Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Tony Nominations 2014

Show Nominees:

“After Midnight”
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical”
“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”

“Act One”
“All the Way”
“Casa Valentina”
“Mothers and Sons”
“Outside Mullingar”

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”
“Les Misérables”

“The Cripple of Inishmaan”
“The Glass Menagerie”
“A Raisin in the Sun”
“Twelfth Night”

Number of individual Nominations by production:

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” – 10
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” – 8
“After Midnight” – 7
“Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” – 7
“The Glass Menagerie” – 7
“Twelfth Night” – 7
“Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical” – 6
“The Cripple of Inishmaan” – 6
“Act One” – 5
“Aladdin” – 5
“A Raisin in the Sun” – 5
“The Bridges of Madison County” – 4
“Casa Valentina” – 4
“Machinal” – 4
“Rocky” – 4
“Violet” – 4
“Les Misérables” – 3
“All The Way” – 2
“Cabaret” – 2
“If/Then” – 2
“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” – 2
“Mothers and Sons” – 2
“Of Mice and Men” – 2
“A Night with Janis Joplin” – 1
“Outside Mullingar” – 1
“Richard III” – 1
“The Velocity of Autumn” – 1

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Shakespeare's Birthday Present

Tomorrow every living dramatist will celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. London’s Globe theatre will celebrate this event for a whole year. It plans to take its latest production to every nation on Earth. "Hamlet" will open this Wednesday - Shakespeare's birthday - with the first of three performances at the Globe, a reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse beside the River Thames. Then the cast of 12 and its four-person crew will board a schooner for Amsterdam, beginning a journey that will take them to seven continents by plane, boat, train, bus and jeep. The tour is scheduled to last two years, finishing back at the Globe on April 23, 2016 -- the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. The itinerary is still a work in progress, but performances across Europe are already fixed, followed by tours of North, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Padlocked Bridges

I took this picture last November in Cologne: Millions of padlocks attached to a bridge, put there by lovers who threw the keys into the river.
In recent years, padlocks attached to bridge railings have become tokens of couples safeguarding their love and the locks have been showing up on bridges from Florence to Montevideo, from Paris to Moscow, from Denmark to China. Until about a decade ago, however, those locks were confined to a single pedestrian bridge in the Serbian resort town of Vrnjacka Banja. In the legend surrounding the bridge and the padlock tradition, a schoolmistress named Nada would meet her lover, a army officer named Relja, on the bridge where they pledged their love in the days before World War I. The soldier went on to fight the Germans at the Thessaloniki front in Greece, where he found a new love and married her. Nada is said to have died of sadness and grief. Nada's tale of grief inspired young couples determined not to abandon one another to begin writing their names on padlocks and chaining them to the fence of the bridge where Nada and Relja swore their devotion. Serb couples then sealed their promises by tossing the keys into the clear spring-like Vrnjacka River below. It remained a local phenomenon until Desanka Maksimovic, a noted Serb poet who died in 1993, heard the story of the bridge's lore and wrote one of her most beautiful poems "A Prayer for Love." The poem has stoked the romance of the bridge. A great pop song about this waits for its creator.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It Takes Work

"The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work."
Emile Zola

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Social Network For Playwrights

I'm not exactly a social media buff.  Still I joined Stage32 recently. It is a network dedicated to helping film, television and theater creatives from all over the world connect. With over a quarter million members from every country on the planet, Stage 32 promises to be populated with some of the most creative people on earth. Stage 32 is has been called “LinkedIn meets Facebook for people who work in film, television or theater”. It's free, so it's worth a try to make career altering connections.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Walking And Thinking

Some of the finest thinkers in history were enthusiastic walkers: Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Kant, Rousseau, Thoreau.  Rousseau says in his Confessions, when you walk all is possible. Your future is as open as the sky in front of you. And if you walk several hours, you can escape your identity. There is a moment when you walk several hours that you are only a body walking. Only that. You are nobody. You have no history. You have no identity. You have no past. You have no future. You are only a body walking. Nietzsche conceived all his books during his long walks. "It is only ideas gained from walking," he said, "that have any worth." Now a French philosopher, Frédéric Gros, a professor of philosophy at the University of Paris XII and the Institute of Political Studies, wrote a highly recommendable book about walking thinkers and thinking walkers: A Philosophy Of Walking.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Last week Meryl Streep received an honorary doctorate by the Indiana University Bloomington. In her acceptance speech she said: "I think I was probably like every other girl who puts on a princess dress and expects everyone to pay full and total attention. And most of us grow out of that. [At Vassar College] I was always in plays, but I thought it was vain to be an actress. Plus, I thought I was too ugly to be an actress. Glasses weren't fabulous then." She also remembered that she hated her nose. The doctorate was awarded to her "for her extraordinary talents, her highly visible place in the arts and her role as a powerful advocate for women".

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Good Writing Ain't Easy

Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it's right, it's easy. It's the other way round, too. If it's slovenly written, then it's hard to read. It doesn't give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.
Maya Angelou

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thoughts While Driving Home

Was I clever enough? Was I charming?

Did I make at least one good pun?

Was I disconcerting? Disarming?

Was I wise? Was I wan? Was I fun?

John Updike

Monday, April 21, 2014

Jersey Boys, The Movie

An easter egg: The first glimpse on the film version of Jersey Boys.

Based on the hit Broadway show, Clint Eastwood's take on the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons digs at the gangland drama behind the 60s crooners success. The film, which stars Michael Lomenda, Vincent Piazza and Christopher Walken, is released in June 2014.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


"Talent does what it can; genius does what it must."
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Kickstarter Neil Young

The Kickstarter campaign to fund Neil Young's PonoMusic player reached its goal of $800,000 less than 10 hours after it went live. Now, the campaign has ended after earning nearly eight times that figure. It is officially the third highest-funded campaign in Kickstarter history. The campaign closed out at over $6 million on April 15th with full backing on several pledges tied to rewards, including signature series Ponos bearing pre-loaded music and autograph inscriptions by Metallica, Tom Petty, Pearl Jam and, of course, Young. Two of the rewards for the top-priced $5,000 pledge levels – dinner and a VIP listening parties with Young in California and New York City – also sold out. In total, 18,220 people backed the campaign, pledging $6,225,354. Kickstarter's rules say that project organizers can keep money raised above and beyond the initial funding threshold. After years of planning, Young announced Pono in March at South by Southwest. The Pono music player and service allows users to listen to music at a much higher quality than the typical smartphone. To support his Kickstarter campaign, Young also recruited a number of his famous friends – including Beck, Norah Jones, Rick Rubin, Jack White, Arcade Fire, Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello, Beastie Boys’ Mike D, Elton John, Jackson Browne, Dave Matthews, Patti Smith, Kid Rock and Mumford & Sons’ Marcus Mumford – to appear in a video and offer testimonies to the player's sound quality. (Excerpt From a Rolling Stones Article)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Dangerous Weapon

"I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters."
Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Leonardo's Trick

"Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else."
Leonardo da Vinci

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fan Event

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Japan Times (Tokyo) On "Lady Bess"

April 13 is a big day for theatergoers in Tokyo, as it sees the world premiere of “Lady Bess,” a musical by the world-renowned team of German writer Michael Kunze and Hungarian composer Sylvester Levay, with famed hit-maker Shuichiro Koike directing.
Considering the play is based on the life of Elizabeth I, the Queen of England from 1558-1603, before she was crowned at the tender age of 25, it’s exciting to imagine just how her astonishing tale might be staged. After all, when she was just 2½, her mother, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded by order of King Henry VIII, her husband and Elizabeth’s father, who then had their marriage annulled — which led to the girl being declared shamefully illegitimate. Then, with religious strife wracking the nation, Elizabeth’s own Catholic half-sister, Queen Mary I — who is notorious for having Protestants like Elizabeth burned at the stake — had her imprisoned for nearly a year.
Already four musicals by Kunze and Levay have been performed in Japan, with one in particular, “Elisabeth,” about the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, a major hit. After its Vienna premier in 1992, directed by Harry Kupfer, the show — in which the character Death plays a key role — was staged here in 1996 by the all-female Takarazuka Revue before being taken up, with a mixed cast, by the Tokyo-based Toho company. The former version has currently been performed 799 times, and the latter 1,067 times — with Koike directing both productions.
When I asked Kunze, 70, and 68-year-old Levay why they chose Elizabeth — one of whose nicknames as monarch was “Good Queen Bess” — as their subject this time, Kunze replied. “Well, the reason she brought glory to England is connected to the kind of wisdom that is needed even today. We want to show that if a talented woman can gain power, she can change the world.
“In the 16th century, the tolerance and open-mindedness to not force a religion on the citizens was a common sense Bess had acquired to avoid conflict and discrimination.”
In terms of his score, Levay explained, “I included Celtic music to evoke the atmosphere of the time and the region, though I wove in modern elements — just as Kunze, to create an image of a person that resonates with people today, didn’t stick strictly to history. So our goal was to create a stage with universality.”
As a result, the cast features both real characters and fictional ones such as Robin, a minstrel Bess falls in love with who seems to embody the exciting spirit of this era with its great voyages of discovery and the likes of William Shakespeare reshaping English culture.
“The free-spirited Robin is an artist who follows his heart. When Bess, then heir to the throne, meets him, he represents to her a different set of values from any she’s known. Of the characters in this work, he’s the one I’d like to become,” Kunze adds with a laugh. To which Levay dryly responds: “I’d like to be Robin’s best friend!”
Last year, I saw “Elisabeth” in Vienna and was surprised how formally the characters were portrayed compared with the romantic and mysterious productions I’d seen in Japan. So I asked its creators to what extent their works changed depending on where they were staged.

They explained, “As long as the essence of the story isn’t distorted, we can accept variations that are suited to the culture of each place. And as you will realize — because a number Mr. Koike asked us to write for Tokyo was added to the Vienna version in 2012 — we also learn from the new outcomes of different directing styles.”
Then, turning to Koike, I asked what he saw as the appeal of “Lady Bess.”
“Kunze and Levay still have that spirit of rebelling against rigid systems that young people had in the 1970s,” he observed. “So their flexible mentality that allows them to both exhibit intelligence and enjoy popularity is crystallized in the character of Bess, whose conflict between love and responsibility brings her to maturity.”
He then enticingly added: “And the song titled ‘Growing Up’ will surely be an encouragement to all those looking for the meaning of life amidst pain and joy.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Key To Failure

I don't know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.
Bill Cosby

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rethinking Is Not Copying

"Japan's very interesting. Some people think it copies things. I don't think that anymore. I think what they do is reinvent things. They will get something that's already been invented and study it until they thoroughly understand it. In some cases, they understand it better than the original inventor."
Steve Jobs

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Waiting For The Opening Night Of Lady Bess

Imperial Theatre, Tokyo, After The First Preview.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Life In Japan

“Japan never considers time together as time wasted. Rather, it is time invested.”
Donald Richie

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lifetime Tony Award For A Costume Designer

The Tony Awards Administration Committee announced on Tuesday that this year’s Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre will be presented to costume designer Jane Greenwood. The award will be presented to her at the 2014 Tony Awards June 8. Jane Greenwood has designed costumes for over 125 productions on Broadway since  Ballad of the Sad Café in 1963, including Master Class, Passion, Long Day's Journey Into Night and The Scarlet Pimpernel. She has also worked extensively at Lincoln Center Theater and in the worlds of opera, dance and film. She is a professor at Yale School of Drama. In an interview she gave a few years ago she said: "When you're a costume designer, you're not making things up necessarily. You don't have to be the "second coming for the next millennium" of what fashion is going to be like. You're always investigating the truth of people's characters visually. When you work on a period piece a long way away, such as the 1790's, you have limited resources. There are paintings but there aren't too many photographs. It's more limited. The rich were painted more than the poor so it's harder to find research for the lower classes. The further back you go, the lower down in the painting you have to look to find the variation for character of different people. But, really the training you need is to have a very wonderful background of a well-rounded education. You need to be a good historian. You need to be able to read a play and be able to understand it, and understand who those people are. Very often I will have students who will read a restoration play and they will say, "I didn't like that play very much. I didn't really find it very exciting, or very interesting." I'll say to them, "It's wonderful language and it's very funny." "Funny?" they'll say, and I'll say, "Let's all read it. You play so and so, you play this one..." and before you know where you are, you've got a group of people involved in trying to understand the language, make it sound interesting, and they begin to be involved. I think it's terribly important to understand the script. So, to be able to do that you need that good background of English literature and a good understanding of plays. Then, you have to be interested in people. You have to be a people watcher. You're always going to be involved in what people wear. For me, it's infinitely fascinating. People will say, "It was ghastly! We were held over in the airport for five hours." You know, I can find a way to entertain myself for five hours without even trying. I look at all the people selling the various things in these little counters and what they wear. When you go to the beautician's counter, there are all sorts of people with the nails and the beautifully done make-up and the beautiful hair. The people who are serving the food and the people who are cleaning up around the airport - all the different levels of society that you see, and who all those people are. I love it when you see people sitting around and jockeying for position to get to the desk, to talk about what's going to happen with the plane, and I wonder, "What do they do?" "What does that man do? What business is he in? Why is he so pushy?" Look at his clothes. When you first look at him he looks pretty smart, but then you look and you see that his suit really needs to go to the cleaners and his shoes are a little down at heel. He doesn't really care."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

More Musicals Turned Movies

Jersey Boys. An adaptation of Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice's Tony Award winning musical about The Four Seasons. US-Release: June 20, 2014. Screenplay: John Logan. Director: Clint Eastwood.

Annie. Updated version of Martin Charnin, Charles Strouse and Thomas Meehan's Tony Award-winning musical about an orphan girl who finds a home with a New York millionaire. US-Release: December 19, 2014. Screenplay: Aline Brosh McKenna, Will Gluck, Emma Thompson. Director: Will Gluck.

Into The Woods. An adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Tony Award-winning fairy tale musical with a new song for Meryl Streep. US-Release: December 25, 2014. Screenplay: James Lapine. Director: Rob Marshall.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

How To Escape The Devil

“Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing. Sometimes we must drink more, sport, recreate ourselves, and even sin a little to spite the devil, so that we leave him no place for troubling our consciences with trifles. We are conquered if we try too conscientiously not to sin at all. So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.”
Martin Luther

Monday, April 7, 2014


If there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.
Albert Camus

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Mamma Turns 15!

Last week Mamma Mia!, the Abba musical, celebrated its 15th birthday. It made 2 billion dollars in total box-office gross. That's not the only impressive number: Approximately 33,000  rhinestones were hand-sewn on to the Super Trouper costumes. 1,327 performances made Mamma Mia! the longest-running show at London's Prince of Wales theatre. 2420 babies, born in England and Wales, were named Mia. Worldwide 6500 metres of Lycra was used to make the Super Trouper costumes. And the production has been performed more than 13,000 times in 14 languages.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Carole King Meets Carole King

Carole King has finally come to see the Broadway musical based on her life and comprising her music. Last Thursday she attended the performance of  “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical". The cast had no idea she was there. But when, after the curtain call, they did the annual appeal for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Ms. King came up on stage. Jessie Mueller who plays the role of Carole King started to weep.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Greatest Trap

“Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, "Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody." ... [My dark side says,] I am no good... I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved." Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen

Thursday, April 3, 2014

When Should You Write Your Autobiography?

I don't think anyone should write their autobiography until after they're dead.
Samuel Goldwyn

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Musicals - Entertainment For Women?

Men and women go to movies in roughly equal numbers, but the seats of musical theaters are mainly occupied by women. On Broadway only 32 percent of audience members last year were men. That may be the problem of Rocky which only recently opened but is already struggling. Obviously a musical about a boxer appeals mainly to men, even when the ads' tagline reads “Love Wins”. In Tokyo a theatre showing Rocky would probably be empty. Judging from my experience at least 90 percent of Japanese musical audience members are women. I asked a theatre manager how to explain that. "Men just don't have the time; they have to work," he answered, "they usually don't leave office before 8 pm in Japan."