Paul Barry, founder of Shakespeare theater in NJ, dies at 83

Sorry to say, I missed Paul Barry’s obit in the Star Ledger earlier this week. It wasn’t in the NYTimes nor the Asbury Park Press, papers that have written  features and reviews about his theater in the past.

It’s a shame his passing wasn’t noticed more since he co-founded the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, now the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, in 1963 in Cape May and directed all 38 of Shakespeare’s play, many at its current home on the Drew University campus in Madison.

According to the festival at the time of Barry’s departure as artistic director in 1990, he was the first American director to stage the full canon. Not a lot of directors now or during the last 400 years can say they did the same.

His vision and that of co-founder Phil Dorian has lasted a long time and insures there’s a place in New Jersey we, and our children, can be guaranteed each year to see plays by Shakespeare without leaving the state.

Read the complete obit here.



Lincoln Center ‘Sweeney Todd’ airs on PBS tonight

New TV shows and returning series used to be a big deal every Fall when I was growing up. Not so much any more with cable introducing new shows year-round and Netflix releasing entire series in one day. We can still count on PBS and Lincoln Center to come up with a Fall spectacular and it’s a New York Philharmonic concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s bloody musical “Sweeney Todd” airing 9-11:30 p.m. today (Sept. 26) on Channel 13 in New York. (Check local listings for air dates and times in other locations.)

Continue reading Lincoln Center ‘Sweeney Todd’ airs on PBS tonight

Christopher Walken is Capt. Hook on NBC

NBC has finally announced the rest of the leading players for its Dec. 4 live airing of “Peter Pan.” The producers apparently chose to cast Capt. Hook and Mr. Darling with Christopher Walken and Christian Borle, respectively, instead of the same actor playing both parts.

I think the musical  is much more effective with the dad and the pirate played by the same actor, at least from a Freudian point of view. And isn’t that the point? Mr. Darling loves his children, but is a strict disciplinarian whose limited time with his two sons is not pleasant. Capt. Hook, as we well know, hates the Lost Boys, Peter Pan in particular, and in this dream-like play symbolizes the Darling boys’  fear of their unapproachable dad.

Allison Williams, daughter of NBC news anchor Brian Williams, plays the title role Dec. 4 on the live broadcast of the musical on NBC.
Allison Williams, daughter of NBC news anchor Brian Williams, plays the title role Dec. 4 on the live broadcast of the musical “Peter Pan” on NBC.

But  Walken is a definite “get” and we know he trained as a dancer in music theater at the Washington Dance Studio, before moving on to dramatic roles in theater and then film.   Besides Mr. Darling, Borle plays   Smee, Kelli O’Hara is Mrs. Darling and the previously announced Allison Williams is Peter Pan.  Here’s the NBC announcement.


Kathleen Marshall, Emily Mann create cutting-edge theater

Emily Mann writes, directs and runs McCarter Theatre

When McCarter Theatre’s Artistic Director Emily Mann isn’t introducing major new works in Princeton, she’s creating her own. Her new translation, a stage version of Ingmar Bergman’s  six-hour Swedish miniseries “Scenes From a Marriage,” is receiving a very innovative staging at the New York Theater Workshop under the direction of Ivo van Hove.

The theater has essentially been gutted. (Watch video of transformation here.) The proscenium gone. According to an article by Erik Piepenburg in the New York Times, the audience is divided into three groups of about 60 each for three different 30-minute scenes. After an intermission the theater is transformed and the audience sits in the round for the second act.

That sounds so cool and so off-Broadway, where risk is embraced much more so than on Broadway. Click here to read the complete article. Also, Mann directs Rachel Bonds’ new play “Five Mile Lake” at McCarter Theatre from May 1-31. The theater’s website says: …  Bonds paints a moving portrait of a group of young people, yearning to make the right choices—and facing the choices they have already made—as they journey into their thirties in a rapidly transforming world.” Continue reading Kathleen Marshall, Emily Mann create cutting-edge theater

Broadway invades China with song and dance

National Theatre Live brings its London shows to big screen across the United States. Now Broadway will be doing the same thing — in China.

Broadway Worldwide Entertainment Media, which most recently screened the Tony-winning musical “Memphis” in movie theaters, is teaming with China’s Sun New Light Culture Development to produce and distribute two to four musicals a year filmed live in HD, Lorne Manly reports in today’s NYTimes.

Broadway street sign in Manhattan

Apparently many more digital screens have been built recently to better serve all those dancing feet. Click here for the complete story.

Last night I took my two 20+ kids to see the NTL 90-minute, non-stop production of “Medea,” and they both enjoyed it. Airing Broadway shows around the U.S. more often seems like a good deal to me. Unlike NY Times critics, a trip to London to see shows is not in my budget.

Continue reading Broadway invades China with song and dance

The fight over ‘American Psycho’ just insane

I guess it’s the price of doing business when a musical that has the makings of a Broadway hit gets snatched away from an off-Broadway house.

As Patrick Healy reports in the NYTimes today, two veteran Broadway producers’ sharp elbows caused the new-to-NYC producers of  “American Psycho” to bypass Second Stage and go straight to the Great White Way. The California-based company Act 4 Entertainment produces movies and is new to theater.

That leaves Second Stage scrambling for a show to fill its February spot in that company’s season and delays the NYC debut of “AP” until a year from now. The show had its world premiere last winter in London to mixed-to-favorable reviews, Healy reports.

My 21-year-old son is very disappointed. He is a big fan of Duncan Sheik (“Spring Awakenings”) who wrote the score for this show based on Brett Easton’s 1991 best-selling book.

Read the full story here.

Clooney joins ‘Downton Abbey’ cast, briefly

I know. George Clooney has nothing to do with Broadway, NJ regionals, or London stages — except maybe as an audience member — but he is a class act and is supporting “Downton Abbey,” which is filled with veteran stage actors.

He filmed a scene for the popular TV series, which airs in the U.S. later than in England as part of Masterpiece Theatre. The scene will used for charity efforts during Christmas.

Here’s the skinny on Clooney.

London’s ‘Skylight’ with Nighy, Mulligan is Broadway bound

The London production of "Skylight," starring  Bill Nighy and Cary Mulligan, will be broadcast by the National Theatre Live during October around the country and open on Broadway in the Spring with its original London cast.
The London production of “Skylight,” starring Bill Nighy and Carey Mulligan, will be broadcast by the National Theatre Live during October around the country and open on Broadway in the Spring with its original London cast. reports Carey Mulligan and Bill Nighy will return to Broadway in David Hare’s “Skylight” beginning March 16 for a 13-week limited engagement through June 14.

If you can’t wait, you can always catch the National Theatre Live broadcast of the London production in October at venues around the USA. “Experience the best of British theatre at a cinema near you” is the slogan on its homepage.

Different venues may offer the viewing on different days. I’ve taken my kids (in their early 20s) to NTL events about six times at the Pollack Theatre at Monmouth University in West Long Branch, NJ, and we enjoyed ourselves . We’ve seen both “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and “The Audience,” both of which are scheduled for Broadway this season, beginning Sept. 9 and Feb. 17, respectively. “Skylight” will be shown at Monmouth U Oct. 30.

“Skylights” original cast  of Carey Mulligan, Bill Nighy and Matthew Beard will transfer across the pond in the show directed by the brilliant Stephen Daldry. He took English dramatist J. B. Priestley’s classic 1946 warhorse of a show, “An Inspector Calls,” and turned it into an astonishingly modern piece on theater. It won the Tony Award for the 1994 Best Revival of a Play and Daldry went home with the Best Direction of a Play award. The set designer and lighting designer also won Tonys.

— For more info on “Skylight” and a video of the production, click here.

— For a list of NTL shows, venues in the NY metropolitan area, videos and more, click here. 

— For the report, click here.

Robin Williams Tribute Special to Air on PBS Sept. 9

Stars and friends of Robin Williams will share memories of the late comedian in “Robin Williams Remembered — A Pioneers of Television Special,”

“Robin Williams Remembered — A Pioneers of Television Special" airs Sept. 9.
“Robin Williams Remembered — A Pioneers of Television Special” airs Sept. 9.

reports Shelli Weinstein, @shellidw, for Variety.

For NYC metro area fans, it airs 9 p.m. Sept. 9 on Thirteen WNET New York.

The hour-long tribute includes interviews with the comedian, his colleagues, plus new footage.

Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction Sept. 21

For theater lovers living near NYC, find showbiz treasures, meet  cast members and bid on backstage experiences as part of the 28th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction.

28th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction is Sept. 21./Image courtesy Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS website.
28th Annual Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction is Sept. 21./Image courtesy Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS website.

WHERE:  Times Square, Shubert Alley and West 44th Street.

WHEN: 10 am – 7 pm, Sunday, Sept. 21,

WHY: It’s loads of fun, you’ll find stuff here you can’t find anywhere else and you help raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Besides, you can catch a show while in the vicinity.

“Search for that missing piece of your Broadway collection, including out-of-print cast recordings and lost Playbills from almost any show you can imagine. Get lost in the stacks of signed memorabilia, costume sketches, props and photographs. There are treasures to be found in every price range,” the website promises.

Last year, the Broadway Flea Market & Grand Auction raised $631,222, bringing the event’s 27-year total to more than $10.3 million. For more info, click here.

News and views of New Jersey's regional theaters, and bits about Broadway.

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