Updates: Steppenwolf’s “Superior Donuts” on Broadway

Tracy Letts’ most recent play, Superior Donuts, just opened on Broadway with the same Steppenwolf cast.  After receiving moderate to warm reviews here in Chicago, the NYC reviews so far appear mixed.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

 

The NY Post gives Superior Donuts a very positive review – 3.5 stars:

After Superior Donuts, Tracy Letts‘ follow-up to August: Osage County, premiered in Chicago last year, the play was deemed entertaining but minor.

Either this Steppenwolf production has been drastically reworked on its way to New York, or we live in a cynical world where a show as tender and honest, as beautifully written, acted and directed as this one can be blithely dismissed.

 

 

While the New York Times produces a review that is so-so:

Mr. Letts has mothballed his angst and tossed the deadly weapons in the back drawer. Superior Donuts, a gentle comedy that unfolds like an extended episode of a 1970s sitcom, is a warm bath of a play that will leave Broadway audiences with satisfied smiles rather than rattled nerves.

Superior Donuts may be familiar and unchallenging, but it’s also comfortable — and no, there’s nothing wrong with that.

 

Below, Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones interviews playwright Tracy Letts (“August: Osage County“) and lead actor Michael McKean (“Laverne and Shirley“, “Saturday Night Live“, “This is Spinal Tap“) about Superior Donuts, Letts’ new play premiered at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater. Letts’ 2007 play August: Osage County won the Pultizer Prize and Tony Award in 2008.

Continue reading

Think Fast: Michael McKean, Jonas Brothers, CSO and ‘Peter Pan the Musical’

  • This is great news: Michael McKean – who did such a brilliant job in Steppenwolf’s world-premier of Tracy LettsSuperior Donuts – will reprise his role as donut shop owner on Broadway, set to open October 1st.  More here, here and here.mckean-superior-donuts
  • What’s the impetus behind CSO’s artistic decline at Ravinia?  The Sun-Times says the choice of maestros at the podium is to blame.

I’m not sure the little boy behind me was impressed, though. He whispered (in English) in those hissing tones that bring to mind an angry radiator throughout the first act. In the second, he snored, but most gently. For that I was grateful.

  • Speaking of Peter Pan, it’s been announced that the multi-media-heavy extravaganza production will launch its theatre tour across the pond here in Chicago, May 2010.  In a tent!  Read the entire story at Chris Jones’ Theater Loop blog.  (Aside: no word on how profitable the show will be, though I heard Blago said that it’s “F*cking Golden!”)

“Obama On My Mind” – knew it was coming, but from London??

Barack Obama musical: “Obama On My Mind”

Okay, I knew it would appear sooner or later, but I never thought that a musical about Barrack Obama (and his campaign) would first be created in London!  It is tentatively called “Obama On My Mind.  Says CBS News:

Teddy Hayes, an American playwright currently living in London, has been inspired to pen a new and distinctive musical based upon Barack Obama’s presidential campaign”

From YouTube:

Personally, I think it looks pretty lame, but then I’ve been to many a play reading where the beginning and end product are drastically different.  (i.e., I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt).   I’m just wondering if Joe the Plumber will have a song of his own (or a duet with Sarah Palin).

Relevant blog posts:

People: Get Ready for Obama: The Musical – Barack Obama
NYTimes: Obama Musical to Have British Premiere
MTV: If Shrek Can Have His Own Musical, Why Can’t President Obama?

Theatre Thursday – "Fires in the Mirror" at 16th Street Theater

Thursday, February 5

Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deavere Smith

16th Street Theater

6420 16th Street, Berwyn

229 Come to 16th Street before the show to enjoy dinner catered by the popular Wishbone Restaurant featuring their healthy, southern-style comfort food. Then stay for the provocative Pulitzer Prize-nominated Fires in the Mirror, followed by a post-show dialogue with members of the cast and director.
Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Blacks vs. Jews. Four actresses embody 26 different perspectives in this stunning exploration of the events and emotions surrounding the 1991 racially-charged riots. “The most compelling and sophisticated view of urban racial and class conflict that one could hope to encounter.” —New York Times.

wishbone

Dinner begins at 6:30 p.m.
Show begins at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25
For reservations call 708.795.6704 x105 and mention “Theater Thursdays.” 

Broadway’s Rough Road Ahead???

View of Broadway Theaters
It’s not if Broadway will suffer in this tough economy, it’s how much the theatre ticket sales will suffer.  The New York Times tackles this issue:
Nearly every show had its audience shrink last week, with 14 productions experiencing more than a 10 percent drop in ticket sales. So musicals and plays are trying to hang on until the holidays bring an influx of cheer-seeking visitors to New York, looking to be entertained. After the new year they will try to hang on again, through January and February, traditionally two of the industry’s slowest months.
Here’s hoping that the actual outcome is not so dire.

"Mamma Mia!!" – What were they thinking??

‘Mamma Mia!’ – Singing! Dancing! Adapting! Stumbling!”

"Mamma Mia" - the movie!! 

I went to see the movie “Mamma Mia” this weekend at Evanston, and went away a bit disappointed.  I understand the reason for casting actors whose celebrity status is greater than their vocal chops – it’s all about the money.  Bigger star power, assumedly, means larger box-office receipts.  But why not at least cast celebs that can carry a tune, and look comfortable while doing it???!!!

Meryl Streep certainly holds her own, plowing through her numbers with such sweaty enthusiasm that I was often cheering her on without really knowing why.  But for the love of God, who allowed Pierce Brosnan to be anywhere near the movie set???  God help the baby who might be unlucky enough to hear a lullaby “sung” by this guy.  He’s that bad.  And making it worse, Brosnan appears so uncomfortable during his belabored crooning, that he literally seems to be parodying the musical genre itself, reminding me of some of those musical skits Second City creates after asking for audience suggestions.

Thus I was treated to Charles Isherwood’s insightful (and scornfully funny) article in the New York Times that covered these very misgivings, entitled “The Lessons of ‘Mamma Mia!’ – Singing! Dancing! Adapting! Stumbling!”  A few excerpts:

Every few years, with depressing regularity, a hit Broadway musical makes the leap to the big screen and goes splat! Or thud. Or zzzzz. “Mamma Mia!” does a little of all three, to a frantic disco beat, becoming yet another milestone in Hollywood’s repertory of enjoyable stage musicals transformed into lumbering messes on screen.

Isherwood deduces that the director, Phyllida Lloyd, did not cinematically embrace and showcase the show’s joyous inanity:

The real problem is that the director of “Mamma Mia!,” Phyllida Lloyd, seems to have taken the unapologetic silliness of the project (which she directed onstage) as permission to be sloppy. Abba made some of the most highly polished, tightly engineered pop junk ever. There is a kind of perfection in some of those hits that is undeniable even if — or maybe especially if — you can’t stand to hear them. But in matters of craft and technique “Mamma Mia!” proves to be remarkably shoddy, a tangle of clumsy cuts, mismatched shots, bad lighting, egregious overdubbing and scenes in which characters appear to have been haphazardly Photoshopped into the scenery.

Read the entire NY Times article here.

Times movie review here.

Here is a short clip from the movie that shows, during the last few seconds, the breadth of Brosnan’s singing skill.  I’ll tell you up front that this is actually the best he does during the entire movie.

 

Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan sing “SOS” in the movie “Mamma Mia”

Steppenwolf’s Laurie Metcalf interviewed by NY Times

Entitled “From Steppenwolf to Broadway“, the New York Times has posted a short audio interview with Steppenwolf ensemble-member Laurie Metcalf, including a slide show of pictures from her latest Broadway show, “November” (where she stars alongside Nathan Lane).  Check it out!

(interview produced by Erik Piepenburg)