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.

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.

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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.

 

5th Theater Brut fest of plays, music, art opens today at West End Arts

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The New Jersey Repertory Company is throwing a coming out party for its new West End Arts Center during the first week of October with a Theater Brut arts festival featuring 28 new short plays, plus music, poetry, art and photography events.

This is the fifth Theatre Brut (pronounced brew) for the professional, non-profit theater founded in 1997 and the most ambitious since it acquired the 28,000 square-foot former grammar school in the West End section of Long Branch as a second space.

Theater Brut’s stated goal is to foster the “creative impulse unfettered by social and artistic convention.” That objective also could be applied to the founders, artistic director SuzAnne Barabas and executive producer Gabor Barabas.

Instead of going the traditional route of first raising money to fund a complete renovation before opening the doors to the public — which could take years, not counting building a cinema arts theater and apartments for visiting artists as well — the decision was made to create programming and invite the public in as soon as possible.

Continue reading 5th Theater Brut fest of plays, music, art opens today at West End Arts

‘Honeymooners’ musical begins world premiere tonite at Paper Mill

Not many Americans are alive today who watched the original broadcast of “The Honeymooners,” the iconic TV show created by Jackie Gleason that has morphed into a limited run world premiere musical  (after two previous attempts) that begins performances today (Sept. 28) at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey and probably is Broadway bound.

It’s based on the 1950s CBS television series that featured Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden;  Audrey Meadows his as faithful but sharp-tongued wife Alice,  Art Carney as his best friend Ed Norton, a sewer worker, and his wife Joyce Randolph and best friend to Alice.

Publicity shot of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden with Audrey Meadows as Alice, circa 1955
Publicity shot of Jackie Gleason as Ralph Kramden with Audrey Meadows as Alice, circa 1955

Coming full circle, Gleason’s skits about working-class married couples in a gritty Brooklyn apartment originally  were broadcast live in front of a theater audience on the DuMont network’s variety series “Cavalcade of Stars,” which Gleason hosted, and subsequently on the CBS network’s “The Jackie Gleason Show” (1951–55).

Continue reading ‘Honeymooners’ musical begins world premiere tonite at Paper Mill

‘A Raisin in the Sun’ cast deliver performances in a play not to be missed

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“You people,” says the man from the all-white Clybourne Park Welcoming Committee — repeatedly —to the Younger family living in a one-bedroom rundown apartment on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s.

He’s so polite that the Younger family, at first, believe Mr. Lindner (Nat DeWolf) is sincere until it becomes clear he’s not. He’s there to offer them more money than the purchase price of their new three-bedroom house so that their neighborhood won’t be sullied by black people.

The dream of leaving a cramped cockroach invested apartment where the shared bathroom is down the hall, for an airy suburban home with a yard waiting for a garden, is so visceral it took them a few minutes to realize his visit was about race, not open arms.

Continue reading ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ cast deliver performances in a play not to be missed

‘A Raisin in the Sun’ opens tonight at Two River Theater in Red Bank

The Younger family's hope for achieving their dreams is at the center of "A Raisin In the Sun" featuring Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger), Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger), Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger) and Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger) in at Two River Theater in Red Bank. (PHOTO) T Charles Erickson
The Younger family’s hope for achieving their dreams is at the center of “A Raisin In the Sun” featuring Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger), Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger), Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger) and Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger) in at Two River Theater in Red Bank. (PHOTO) T Charles Erickson

“Raisin in the Sun” opens tonight at the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank with a cast that would do a Broadway production proud. It includes Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger), Nat DeWolf (Karl Lindner), Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger), Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger), Willie Dirden (Bobo), Charlie Hudson III (Joseph Asagai), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger), Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger), and York Walker (George Murchison). Andrew Binger and David Joel Rivera play the Moving Men.

Continue reading ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ opens tonight at Two River Theater in Red Bank

‘What the Butler Saw’ begins tonight at NJ Shakespeare Fest

I can’t believe that Joe Orton’s last play, the once controversial farce “What The Butler Saw,” is his first work ever to be produced by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey. Performances begin tonight in Madison, N.J.
I would have sworn I’d seen an Orton work there … wait a minute. I’m thinking of Orton’s “Loot, staged at McCarter Theater in Princeton directed by the incredibly inventive and exciting director Daniel Fish in 2002.
That must be what’s  confusing me. Paul Mullins, another the incredibly inventive and exciting director (as well as actor), is staging the farce here. First performed in 1969,  it shocked audiences.  Nudity and extramarital affairs probably had something to do with that.

Continue reading ‘What the Butler Saw’ begins tonight at NJ Shakespeare Fest