All posts by Gretchen Van Benthuysen

When I was 11, I knew I wanted to be a journalist and I grew up to become the Entertainment Editor of the Asbury Park Press when I was 25. Fifteen years later I finally was able to write about theater in NJ and in NYC full-time for another 10 years, plus contribute articles and reviews to Variety, Back Stage and The Drama League. Now I run this website TheaterCues.com for fun. Before I left The Press I was the Web Producer for the Friday and Sunday Entertainment sections of The Press, Home News Tribune, Daily Record and Courier News. I learned a lot about Search Engine Optimization, key words and phrases and other ways to attract Google’s attention. If you have a business — or show business — these days you need a website that shows up on the first page of Google that your customers — or audience — check often to see what’s new on your blog, in your photo galleries, on your video accounts, etc. You want them to be a part of your community, your family, so when it’s time for your service — or opening night — they are there to support you.

Harry Connick Jr signs to perform, co-write ‘Sting’ musical at Paper Mill

Harry Connick Jr. (PHOTO: Music Theatre International)
Harry Connick Jr. (PHOTO: Music Theatre International)

Harry Connick Jr. will play Paul Newman in the world-premiere musical production of “The Sting” at the Paper Mill Playhouse (March 29-April 29). Once again, this Tony Award-winning theater is  serving as an out-of-town launch pad for Broadway.

Since the 2004-’05 season, Paper Mill has staged the world premiere of nine productions. Four moved to the Great White Way: NewsiesHoneymoon in VegasThe Bandstand and A Bronx Tale.  These two , “Harold and Maude” and “A Wonderful Life”   did not.

The Bodyguard (2016) made its U.S. premiere here and is on a list of Upcoming and Announced Broadway Shows compiled by Playbill.com and last updated Feb. 12,

Besides “The Sting” (March 29-April 29, 2018), the current season began with the world premiere of “The Honeymooners”  (Sept. 28–Oct. 29). Currently running through Sunday is the East Coast premieres of both the hysterical comedy “The Outsider” (Jan. 24-Feb. 18) and the musical “Half Time,” formerly called “Gotta Dance,” (May 31-July 1, 2018).  Continue reading Harry Connick Jr signs to perform, co-write ‘Sting’ musical at Paper Mill

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God’s mercy, a priest’s responsibility at center of new NJ Rep play

Ames Adamson (left) and Jared Michael Delaney in "The Calling," a world premiere by Joel Stone playing at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Brand, NJ, through February 4, 2018. (PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)
Ames Adamson (left) and Jared Michael Delaney in “The Calling,” a world premiere by Joel Stone playing at New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Brand, NJ, through February 4, 2018. (PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)

Two men. One, an aging priest whose belief that God is merciful and Jesus is his savior, has never wavered. The other, a middle-aged lapsed Catholic who’s an ICU nurse ministering to very sick people, who agonizes over what kind of God let’s good souls suffer.

Both men are passionate about helping people. Both are deeply concerned about human life and death. Both come to drastically different conclusions about God’s purpose in all of this. And both believe he is right.

That’s the premise of Joel Stone’s interesting two-hander “The Calling,” receiving its world premiere through Feb. 4 at the New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch. Continue reading God’s mercy, a priest’s responsibility at center of new NJ Rep play

Comic book hero El Coqui stars in new Latino play at NJ’S Two River Theater

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El Coqui, a small nocturnal arboreal frog native to Puerto Rico with a  high-pitched call that was introduced into Hawaii and southern Florida, now has invaded New Jersey.

But in this case El Coquí is a human-sized Puerto Rican superhero who gets his power from a vejigante carnival mask in the world premiere play “El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom” at the Two River Theater in Red Bank now through Feb. 4.

Written by Matt Barbot and directed by Jose  Zayas, the play questions individual and national identity and explores what it means to be Latino or not Latino enough in contemporary America via the superhero/comic book genre. Continue reading Comic book hero El Coqui stars in new Latino play at NJ’S Two River Theater

Paper Mill Playhouse gets 8 NJ governors to agree

NJ Governors, past, present and future tell it like it is in new campaign ad: Chris Christie, Phil Murphy, Christie Todd Whitman, Jim McGreevey, Tom Kean, Jon Corzine, Don Difrancesco and Richard Codey

“The Outsider” is a timely comedy and send-up of modern American politics. In the midst of a political scandal, Ned Newley, the ultimate policy wonk, is unexpectedly thrust into the position of Governor.

A complete unknown, with no political instincts and a paralyzing fear of public speaking, Ned seems destined to fail. But his political consultants see things a little differently: Ned might be the worst candidate to ever run for office. Unless the public is looking for… the worst candidate to ever run for office! Continue reading Paper Mill Playhouse gets 8 NJ governors to agree

Two River Theater’s staging of ‘Earnest’ is absolutely delightful

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It’s always amazed me how insults delivered with an upper-class English accent don’t sound so harsh.

For instance, “I never saw anybody take so long to dress, and with such little result,” which appears in Act II of the laugh-a-minute  comedy “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde.

Yes, Wilde was Irish, not English, and not upper class. As one of the best-known personalities of his day and one of the greatest wits of all time, his words held up a mirror to the rigid and, at times , severe class system of late Victorian England while writing one of the funniest plays ever. Continue reading Two River Theater’s staging of ‘Earnest’ is absolutely delightful

National Theatre Live features ‘Follies’ beginning tonight

From 2007–2010, Imelda Staunton struck terror into the hearts of the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the Harry Potter movie series in which she played Dolores Jane Umbridge.

Tonight you can catch her in select theaters around the country making people happy in Stephen Sondheim‘s “Follies”  as Sally Durant Plummer, a former dancer who meets up with a former friend and an old flame.  Nostalgia vs. aging.

From left, Janie Dee, Imelda Staunton and Zizi Strallen in "Follies" at the Olivier Awards.
From left, Janie Dee, Imelda Staunton and Zizi Strallen in “Follies” at the Olivier Awards.

The smash-hit National Theatre production is being broadcast live to international movie theaters  with repeat screenings during the coming weeks. To find a theater near you and more about the production, click here. 

Staunton, a theater icon in England and West End regular in plays and musicals, winning four Olivier Awards, three of which were for Best Actress in a Musical as the Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods” (1991), Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd” (2013) and Mama Rose in “Gypsy” (2016). She also won Best Supporting Performance for both “A Chorus of Disapproval” (1985) and “The Corn is Green” (1985).

Read the Playbill review here.

Read Variety’s review here.

Read the Associated Press review here.

TCM spotlights non-music versions of musicals tonight in mini-marathon

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Some of Broadway’s and silver screen musicals were preceded by nonmusical movies (and books). Beginning at 8 tonight Turner Classic Movies offers five of them. A few might surprise.

8 p.m., Anna and the King of Siam (1946)

10:30 p.m., Kismet (1944)

12:30 a.m., Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

2 a.m., Auntie Mame (1958)

4:45 a.m., Gigi (1948)

Anna Leonowens, c. 1905.
Anna Leonowens, c. 1905.

Obviously, Rex Harrison making his Hollywood debut as the King of Siam is casting that wouldn’t happen now. But it was 1946. Better yet, read the memoirs written by Anna Leonowens, the  Anglo-Indian,  British-born travel writer, educator and social activist (on whom the films and musical were based) whose achievements include co-founding the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

 

 

‘Mutual Philanthropy’ explores millionaires and struggling families

From left, Lauren Casillo, Jim Macdonald, Joseph Carlson and Vivia Font in the East Coast premiere of Karen Rizzo's "Mutual Philanthropy." (PHOTO: Andrea Phox)
From left, Lauren Casillo, Jim Macdonald, Joseph Carlson and Vivia Font in the East Coast premiere of Karen Rizzo’s “Mutual Philanthropy.” (PHOTO: Andrea Phox)

American millionaires in the 21st century have changed.

No longer are they a monolithic group of white Anglo-Saxon Protestants who disproportionately control social and financial power and trace their ancestry back to the Revolution.

They are post Woodstock grand-babies of baby boomers who got a good education (or dropped out to create a start-up) and found success in jobs such as finance, the media, entertainment, and more recently the tech industry, and represent diverse ethnicities.

But they feel a bit guilty about it. They reject being a conspicuous consumer. That, they rationalize, is  for the one percenters.

Playwright Karen Rizzo explores what happens when a rich couple — they call it “being comfortable” — tries to close the economic inequality gap between themselves and another couple in the East Coast premiere of the 90-minute play “Mutual Philanthropy” directed by Evan Bergman at the New Jersey Repertory Theater in Long Branch. Continue reading ‘Mutual Philanthropy’ explores millionaires and struggling families

Kathleen Turner stars in comedy ‘Act of God’ at George Street Playhouse

Tickets now are on sale for Kathleen Turner’s performance as God in the George Street Playhouse production of “An Act of God” in New Brunswick, N.J.,  Nov. 28 through Dec. 23.

Kathleen Turner, an Academy Award and Tony Award nominee, plays the title role in "An Act of God."
Kathleen Turner, an Academy Award and Tony Award nominee, plays the title role in “An Act of God.”

Yeah, really. That Kathleen Turner. The Academy Award nominee, Tony Award nominee, and multiple Golden Globe winner. She’s  appeared in nearly three dozen films, including “The War of the Roses”, “Prizzi’s Honor” (Golden Globe Winner), “Romancing the Stone” (my favorite), “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and “Marley and Me.”  She received an Academy Award nomination for her starring role in “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

A star of the Broadway stage as well, Turner received Tony Award nominations for her performances in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”  She also starred as Mrs. Robinson in the Broadway and West End productions of “The Graduate.”  Her television appearances include “Nip/Tuck,” “Friends” and “Californication.”  Turner’s distinctive husky voice can be heard on TV episodes including “Family Guy,” “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.”

“We could not be more thrilled to have one of the most revered film and Broadway stars of our time playing God,” said GSP artistic director David Saint who also directs “An Act of God.”  “God has a lot to say in this incredibly funny modern comedy, and Ms. Turner has just the right amount of chutzpah to bring us Her words.”

Performances begin Nov. 28 and continue through Dec. 23.

Tickets start at $85 for all performances.  “Heavenly Seating,” the first three rows of the theater, that enable patrons to be close to God (or should that be Goddess?) are $100.

For more information, visit the George Street Playhouse website at www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org where you also can purchases a seat. Tickets also available at the box office and by calling 732-246-7717.

In the 90-minute comedy by David Javerbaum, God takes human form and doesn’t hold back about what She’s seen and heard.  God, along with two archangels (casting TBA), answer many of the deepest (and not so deep) questions that have plagued mankind since Creation. Javerbaum’s play is based on his book “The Last Testament: A Memoir by God” and his Twitter feed.

Jim Parsons played the title road in the original 2015 Broadway production. It returned to Broadway in 2016 starring Sean Hayes.  The New York Times called “An Act of God” “a gut-busting-funny riff on the never-ending folly of mankind’s attempts to fathom God’s wishes … It’s an hour and a half of comedy heaven … .”

Javerbaum has 13 Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award and three Peabody Awards for his work on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”  Javerbaum is the co-creator of the Netflix sitcom “Disjointed” starring Kathy Bates and worked on “The Late Late Show with James Corden” and “The Colbert Report.”

While the new performing arts center that will serve as George Street Playhouse’s future home in downtown New Brunswick is being built, the company is in residence in the former New Jersey Museum of Agriculture at 103 College Farm Road on Rutgers University’s Cook Campus off Route 1 for its 2018-19 season.

George Street Playhouse is expected to return downtown to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in time for its 2019-20 season. A former museum exhibit area is being transformed into an intimate, mainstage theatre space.

The interim venue features expansive lobby spaces, an outdoor patio and free nearby parking. The entrance into the building and to all areas of the theatre are barrier-free. For directions to George Street Playhouse, visit the GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org and click on “Directions” on the homepage.

Paper Mill releases video of its world premiere ‘Honeymooners’ musical

The Paper Mill Playhouse has released a video of its world premiere of “The Honeymooners,” now in previews, opening Sunday (Oct. 8) in Millburn, NJ. Michael McGrath as Ralph Kramden, Michael Mastro as Ed Norton,  Leslie Kritzer as Alice Kramden, and Tony Award-nominee Laura Bell Bundy as Trixie Norton. Lewis J. Stadlen plays Old Man Faciamatta, Lewis Cleale is Bryce Bennett, and David Wohl is Allen Upshaw. 

For more info, bios, tech crew, etc, click here.