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.

‘Something Rotten’ embraces losing Best Musical Tony Award

Although "Something Rotten"had 10 Tony Award nominations, the only one it took home was for Christian Borle for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical. (PHOTO: Joan Marcus)
Although “Something Rotten” earned 10 Tony Award nominations, the only one it took home was for Christian Borle for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical. (PHOTO: Joan Marcus)

Usually a Broadway show that wins only one Tony Award, or just got nominated for one Tony, emphasizes the positive. Not “Something Rotten.” It ran a full-page ad in the NYTimes proclaiming  itself a “Loser,” after taking home only 1 of the 10 awards for which it was nominated.

An excellent article recently published in the NYTimes explores the producers chutzpah. Reporter Michael Paulson writes, ” ‘The “Rotten!’ ad was devised the day after the Tony Awards, when the show’s dejected marketing team gathered at the offices of its advertising agency, SpotCo, to figure out what to do next.”

After all, the irony of the whole thing is “Something Rotten” is about two struggling playwrights who are desperate to best their chief rival — Will Shakespeare — and the only Tony the show got was for Christian Borle, who plays Shakespeare.

So the producers of the show that was nominated for “Best Musical” decided to point out what great company they were in including other “losers” that didn’t take home the Best Musical award, such as “West Side Story,” “Grease,” “Mama Mia!” and “Wicked.”

Image of the full page NYTimes ad for "Something Rotten."“You’re always hoping that you’re going to win, but if you don’t, you have to think about how to position your show,”  Kevin McCollum, the lead producer of “Rotten!”  told the NY Times. “Very few shows have the confidence to go with the headline ‘Loser!,’ but it illustrates that we’re confident enough to acknowledge our loss and celebrate those that came before us.”

To read the complete story, click here.

To order tickets, click here.

‘Honeymoon’ closing, ‘Hamilton’ pulls politicos, NBC picks live ‘Wiz’

Good reviews don’t mean box office hits

The adage is critics don’t close shows, producers do.

But critics  wrote generally positive reviews for Paper Mill Playhouse’s latest foray on Broadway — “Honeymoon in Vegas” — and it will close this Sunday (April 5). It’s cashing in just a few weeks before the official cutoff for the Tony Awards (April 23) and announcement of the nominations (April 28).

Shows usually try to hang on, as did “A Gentleman’s Guide of Love and Murder,” whose box office picked up after it get nominated and then won the Best Musical Tony.

“But “Honeymoon” is losing more than a $100,000 a week, according to the New York Times. Continue reading ‘Honeymoon’ closing, ‘Hamilton’ pulls politicos, NBC picks live ‘Wiz’

Untold ‘Sound of Music’ story Wednesday on ABC

Iconic "Sound of Music" opening scene from the film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical starring Julie Andrews.
Iconic “Sound of Music” opening scene from the film version of the Rodgers& Hammerstein musical starring Julie Andrews.

When I was growing up the only time you could watch “The Sound of Music” movie was Easter weekend, usually the Saturday night before while dying eggs. This year you can watch the “The Untold Story of ‘The Sound of Music’.” Really.  And it doesn’t look to be at all nasty or sordid.

At 10 p.m. EST Wednesday (3/18/15) on ABC-TV,  Diane Sawyer hosts a special edition of “20/20” featuring an interview with Julie Andrews in Salzburg, the hometown of the real von Trapp family lived. Continue reading Untold ‘Sound of Music’ story Wednesday on ABC

Off stage harassment, violence remains mostly unregulated in theater

Image of Page 1 of today's New York Times with a theater story about sexual harassment and violence in the offstage theater community.
Page 1 of today’s New York Times with a theater story about sexual harassment and violence in the offstage theater community.

The Page 1 editors of the NYTimes never cease to amaze me with enlightened choices. Most newspapers, no matter the content, would publish a theater story on the entertainment pages. Actors pushing against sexual harassment and violence in the theater is above the fold today in a story by Patrick Healy, a NYT reporter who covers the business aspect of show business very well.

Continue reading Off stage harassment, violence remains mostly unregulated in theater

Ken Ludwig’s hysterical ‘Baskervilles’ is great fun at McCarter Theatre

Lucas Hall as John Watson and Gregory Wooddell as Sherlock Holmes in Ken Ludwig's hysterical version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" at McCarter Theatre in Princeton through March 29. (Photo: Margot Shulman)
Lucas Hall as John Watson (left) and Gregory Wooddell as Sherlock Holmes in Ken Ludwig’s hysterical “Baskervilles” at McCarter Theatre. (Photo: Margot Shulman)

Do you like Sherlock Holmes? Did you enjoy
“The 39 Steps?” Do you like to laugh — a lot — in the theater?

Then you will love Ken Ludwig’s “Baskervilles” now playing at the McCarter Theatre complex in Princeton through March 29. You loved “Moon Over Buffalo” and “Lend Me a Tenor,” right? He wrote those.

And bring the kids. I’ve never seen such a mix of adults and so many young theatergoers — tweens, high schoolers, college students and young adults — as I did last night during the opening at the nearly full 1,100-seat Matthews Theatre space. It’s a co-production with the Arena Stage in Washington, DC, where it was presented earlier this year to raves.

Continue reading Ken Ludwig’s hysterical ‘Baskervilles’ is great fun at McCarter Theatre

Dan Lauria’s mob play latest NJ show to transfer to NYC

Wanna be a Broadway producer? How about off-Broadway? Maybe you should launch a show at one of NJ’s regional theaters, which have transferred several shows to NYC, most recently Dan Lauria’s mob drama “Dinner With the Boys.”

"Dinner With The Boys" stars Dan Lauria alongside Ray Abruzzo (who played Little Carmine Lupertazzi on "The Sopranos") and Richard Zavaglia (a veteran of stage and screen who has appeared in such films as "Donnie Brasco" with Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.)
“Dinner With The Boys” stars Dan Lauria (right)  alongside Ray Abruzzo (center, who played Little Carmine Lupertazzi on “The Sopranos”) and Richard Zavaglia (rear, a veteran of stage and screen who has appeared in such films as “Donnie Brasco” with Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.)

According to today’s New York Times the show, which made its world debut last year at the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch, was so popular patrons paid $10 to watch it in the lobby from a TV feed. The troupe’s main stage seats less than 50.

The play concerns two old-school Mafia guys hiding out after  botching an assignment. They cook and swap stories as they await their fate. “It’s really about all the violence we consume,” Lauria told the Times.

The show stars Lauria, best known as the dad in TV’s “The Wonder Years,” Ray Abruzzo, who played Little Carmine on HBO’s “The Sopranos,” and Richard Zavaglia, who was in “Donnie Brasco.” Frank Megna will direct. To read the whole story, click here.

Beginning Broadway previews Tuesday (March 17) is “It Shoulda Been You,” one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. Directed by the super multi-talented David Hyde Pierce, it had its world premiere at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick. Starring Tyne Daly and Harriet Harris, the show has more crazy characters than one show should be legally allowed to possess, even if it is a comedy about a wedding day run amok between Christians and Jews.

For more info on the show, click here.

Meanwhile, Paper Mill Playhouse’s “Honeymoon in Vegas” currently is running on Broadway and its very successful production of “Newsies” recently closed. On Sunday, the 77-year-old theater in Millburn opens a new production of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which could be ripe for a Broadway picking. And there is talk that a revamped version of Cole Porter’s “Can-Can,” which opened Paper Mill’s current season last fall, may make a Broadway transfer.

Next season, the 1,500-seat space offers two world premiere musicals: “Bandstand,” a story of a mismatched band of WWII veterans, and “A Bronx Tale,” set against a backdrop or organized crime and racial strife in the 1960s. The latter is directed by Robert DeNiro. Yeah, the two-time Oscar winner. Jerry Zaks, the four-time Tony Award winner, co-directs. For the complete season, click here.

McCarter Theatre in Princeton, which tonight opens Ken Ludwig’s new take on Sherlock Holmes in “The Hound of the Baskervilles” sent Christopher Durang’s  2013 Tony Award-winning comedy “Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike” to Broadway. David Leveaux’s production of “Electra” featuring Zoë Wanamaker moved to Broadway in 1998. And that’s just the latest in a long line for the venerable playhouse that itself is the recipient of the 1994 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.

Ken Ludwig's "Baskerville" with, from left, Jane Pfitsch, Gregory Wooddell as Sherlock Holmes and Stanley Bahorek opens at  McCarter Theatre in Princeton (Photo by Margot Schulman.)
Ken Ludwig’s “Baskerville” with, from left, Jane Pfitsch, Gregory Wooddell as Sherlock Holmes and Stanley Bahorek opens tonight at McCarter Theatre in Princeton (Photo by Margot Schulman.)

‘Downton Abbey’ actors cast in Disney’s remakes of animated films

Image of Dan Stevens, best known as Matthew Crawley and heir to the Downton Abbey estate,  has been cast as the Beast/Prince in Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" movie.
Dan Stevens, best known as Matthew Crawley and heir to the Downton Abbey estate, has been cast as the Beast/Prince in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” movie. (Photo courtesy Milk Productions)

When Dan Stevens didn’t re-up his contract with “Downton Abbey,” departing via fatal car crash and leaving behind Lady Mary and his infant son, people thought he was crazy.  Well, he’s been cast as the male lead in Disney’s live musical interpretation of “Beauty and the Beast,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.  Who’s got the last laugh now?

He will play The Beast/Prince opposite Emma Watson as Belle.  The Reporter previous reported  Emma Thompson is  currently in talks to play Mrs. Potts, in the film. (Thompson in anything is brilliant casting! Did you watch he Mrs. Lovett in “Sweeney Todd”? To die for.  No, really.) To watch a video from the concert performance, click here.

Continue reading ‘Downton Abbey’ actors cast in Disney’s remakes of animated films

Whoops! Maggie Smith was having us on

Maggie Smith was just kidding, publicists for "Downton Abbey" said.
Maggie Smith was just kidding, publicists for “Downton Abbey” said.

Whew, that was close.

According to The Associated Press,  a spokesperson for Milk Publicity (the publicists for “Downton Abbey”), said Maggie Smith always planned to stay with the show “for as long as the show runs.”

The Dowager Countess of Grantham was just having a good laugh, publicists added, when said told The (London) Times she was leaving the show after the sixth season.

Of course, if “Downton Abbey” only last one more year, then she will be right. But let’s not think about that now.

 

Two River Theater offers laughs, tears in premiere of tender ‘Guadalupe’


“Guadalupe in the Guest Room” is a lovely slice-of-life play about love  and death and the power of the Spanish telenovela.

Written by Tony Meneses and directed by Daniella Topol, the 90-minute play is receiving its world premiere at the Two River Theater  in Red Bank, NJ, through March 15.

Charles Socarides plays Steve, whose young wife of two years, Claudia, died one month ago. Socorro Santiago plays his mother-in-law Guadalupe, who has come from Mexico for the funeral and is still in the guest room.

Continue reading Two River Theater offers laughs, tears in premiere of tender ‘Guadalupe’

Maggie Smith is done with the Dowager Countess

Maggie Smith (shown here as the Dowager Countess) says the sixth season of "Downton Abbey" will be her last, whether to not the series continues beyond 2016. (Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television for Masterpiece)
Maggie Smith (shown here as the Dowager Countess) says the sixth season of “Downton Abbey” will be her last, whether or not the series continues beyond 2016. (Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television for Masterpiece)

Maggie Smith, 80, began as a stage actress so I feel perfectly justified in sharing here she is done playing the Dowager Countess after the next season of “Downton Abbey,” whether it’s the final season or not.

Sure going to miss those barbed swipes  she delivers, oh, so well. Of course, if she continues making movies, such as the “Marigold Hotel” series, we’ll still hear plenty of her quips. And there’s always the “Harry Potter” moves to watch again (except for maybe the last two).

In an interview with The (London) Sunday Times, “They say this is the last one, and I can’t see how it could go on,” Smith, 80, said referring to the upcoming season six. (She thinks the Countess “must be 110 by now,” she told the Times.)

Continue reading Maggie Smith is done with the Dowager Countess