December 30, 2006

Four Dead Dictators

2006 was not a good year for dictators.

General Augusto Pinochet, died of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 91. His government murdered and tortured thousands of Chileans during his 17 year rule. He died before the many court cases meant to bring him down could be completed, cheating his people of justice.

Saparmurat Niyazov was the self proclaimed president of Turkmenistan. According to his Wikipedia article, foreign media considered Niyazov to be one of the world's most authoritarian and oppressive dictators in the world. He was a kook like most dictators and as proof of his kookiness instituted such kooky policies as requiring licensed drivers to pass a morality test and requiring doctors to swear an oath to him as president instead of the much loved and recognized Hippocratic Oath.

Another one who died before his people could receive justice for his crimes against humanity was the world famous, incredibly cruel and evil Slobodan Milosevic, former President of Yugoslavia and Serbia. The truly cruelest dictators usually have resumes that include genocide of their own people and Milosevic is no exception. He died while on trial at the Hague.

The frothy icing on the cake made from the metaphorically groundup bodies of dead dictators would have to be the hanging of Saddam Hussein. Now I know the war in Iraq is incredibly controversial and highly unpopular among most of my friends and a lot of people who come to this blog. But even if you don't agree with the ubiquitous presence of the US military in the hot bed of civil unrest known as Iraq, I'm sure most of you would agree that Saddam Hussein was no saint and that his death was welcome relief to many people who suffered injustice at the hands of that mad man.

He really was a despot that bullied and tormented and killed and frightened his citizens for years and years and years. And he was bat shit insane to boot.

December 23, 2006

The Vertical Hour

Julianne Moore"right"/ />All this week, I've been working on The Vertical Hour. I've been doing other things as well but as far as work is concerned, that's where I've been. Since the previews, the director Sam Mendes changed a couple of things. When I first saw it during previews, Julianne Moore opened the show with a stunningly boring and terribly soft-spoken monologue which just didn't work. Mostly everyone complained that they couldn't hear her in the beginning and often that week, I would hand out headsets in the dark to people who decided after missing her monologue that they needed them for the rest of the show. Now, Bill Nighy opens the show with a monologue from later in the play and they moved her monologue to the middle of the first act. It works much better. Although I don't understand the purpose of the monologues at all. They don't really add much to the show.

He does well on stage. No matter how he's directed to stand, he always manages to turn and face the audience whenever he delivers a line. Julianne Moore however, follows her blocking blindly delivering lines stage right and stage left causing ever so many complaints from the audience. I must have heard the following 100 times this week.
"Why doesn't she project?"
"She doesn't know how to project."
"I can't hear anything she's saying."
"Every time she turns I miss what she's saying."
"The acoustics in this theater are so bad."

The acoustics at The Music Box theater are fine. It's the sound design that's bad. Why do they NEVER MIKE the actors in straight plays? I will never understand the logic behind this. If I were a playwright who'd managed to get a play staged on Broadway, I would want the audience to hear every word. But no. Instead. Some old fashioned notion about stage plays holds true. People pay upwards to $200 for tickets to some plays. Every effort should be made to make sure that these customers are getting their money's worth - and NOT RELY ON MY COMPANY to make up the deficit.

And it would also helped if Julianne Moore would learn how to project. Everyone else in the play with her manages to make themselves heard, in spite of the miking situation, except for her.

Did I mention, it's a really good play?

The second change may or may not be Ms. Moore's costumes.

December 20, 2006

New Teeth

My dentist put in porcelain veneers today.

When I was sixteen years old, I went head first over my handle bars on the way to my high school. The marching band was scheduled to compete at the Hofstra HS marching band competition that they have every year. My big Q-tip hat got caught between my handlebars and my front tire, thus causing the accident.

How did I land? I landed on my face, on my mouth specifically and broke my two front teeth. The cosmetic solution was bonding and for the last ten years or so, I've maintained the same bonding from a dentist in my hometown. But it looked awful. I never liked it. And on top of that they were all stained and crooked and I thought my teeth made me look poor. (see below)

So, I decided to do something about it, 20 something years later. So two weeks ago, in addition to my regular cleaning, my dentist fitted me for porcelain veneers - a more permanent solution than bonding but less permanent than crowns. For the last two weeks, I wore temporary teeth that while didn't look great looked 10 times better than my bonding.

Today, the doctor applied the veneers. I'm still numb from the novacaine shots. I haven't been able to feel any sensation in my nose for coming on 3 hours now and I'd really, really like to because I want to blow it but I'm scared of damaging it because of its completely numb state.

The teeth look good but feel strange. My bottom teeth are crowded which is something we're going to correct with a retainer. Already, my lower teeth have been hitting the veneers in a weird way. The retainer is going to straighten out my two front lower teeth which jut out. It shouldn't take too long to correct - actually the dentist said that before I finish paying him off the teeth will be straight. That correction will make it so, I never have to worry about my bottom teeth chipping my top teeth which had been a long standing problem with my teeth since I first had them repaired.

The only draw back is I have to take it easy for the next 24 hours until the bonding is completely set. That means no coffee or stain-causing liquids.

When I came home, I ate a piece of soup chicken and a little ice cream. It's hard to consume liquids because my upper lip is completely numb and out of my control but as the feeling comes back I'm optimistic I'll soon be able to eat some of my nourishing chicken soup.

December 16, 2006

Broadway Closings

High Fidelity is closing tomorrow after 18 previews and 14 performances. It filled the Imperial Theater to less than 50% of capacity. I guess the show's producers just didn't want to wait for the show to pick up steam through word of mouth. The bad reviews it received killed it's chances of making a lot of money in advance sales. Maybe the producers of the show were running a scam like in The Producers and are actually going to walk away with money because the show was a flop.
Fame Becomes Me is also closing - January 7. I thought it would run longer. It's a strong show with good songs and even greater performances. The score was written by Marc Shaiman who also wrote the music for Hairspray. And features outstanding performances from Mary Birdsong and Brooks Ashmanskas(Brooks if you're googling yourself and you find this post please note that you need a website). For Hannukah, I gave Jon a ticket to see it before it closes. He'll be sitting near the front and hopefully he'll called up on stage during the Jiminy Glick portion of the show.

December 09, 2006

High Fidelity - Notes

It's Saturday and I'm working a double dose of High Fidelity.

During the walk-in I was talking with one of the Associate Producers. He was telling me how upset he was about Ben Brantley's review from the Friday NY Times. I tried to reassure him that Ben Brantley was simply the wrong critic to have reviewed the show - that Brantley's taste was more like that of the blue haired old ladies that come to see Wednesday matinees than it was of the hipsters to whom they seem to be appealing. I told him that Brantley missed the point of the show - that he just didn't get it. I was kind of kissing his butt a little bit. After all, this guy I was talking to is a big time Broadway producer.

What was I going to say? That Ben Brantley was right? Of course not. If you read the Ben Brantley review from beginning to end you'll realize that his review is actually very well informed. He's read the book by Nick Hornby and he's seen the film by Stephen Frears. His observations are based on both literary and filmic experience with the story. On top of that, he knows Broadway and has been reviewing shows for quite some time. I think it's safe to say that he knows what he's talking about.

The general feeling is that Brantley's review was harsh. But if it were good, they would have been thrilled. But does Brantley give good reviews? I don't recall ever reading a review about anything that he liked. Here is a link to his theater reviews. Can you find a play that he liked?

High Fidelity isn't brilliant but it isn't awful either. If you use Wedding Singer and Les Miserables as measuring posts the Wedding Singer being the worst and Les Mis being the best, High Fidelity falls dead center in terms of commercial appeal. The show will definitely find its audience. All you have to do is to decide whether or not you want to be a part of that audience.

December 08, 2006

High Fidelity - Notes

The reviews on High Fidelity are in and the two I read weren't very good.

NY Times critic Ben Bradley said he's adding High Fidelity to his own top 5 list - All-Time Most Forgettable Musicals.

Clive Barnes from the NY Post described the musical as a brave but foolhardy attempt.

What did I think? It's alright. It's not THAT original anymore to base a musical on a movie. But producers are always going after that elusive young, straight male demographic. This musical is up there with the likes of Saturday Night Fever, Footloose (coincidentally, Tom Plotkin from the original Footloose cast is part of the High Fidelity group of understudies and stand-ins), Spamalot and The Wedding Singer.

The show is probably more like the movie starring John Cusack than it is like the book by Nick Hornby. Will Chase stars as the likeable but unlikeable protagonist who blames everyone but himself for his relationship failures. But he's not really unlikeable enough. Everyone in the show is talented of course but the show itself tries to hard. The music is just a little bit better than The Wedding Singer but not even half as good as Grey Gardens or Spring Awakening.

The coolest thing about High Fidelity are the sets. They morph seamlessly into bedrooms, record shops, bars, funeral homes, whatever the scene calls for.

There is one really fun scene in the second act which is a dream sequence where Rob fantasizes about killing his rival Ian. If that scene could have somehow been matched for comedy and energy throughout the whole musical, they would have something.

But don't worry. The more mediocre a show is, the better it seems to do these days. The box office will probably earn more than Spring Awakening which isn't even filling the theater. I mean the Imperial Theater was packed all week with well wishers and future High Fidelity repeaters.

Get a discounted ticket for this one. Don't pay full price.

December 07, 2006

High Fidelity - Opening Night

Tonight I worked the opening of High Fidelity at the Imperial Theater.

I saw quite a few celebrities.

The most impressive celebrity there was Lauren Bacall. She walked right past me, close enough that I could see the make of her hearing aid which must have been very good because she did not take a headset. She looked great for a woman that's over 80 years old. Very oddly, following right behind her was Cindy Adams who also looks great for a woman in her 80's. She's not a great look woman but she did look great. And even though she can't write in complete sentences, I'm sure she'll write something about tonight's opening in tomorrow's NY Post.

The second most impressive celebrity I saw this evening was Alec Baldwin. This must be the umpteenth time I've seen him in person. I think I've seen him once every few months or so for the last 3 years. Every time I see him, he's always in the middle of doing something. The very last time I saw him was this summer as he was crossing Broadway on 47th street. At the time, he had been doing something at The Roundabout and I'd seen him a few times in front of the Roundabout Theater speaking to other actors.

The other celebrities, while they were cool to see, just don't rank as high as the previously mentioned.

The list includes Dana Delaney, Constantine Maroulis, Bebe Neuwirth and Karen Ziemba.

Constantine Maroulis is very tall, much taller than you would think. He was with a very, very, very blond and skinny woman who didn't look too much older than a high schooler. Not saying that she was in high school but she was very young. The last time I saw him, I was going into the Al Hirshfeld theater through the stage door and he was sitting on the stairs near the entrance. I've seen him at least a dozen times and even made eye contact with him. Tonight, when he walked by me, there was a glint of recognition in his eyes but not knowing how he knows me, I guess I can't blame him for not saying hello.

Bebe Neuwirth always looks very tiny when you see her in person. She has a very small head and always looks like she needs to eat something. Unless you're a Broadway nut, you're most likely not familiar with Karen Ziemba. She's a Broadway phenom and I got to see her play Roxie Hart in Chicago when it was at the Shubert like 50 times. Actually, I saw Bebe Neuwirth in Chicago also and I've even seen her perform with Karen Ziemba. I was bummed that I couldn't work the 10th Anniversary show of Chicago.

Dana Delaney walked by so quickly, I only saw enough of her to know who it was. This may or may not come as a shock to you but she's very small and skinny.

December 05, 2006

Forbes 15 Richest Fictional Characters 2006

Forbes published its list of richest fictional characters for 2006.

Santa Claus was removed from the list and moving into first place is Daddy Warbucks.

Forbes claims that it still sites Santa's net worth as infinity but removed him from the list as a result of being bombarded by letters from outraged children insisting that Santa is real. For now, they thought it best to take him off the list until the matter of Santa's authenticity is verified.

Meanwhile, Daddy Warbucks has done well this year moving him ot the top of the list. Defense contracts in Iraq earned Warbucks a fortune for his depleted uranium artillery shells. His company's energy services group won a record $59.2 billion contract to provide oil well maintenance in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

There were some amusing additions to the list this year, including Prince Abakaliki of Nigeria. The first son of King Sani Abakaliki debuted on the Forbes List at #9 with a shocking net worth of $2.8 billion. That's a pretty good sum of money considering he still wants to get his hands on his father's estate - with your help of course.

Also new to the list is plumber Mario with an amassed fortune of $1 billion. According to his entry, he amassed his fortune slowly by overcoming obstacles in order to collect one gold coin at a time.

December 04, 2006

Confrontation - How I Met Your Mother

One recent blogging trend is to post clips from You Tube. I like this one because this is my favorite number from Les Miserables. It stars Neil Patrick Harris and some other dork from one of those new comedies on CBS.