Dies at 81

Eartha Kitt, who purred and pounced her way across Broadway stages, recording studios and movie and television screens in a show-business career that lasted more than six decades, died on Thursday. She was 81 and lived in Connecticut.

The cause was colon cancer, said her longtime publicist, Andrew E. Freedman.

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Butter is one of the foundations to goodness in baking. I knew of an aspiring chef who had a pair of the coolest hands and was rejoicing about said temperature difference because it allowed her to handle puff pastry with greater ease. :)

December 17, 2008
Butter Holds the Secret to Cookies That Sing

WHEN home bakers get out the mixer and the decorating sugar at this time of year, visions of perfect-edged cookies and shapely cakes dance in their heads. But too often, the reality — both for the cookie and the baker — is ragged, fallen, and fraying around the edges.

“I’ve cried many times at 2 a.m., when the cookies fall apart after all that work,” said Susan Abbott, a lawyer in Dallas who tries every Christmas to reproduce her mother’s flower-shaped lemon cookies, though she rarely bakes during the rest of the year.

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December 16, 2008

Broadway Has a Devil of a Time Finding Angels (Ticket Buyers, Too)

These are difficult days for Elizabeth I. McCann, the longtime theater producer, who has been able to raise only $3 million so far for the $6.5 million transfer of “Hair,” the ’60s musical that is scheduled to start rehearsals on Broadway next month. Even her most dependable investors, Ms. McCann said, are sitting on their money.

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December 12, 2008

Holiday Gifts for Devotees of Broadway


Entering into conversation with those who speak Theater — a language shared by a small, passionate subspecies of humanity known as Regina Dramatica — requires more than peppering your conversation with “darlings” and hyperbole. Speaking Theater starts with a shared mind-set, a collective, aggrandizing and affectionately barbed myth of an institutional art form with its own rituals and gods.

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December 7, 2008

'Doubt' and Doubts of a Workingman

WHEN John Patrick Shanley steps into a Midtown Manhattan hangout known for its theater clientele, few would guess how much he belonged.

There is little about his sure gait, workingman hands or no-nonsense affect that flicks at the artist within, let alone a playwright, often the more delicately wrought of the species. Only the eyes, weakened by glaucoma but working, suggest anything other than a tough guy from the Bronx. And in that gaze he is constantly calibrating everything around him, seeing a great deal and concluding not much.

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December 7, 2008
Singing a Song of Sondheim, Again

SHOULD Stephen Sondheim ever decide to set a musical in a Mail Boxes Etc. store (a barbershop he’s done already), Alexander Gemignani could bring some firsthand experience to the production.

Mr. Gemignani, who stars in “Road Show,” the Sondheim offering that opened at the Public Theater on Nov. 18, worked for nine years at a branch of that very company near his childhood home in Tenafly, N.J. But the job, which Mr. Gemignani, 29, pursued — very happily, he would add — during high school vacations, college breaks and his early years struggling to make it as an actor and singer, did nothing to prepare him for his role in “Road Show.”

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December 4, 2008, 1:19 pm
Marc Shaiman on 'Prop 8 — The Musical'
By Dave Itzkoff

In just one day of online existence, the Funny Or Die video “Prop 8­ — The Musical” has received more than 1.2 million hits. The comedic song-and-dance diatribe about the California ballot initiative to define marriage as existing only between a man and a woman stars a cast of dozens, including John C. Reilly, Neil Patrick Harris, Maya Rudolph, and Jack Black as Jesus Christ.
See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

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November 19, 2008

Brothers in Flimflammery on a Continental Sojourn

It’s raining greenbacks in “Road Show,” the latest version of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s long-aborning, ever-evolving and eternally slender musical about curdled American dreams, which opened on Tuesday night at the Public Theater. Throughout this short and sardonic production, directed by John Doyle and starring the marvelous team of Michael Cerveris and Alexander Gemignani, fistfuls of dollars are flung into the air with such enthusiastic frequency that by evening’s end they carpet the stage floor.

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So, we're in the final week (actually less) and I've tamped down on my usual incessant need to needle and wheedle and such to get people to go their voting booths and such. However, IF you have decided... then why not take advantage of early voting?

The Decided Go in Droves to Vote Early


HENDERSON, Nev. — At grocery stores across Las Vegas, voters are casting their ballots, and then shopping for bananas or hitting the slot machines a few feet away.

About 100 people have voted from the windows of their cars, A.T.M. style, in Orange County, Calif. Several busloads of voters pulled up to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland on Sunday, did what they came to do, and then repaired to a church across the street for some fried chicken.

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October 24, 2008
Do You Speak Hollywood?

The Barrymore Theater should provide seat belts for as long as Neil Pepe’s revival of David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow” is in residence. The production that opened Thursday night — starring the ace team of Jeremy Piven, Raúl Esparza and Elisabeth Moss — pursues its corkscrew course at such velocity that your instinct is to check yourself for whiplash.

When the curtain falls on this short and unsparing study of sharks in the shallows of the movie industry, it’s as if you had stepped off a world-class roller coaster. The ride was over before you knew it, but you’re too dizzy and exhilarated to think you didn’t get your money’s worth.

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Narrated by Paul Gemignani, it's a highlight of the new Stephen Sondheim: The Story So Far box set. :)

Listening to Sondheim
September 18, 2008
Giving Their Regards by Skewering the Shows

Can this really be the end of “Forbidden Broadway”? It’s true that this venerable satiric revue was looking a bit peaked when I checked in on it a year ago, as if the exertions of searching for shows distinctive enough to caricature in a bland Broadway season had sapped it of its natural vim and vinegar.

But having announced that it would be officially ending its nearly 27-year reign of merry terror on Jan. 15, Gerard Alessandrini’s long-lived show appears to have been blessed with that burst of have-to-win energy that descends on weary racers as they near the finish line. Its latest incarnation, which opened Wednesday night at the 47th Street Theater, finds an old war horse of spoofery with muscles tautened, nostrils flaring and teeth polished and sharpened — the better to kick, snort at and bite the institution that has fed it for so many years.

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August 17, 2008

Off the Stage, What's Behind the Music

YOU can hear the collective gasp from the audience as the stage of the Vivian Beaumont slides back to the opening bars of “Bali Ha’i,” revealing 30 formally attired musicians reveling in the lush, exotic hues of the overture to “South Pacific.”

The melodies that roll seamlessly by — “There Is Nothing Like a Dame,” “A Wonderful Guy,” “Some Enchanted Evening” — are all classic Richard Rodgers. But the instruments playing them, the elaborate counter lines, shifting harmonies and alternating rhythmic contexts, are the work of Robert Russell Bennett, his orchestrator. Mr. Bennett wrote the overture, too (as he did for virtually all of his clients, including Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Frederick Loewe), weaving together excerpts of the score’s famous melodies to create a seamless potpourri of its greatest hits. Similarly, Sid Ramin’s original orchestrations bring to life Jule Styne’s score for “Gypsy,” now playing with the full complement of 25 pieces at the St. James Theater.

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August 12, 2008
George Furth, an Actor and Playwright, Dies at 75

George Furth, a playwright who collaborated with Stephen Sondheim on the Tony Award-winning musical “Company” and who was a ubiquitous character actor whose distinct profile enlivened dozens of popular television series as well as movies like “Blazing Saddles,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “Shampoo,” died on Monday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 75.

Dennis Aspland, his friend and agent, confirmed his death. Mr. Aspland said that he did not know the precise cause, but that Mr. Furth had been in the hospital for a lung infection.

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An interesting description but... "For instance if the actress playing Elphaba realizes she is not up to the vocal demands of her role that day, then she is replaced in midperformance. That’s when Ms. Gilbert marshals a team to get the new Elphaba dressed, while make-up artists paint her green. All this happens in a tiny curtained area just offstage, often only minutes before Elphaba’s next song."

Unseen Army Keeps the Show Going On

August 3, 2008
Unseen Army Keeps the Show Going On

WITH only four actors playing over 20 roles, “Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps” is madcap onstage. But life in the wings is just as manic.

For 90 minutes crew members snake past one another with ladders, smoke machines and life-size dummies, all without making a sound. But most patrons don’t even know these backstage artists exist.

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