Metallica: Through the Never tries something very unusual for a modern concert film. The band members worked with writer/director Nimród Antal to develop an original story set to their set list to play out during the live concert footage. Dane DeHaan plays Trip, a young roadie sent on an important mission during the concert to retrieve an item for the band. What he wanders into is a world strewn in chaos. It’s as if the music of the band has altered reality, creating riots and nightmarish monsters on every corner. It’s an intriguing concept that breaks up the concert footage very well.
What we have here is a bit of fan service so well-executed that anyone not totally averse to the music of Metallica will find something to enjoy. I, personally, was in it for the Dan DeHaan narrative while my brother was there for the music. Everything is really well shot. The editing is solid. The 3D is clean and immersive without too many gags or distractions.
John Cameron Mitchell’s masterful rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch has had a long arc to a Broadway mounting. Since premiering in 1998 in a converted theater space off-Broadway, the show has been performed all over the world. Mitchell adapted, directed, and starred in the feature film adaptation in 2001 that received a Golden Globe nomination and critical acclaim. It helped launch Mitchell as a director capable of getting difficult projects to the screen–Shortbus and Academy Award-nominated Rabbit Hole included–and created demand for a Broadway mounting.
Soon, in 2014, we’re finally going to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. John Cameron Mitchell has been working on changes to the book for years to account for the different space and societal changes since the show debuted.
It’s not surprising that, 16 years later, Mitchell himself will not be playing the title role. That honor goes to Neil Patrick Harris. Harris has previously starred in the Broadway debut of Assassins in an excellent turn as the Balladeer, which is one of the trickier parts in the show. His Bobby in the NY Philharmonic production of Company was strong, as well. I love his work on the recording of the lesser-known Evening Primrose by Stephen Sondheim (TV musical special).
What Harris has is legitimate theater chops. He has a great stage presence. He moves well. And, most importantly, Hedwig is easily in his vocal range. I’m curious to see what Neil Patrick Harris brings to this role.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is, undoubtedly, a strange show. It’s a musical about a young man so desperate to escape the oppression of the USSR’s stranglehold over East Berlin that he has an irreversible medical procedure to pose as a woman and flee as a war bride. As soon as he lands in America, the Berlin Wall falls. His lover leaves him for another man and he starts a rock band. It only gets stranger from there.
Part of the reason Hedwig and the Angry Inch has taken so long to get to Broadway is the rewrite. The current version of Hedwig is an immersive show. It’s a rock concert at a restaurant across the street from a much larger rock arena. Hedwig interacts with the audience, including the infamous car wash gag. There’s a set script with audience and band banter, but Hedwig has to sell it like it’s a brand new experience every night.
John Cameron Mitchell needed to find a way to translate this raw energy into the more formal setting of Broadway. Conceivably, the show could take a page from Roundabout’s Studio 54 and have cabaret style seating rather than a traditional orchestra. They could borrow from Murder Ballad or Spring Awakening (to name two) and have audience members sitting onstage or surrounding the actors, as well.
But I think Mitchell is more creative than that. I imagine the changes to the show make it a period piece rather than a contemporary story as it’s traditionally done. If he shifts the setting, they won’t need onstage seating or even direct interaction. With the right monologues, the spirit of Hedwig will live on Broadway.
That makes the first show I have to see next season. We’re only a few weeks out from the Tony Awards and I’m already looking forward to Spring 2014 shows.
Thoughts on Hedwig and the Angry Inch? Share them.
With all the set photos being released this week, it appears the producers of The Last Five Years film adaptation really want a big return on their investment. I suspected that when Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) and Jeremy Jordan (Smash) were cast as Cathy and Jamie.
Or should I say Tony Award nominee Anna Kendrick (High Society) and Tony Award nominee Jeremy Jordan (Newsies) starring as Cathy and Jamie? That theater pedigree helps in a show that has such a theatrical conceit.
A quick refresher on The Last Five Years: Cathy and Jamie recount their five year relationship from opposite perspectives. Cathy starts at the end and goes back to the beginning, while Jamie starts at the beginning and works his way to the end. They only meet up once onstage to sing together–not counter melodies, but actual interaction.
The film is foregoing that conceit and it makes me so nervous. Cathy and Jamie are going to sing to each other. They’re planning on using all the songs and keeping the time jumps, but with the couple interacting I fear a muddy mess.
The score is confessional in nature. When Jamie sings about meeting a “Shiksa Goddess,” he would never dream of telling Cathy she’s some kind of conquest on his rise to the top. Likewise, when Cathy sings about “A Summer in Ohio,” she would never have complained that much about doing summer stock if Jamie was there in person.
Sure, there are songs that hinge on interaction. “See I’m Smiling” is all about Cathy’s surprise that Jamie has arrived after their relationship became strained. She sings about all the things she wants him to do and how hard she’s trying to save the relationship. She even references how they’re sitting, how he laughs, how he smiles, and how they’re interacting. I can see the scene on film: a lovely walk on the waterfront after meeting at the docks, perhaps a montage of Cathy’s memories to foreshadow some of the upcoming scenes.
It’s so early to try to put a judgment on the film. The talent is there. The music is there. My excitement level is far higher than I anticipated.
Yet I have to mention a personal bias here. This is an adaptation of a show about mid/late 20-somethings falling in and out of love. Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick hit that perfectly–28 and 27, respectively. With the way they’re being dressed in the show and the subject matter, they’ll read the right age onscreen.
But I prefer actors aging down for the role. The Last Five Years has a really complex score filled with a lot of intricate character shifts. It has a very strong voice about relationships and love. Typically, onstage, the actors are a few years older than the characters in the script. It’s not an uncommon casting choice–how many twenty-somethings play teenagers?–but in this show it adds a level of nuance and maturity that only comes with more life experience. Sherie Rene Scott and Norbert Leo Butz were only a few years older than the characters when the show premiered in 2001 and their performances are why the show is so fondly remembered.
That bias is why I’m so drawn to a recently released video of Lea Salonga in rehearsal for a concert. Salonga (Tony Award winner for Miss Saigon and the singing voice of Jasmine and Mulan in the Disney pantheon) brings this beautifully nuanced sense of understanding and acceptance that I doubt a younger performer could pull off. With the right Jamie, Lea Salonga could easily pull off a production of The Last Five Years. It’s a total piece of fantasy anyway; if the actors read young, you’ll accept the reality of the show.
Just watch this performance of “I’m Still Hurting,” the opening song in The Last Five Years. I’ve watched it at least 20 times since it was uploaded last Friday and it brings me to tears every time. Bonus points duly awarded for doing the rhythms as written in the actual score (ahem).
Can Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan match that level of intensity or wisdom that sells the (let’s be frank) self-centered story of The Last Five Years? You need the audience to immediately understand from the first pair of songs that the show is all about diagnosing what went wrong over a big chunk of a shared lifetime. This isn’t the free-wheeling spirit of 500 Days of Summer that has the opportunity to wallow in self-indulgence and too clever scene juxtapositions to be a crowd-pleaser. This is a very low-key narrative that rests on a simple conceit and a fantastic score.
I want The Last Five Years to be a rousing success because I want musicals to be bankable again. If they earn money, studios will invest the time and energy needed to make more that don’t hinge on ridiculous close-ups of A-list actors shooting snot out of their noses for extra sincerity*. And if musicals are profitable again, maybe A-list actors won’t be required for EVERY leading role in a movie musical anymore.
We’ll see how The Last Five Years turns out eventually. At the very least, more people will learn about this wonderful little show. That’s a victory.
*Salonga played Eponine and Fantine professionally on Broadway and in anniversary concerts. She didn’t need blacked out teeth and 15 seconds pauses between words to sell “I Dreamed a Dream.” She didn’t even need the costume. She just needed a stage. Just saying.
The title says it all. Patti LuPone, who originated the role of Norma Desmond in the world premiere production, sings “With One Look” in London for the first time in 20 years. The role was promised to her on Broadway and was shockingly given to Glenn Close instead without warning or negotiation. The score fits LuPone like a glove and the song sounds stunning. A true artist makes moments like this while using the sheet music.
And let me take the chance to thank Patti LuPone for allowing this video to go online for the world to see. It was made private early last week with the promise it would return after her last show in London today. It’s a wonderful record of a brilliant performing doing what she does best. People can learn from what LuPone does in this performance.
That’s right! I’ll be live blogging theater’s biggest night here at Sketchy Details. Come for the art, stay for the snark. For all my love of the Broadway community and the great shows they do, I cannot ignore how odd the ceremony can be. Will someone get a concussion this year because they didn’t go to tech rehearsal? Will a high profile star go up on her lines? Will Catherine Zeta-Jones storm the stage and demand 90 seconds of a song go on for 3 minutes with pregnant pauses? Who knows? It’s the Tonys.
Tune back at 8PM EST for the live play by play. The blog is going to automatically update in your browser so you don’t have to click anywhere. The newest bit rises to the top like foam on a latte. It’s magic.
Checking it out after Tony night? Scroll to the bottom and read to the top. Then share your thoughts below.
Though the shows expected to rack up the nominations–Pippin, Matilda, Kinky Boots, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike–did just that, the 67th Annual Tony Award Nominations were filled with surprises.
The biggest shocker, to me, is that the nominators remembered shows from all throughout the season rather than just the March-April releases that tend to dominate the nominations. They spread the love so far that two long-closed musicals–summer run Bring It On and limited winter/holiday run A Christmas Story–got nominated for Best Musical over smash hit Motown and critical favorite but commercial flop Hands on a Hardbody. They even nominated Rob McClure for Chaplin (closed January) and Carolee Carmello for Scandalous (closed December).
Then there is the absence of one-person shows in the acting categories. The Testament of Mary picked up a Best Play nomination but missed out on Fiona Shaw’s performance. Ann did the opposite, getting in for Best Actress in a Leading Role but missing out on Best Play. Bette Middler’s I’ll Eat You Last and Alan Cumming’s Macbeth got shut out entirely from the Tony race. Rumor has it that the producers of I’ll Eat You Last are no longer honoring complimentary tickets for Tony voters since the show is basically sold out and won’t be winning any Tony Awards; why not focus on maximizing the profit at this point?
Leading Actress in a Musical might seem like it’s missing four little girls at first glance. However, the quartet of performers starring in Matilda the Musical were removed from the category. They will receive a special Tony Award, Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theater, “to recognize their outstanding performances this season.” That basically puts Kinky Boots and Matilda the Musical on equal ground with 13 nominations to 12 nominations and a special Tony Award.
The other odd-looking nomination is Best Book for Rodger + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Douglas Carter Beane was hired to write a brand new book for the classic musical, putting it in the odd spot of being a revival of a musical eligible for Best Book.
Here are all the nominees for the 67th Annual Tony Awards.
The Assembled Parties Author: Richard Greenberg Lucky Guy Author: Nora Ephron The Testament of Mary Author: Colm Tóibín Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Author: Christopher Durang
Bring It On: The Musical
A Christmas Story, The Musical
Matilda The Musical
BEST BOOK OF A MUSICAL
A Christmas Story, The Musical - Joseph Robinette Kinky Boots - Harvey Fierstein Matilda The Musical - Dennis Kelly Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella - Douglas Carter Beane
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE (MUSIC AND/OR LYRICS) WRITTEN FOR THE THEATRE
A Christmas Story, The Musical, Music and Lyrics: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Hands on a Hardbody, Music: Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green, Lyrics: Amanda Green Kinky Boots, Music & Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper Matilda The Musical, Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin
BEST REVIVAL OF A PLAY
The Trip to Bountiful
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
Tom Hanks, Lucky Guy
Nathan Lane, The Nance
Tracy Letts, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Tom Sturridge, Orphans
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A PLAY
Laurie Metcalf, The Other Place
Amy Morton, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Kristine Nielsen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Holland Taylor, Ann
Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Bertie Carvel, Matilda The Musical
Santino Fontana, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Rob McClure, Chaplin
Billy Porter, Kinky Boots
Stark Sands, KinkyBoots
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Carolee Carmello, Scandalous
Valisia LeKae, Motown The Musical
Patina Miller, Pippin
Laura Osnes, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Danny Burstein, Golden Boy
Richard Kind, The Big Knife
Billy Magnussen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Tony Shalhoub, Golden Boy
Courtney B. Vance, Lucky Guy
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A PLAY
Carrie Coon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Shalita Grant, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Judith Ivey, The Heiress
Judith Light, The Assembled Parties
Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTOR IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Charl Brown, Motown The Musical
Keith Carradine, Hands on a Hardbody
Will Chase, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Gabriel Ebert, Matilda The Musical
Terrence Mann, Pippin
BEST PERFORMANCE BY AN ACTRESS IN A FEATURED ROLE IN A MUSICAL
Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots
Victoria Clark, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Andrea Martin, Pippin
Keala Settle, Hands on a Hardbody
Lauren Ward, Matilda The Musical
BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY
Pam MacKinnon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Nicholas Martin, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Bartlett Sher, Golden Boy
George C. Wolfe, Lucky Guy
BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL
Scott Ellis, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots
Diane Paulus, Pippin
Matthew Warchus, Matilda The Musical
Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical
Peter Darling, Matilda The Musical
Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots
Chet Walker, Pippin
Chris Nightingale, Matilda The Musical
Stephen Oremus, Kinky Boots
Ethan Popp & Bryan Crook, Motown The Musical
Danny Troob, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A PLAY
John Lee Beatty, The Nance
Santo Loquasto, The Assembled Parties
David Rockwell, Lucky Guy
Michael Yeargan, Golden Boy
BEST SCENIC DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical
Anna Louizos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Scott Pask, Pippin
David Rockwell, Kinky Boots
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A PLAY
Soutra Gilmour, Cyrano de Bergerac
Ann Roth, The Nance
Albert Wolsky, The Heiress
Catherine Zuber, Golden Boy
BEST COSTUME DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Gregg Barnes, Kinky Boots
Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical
Dominique Lemieux, Pippin
William Ivey Long, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN OF A PLAY
Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Lucky Guy
Donald Holder, GoldenBoy
Jennifer Tipton, The Testament of Mary
Japhy Weideman, The Nance
John Gromada, The Trip to Bountiful
Mel Mercier, The Testament of Mary
Leon Rothenberg, The Nance
Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, Golden Boy
BEST SOUND DESIGN OF A MUSICAL
Jonathan Deans & Garth Helm, Pippin
Peter Hylenski, Motown The Musical
John Shivers, Kinky Boots
Nevin Steinberg, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
SPECIAL TONY AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT IN THE THEATRE
Ming Cho Lee
REGIONAL THEATRE AWARD
Huntington Theatre Company
ISABELLE STEVENSON AWARD
TONY HONORS FOR EXCELLENCE IN THE THEATRE
Career Transition For Dancers
The Lost Colony
The four actresses who created the title role of Matilda The Musical on Broadway - Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro
Tony Nominations by Production
Kinky Boots – 13
Matilda The Musical – 12
Pippin – 10
Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella – 9
Golden Boy – 8
Lucky Guy – 6
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike – 6
The Mystery of Edwin Drood – 5
The Nance – 5
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – 5
Motown The Musical – 4
The Trip to Bountiful – 4
The Assembled Parties – 3
A Christmas Story, The Musical – 3
Hands on a Hardbody – 3
The Testament of Mary – 3
Bring It On: The Musical – 2
The Heiress – 2
Orphans – 2
Ann – 1
Annie – 1
The Big Knife – 1
Chaplin – 1
Cyrano de Bergerac – 1
The Other Place – 1
Scandalous – 1
So far during Spring Into Suspense, we’ve focused a lot on horror, thrillers, and crime dramas. Naturally, these are not the only genres that benefit from suspense. Even comedies can riff on the uncertainty of what will happen next, though the payoff is very different
The stakes in suspense do not even have to be large or linear. Suspense can come from the events that define individual lives: love, loss, success, and failure.
In the intimate two-person musical The Last Five Years, you know how the story ends before it even begins. Cathy sits alone onstage and sings “Still Hurting” about the end of her marriage. Instead of lingering on Cathy’s emotional state in the present, the show jumps to the beginning of the relationship as Jamie declares his love for “Shiksa Goddess” Cathy after their first meeting.
Suspense is created immediately as we don’t know when the two characters will finally interact in a meaningful way with each other onstage. If she’s going backward in time and he’s going forward, they’re bound to intersect on the same moment. What will it be? The characters can interact onstage, but the songs are all solo until their memories line up at the same time in the same place.
Buy the original cast recording
The draw of The Last Five Years has always been the stunning music. Writer/composer Jason Robert Brown crafted a series of 13 songs that create evocative and relatable images. You might never have done summer stock theater in Ohio, but you’ve probably had a disappointing job before. You may have never landed a book deal, but you’ve probably had good news after falling in love. Brown creates a strong sense of believability through the score that turns the semi-autobiographical tale into something far more universal.
The Last Five Years is not a perfect show. It is incredibly difficult to stage. The focus on the individual characters in their individual moments at the expense of interaction demands two phenomenal actors and a keen eye for stagecraft to pull off. The two leads are terribly flawed characters, making it harder and harder to root for a happy ending whether it’s in the past or the present. It’s also a slight show, an experiment in form over function. The most beautiful music in the world cannot cover for a light narrative. Just ask the cast, crew, creative team, and producers of The Grass Harp on Broadway about that.
And yet, if you allow yourself to be swayed by the unusual conceit for suspense, seeing The Last Five Years live and in person can be a thrilling experience. There is something beautiful and mesmerizing about this score performed by just the right cast. The honesty of the emotions can cover for a whole lot of flaws with something this beautiful.
The show will never appeal to everyone and critics will never be kind to it. The Off-Broadway revival happening right now confirms it. I fear for the inevitable critical drubbing of the feature film adaptation starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan because the screenplay calls for all of the songs to be sung just as they are onstage: alone and isolated from the relationship even if the other person is in the scene. It’s the greatest strength and the greatest flaw of a show that hinges on not knowing when the two characters will finally meet in song.
Thoughts on The Last Five Years? Share them below.