Broadway To Vegas
SHOW REVIEWS CELEBRITY INTERVIEWS GOSSIP NEWS
Copyright: March 22, 1999
By: Laura Deni
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Dame Judith Dench, who picked up the Oscar Award as Best Supporting Actress, brings her
immense talent to
She'll play an aging mistress maladjusted to modern life in the Dave Hare
The production opens April 15 at the Ethel Barrymore
FOR ADULTS WITH EARPLUGS
The Tony Award winning Generation X musical Rent has had its lease extended in
Charlotte, North Carolina.
The show was scheduled for eight performances July 27-Aug 1 at the Blumenthal Center's 2,000
seat Belle Theater. Last week it was announced that an additional eight performances have been
added for Aug. 3-8.
Although the first week's shows were almost sold out, the Charlotte Observer reported
that about 400 people asked for their money back after receiving a letter that is sent out to all
ticket buyers, regardless of venue.
The letter advises that because of the adult content, the show
is recommended for audiences 18 or over. Production officials said the reason for refund
requests had nothing to do with the adult content, but rather because of another warning - as a
rock opera, it is louder than most Broadway musicals.
Tickets for the second week of shows went on sale last Friday, priced between $18-$60.
BUCKETS OF BLOOD AND
"It's not your grandmother's Dracula," according to Carl Beck, director of the Omaha
Community Playhouse. "It's a new version, very fresh, just from 1996. There were stage versions
of Bram Stoker's novel by the turn of the century in both Britain and America, but this version
just captures your interest. It's almost cinematic."
It's also messy. About that blood.
"This is a buckets of blood show," he proudly declared.
That took more than just a little
experimentation. If television shows such as ER, and Chicago Hope have
discovered that cottage cheese mixed with raspberry jam is the perfect mixture to smear over a
baby for a childbirth scene, Beck experimented with different types of stage blood. He needed
something that would wash out of the costumes, which are laundered daily.
"We found a peanut
butter based formula works best for our blood."
Beck is also testing the Playhouse limits with the sound. The production uses three hydraulic lifts
and three sound operators, the demands of which "exceed anything ever done at the
Broadway To Vegas sent Michael Ashleman, who has previously covered Omaha theater for us,
to see last Saturday night's production of Dracula.
"If you had not seen Bram Stoker's Dracula, the 1993 movie starring Wyonna Rider,
Anthony Hopkins, Keanu Reeves and Gary Oldman, you would have been completely lost. This is
a bad rip off of the movie," fumed Ashleman. "Had you not seen the movie you would not have
had a clue.
"If you had not read the book Dracula, never seen the movie, you would have thought
this was the most awful play you had ever seen, and you would not have been able to follow any
of it," he charged.
Gary Oldman as Dracula
"Matt Thompson plays Renfield. He had a beginning soliloquy in which he describes Bram Stoker
and how he fell in with a bad crowd - theater goers. Then he becomes the lowest form of life - a
critic. That was very amusing.
Skip the Play, See The Movie
"The interaction between the characters doesn't work. The character Dracula is never developed.
The play Dracula forgot to include Dracula," continued Ashleman. "The director had
Dracula swooping in and out of scenes like he was a dancer in Riverdance. Dracula is
portrayed by Dan Prescher, who is a physically powerful character. He looks good in the part. In
the movie, Dracula is a central character. In this play he has very few lines in comparison to what
he represents. Unless you saw the scene that is being imitated in this play, you do not know what
happened, which is really sad," Ashleman complained.
"The play is written in such a chopped up manner that it is difficult to follow the plot.
"Although the sound effects - a beating heart and lightning- are quite good, the misuse of the
special effects turned the show into a farce.
In one scene vixens, which are female vampires,
attack and eat a baby. This is done under a blanket, so you don't actually see anything, except
blood squirting out of the blanket, which gives the right impression. Except, it went on about 15
seconds too long, which caused the audience to start to laugh.
"Another scene involves eating a rat. The head is twisted off and blood squirts out, except it got
to be humorous, because it was just plain too long. At first the audience reacted the way the
director had intended. But when it went on for ten to fifteen seconds too long, it went from the
horror scene that it was suppose to be to - funny. People started talking about the rat shaped
ketchup bottle that was squirting an actor on stage," Ashleman explained.
"The actors were of such good quality that the over the top special effects were not only not
necessary, but destroyed the show. If each of the special affects had lasted only half as long, the
desired effect would have been achieved. Less is more," he declared.
"They also used way too much fog, which made many in the audience cough and sneeze. There
were a couple of times when the use of a strobe light not only wasn't necessary, but destroyed the
scene," Ashleman added.
Ashleman reported that the Playhouse, which holds 600, was sold out with "a well dressed,
diversified age group. There was a lot of snickering. The crowd had a mixed reaction. Several
people thought that the ones who liked the play were really remembering the movie in their mind.
This Playhouse also has a very faithful following, to the point that the patron's loyalty to this
Playhouse can be somewhat blinded to the production."
"I felt the actors did a very good job," stressed Ashleman.
"Matt Thompson played Renfield;
Matthew Kamprath was cast as Dr. Van Helsing; Teri Fender was Lucy; Rob Baker as Dr.
Steward; Chris Lundquist portrayed Jonathan Harker and Kay Vivian was fabulous as Mina. The
actors all did a wonderful job. It was the over the top directing approach that ruined the show.
The play adaptation is a bad copy of the film, which was wonderful. The flaws in the play are not
the fault of the actors. They just had a pig in a poke."
Dracula has performances at the Omaha, Nebraska Playhouse through April 3.
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PRIVATE LIVES, PUBLIC FEUDS
Noel Coward has a soigné sophistication - his works, a certain classy drollness. Born December
16, 1899 in Teddington, England the dramatist, actor, composer, lyricist, cabaret performer and
wit composed over 300 plays, songs, collections of short stories and at least five screenplays.
This centennial anniversary of his birth will see at least a half dozen revivals of his works.
Coward's Design For Living, directed by Stephen Wadsworth is currently being staged at
the Seattle Rep Theater, with performances through April 18. The National Theater in London
stages Private Lives, opening May 13, with Juliet Stevenson playing Amanda.
Both Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins have portrayed Amanda Prynne, the divorcee reunited
with her ex-husband on the Riviera. In Private Lives, a play Coward reportedly wrote
in only four days, the balcony scene is second only to the one in Romeo and
When Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton agreed to co-star in the 1983 Broadway revival it was
front page news. I was working on a Broadway special issue for Billboard magazine and
interviewed entrepreneur extraordinare Zev Buffman, who packaged the deal.
Actor Lee Majors hot as star of The Six Million Dollar Man had announced, on prime
time television, that he was negotiating with Buffman to bring along his ex-wife, Farrah Fawcett,
and join Taylor and Burton - to star in the production. Majors and Fawcett would have played
Sybil and Elyot Chase, while Taylor and Burton were cast in the leads of Victor and Amanda
Prynne, in the play which only has five characters. The remaining role is that of Louise, the maid.
Majors implied the Taylor, Burton, Majors and Fawcett billing was a done deal.
"Nothing came out of my mouth," Buffman told me. "It all came out of Lee's enthusiasm. He
wanted to do it. The roles are too small. They would have been bored after a month. There are
only two major roles and those are taken by Taylor and Burton."
Between writing deadline to publication dates, events can change.
I wrote my articles, both for the Broadway Special Issue and regular Billboard issues,
that Buffman was overjoyed to stage Private Lives with Taylor and
The production, with the two tempestuous off stage lovers opened May 16, 1983. It was a
disaster. It ran for only 63 performances before the mixed reviews and the off-stage fighting
caused Buffman to pull the plug. Headlines said he fired them.
The day the "firing" and show closing was announced, my article on Buffman glowing about
Taylor and Burton hit the stands.
"Couldn't you have waited just one more week to get rid of them?" I whined to Buffman.
"It looks ridiculous. I've got a Billboard story out saying how thrilled you are and you
went and fired them. Couldn't you have waited just one more week?" I again intoned.
"I'm sorry, but I couldn't stand it any long. You can't imagine the problems. I had to get rid of
them," he answered.
Was it that bad?
Replied Buffman; "Yes."
It's not unusual
for passengers who travel by public transportation to lose their luggage.
In a strange twist of
fate, now it's the Union Pacific Railroad that has lost something - valuable and historical works
The four paintings, valued at $20,000 each, hung in the railroad car that carried President
Abraham Lincoln's body for burial. The work of artist John Howland, each is approximately
The Union Pacific Railroad still owns the contents of the
which it bought in 1866.
Henry Fonda as Abe Lincoln
Lincoln signed the 1862 Pacific Railroad Act, which authorized the first
The paintings went astray when they were carried on a special Union
Pacific train that traveled to College Station, Texas, for the November, 1997 dedication of former
President George Bush's presidential library.
The train returned to Omaha, but the paintings
didn't. After a year of trying to track them down, the railroad admits they are missing.
has vibrated throughout the art and history worlds.
Harold Holzer, vice president for
communications at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, and author of 12 books on
artwork of Lincoln and the Civil War period, was quoted as saying: "It's a tragic thing to have
something commissioned for the president's use disappear in this manner - in the hometown of
Henry Fonda, no, less."
Fonda, was born in Grand Island, Nebraska and grew up in
Fonda portrayed the 16th president in the 1939 film, Young Mr. Lincoln.
An award of up
to $1,000 is being offered by the railroad for information that leads to the return of the paintings
REMEMBER TO COME UP FOR AIR
Symphonie Fantastique which celebrates it's first anniversary May 31 at the HERE Arts
Center, NYC is not your average puppet show. Created by master puppeteer Basil Twist and set
to the 19th-century classical music composition by Hector Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique
is the world's only program of puppetry performed entirely underwater in a 500-gallon aquarium.
Sounds like something they'd think up in Las Vegas.
While the production continues to play in New York to sold out houses, Symphonie
Fantastique will celebrate it's first year anniversary by opening at the Zeum Theatre in San
Francisco in May -- this time in a 1,000- gallon tank!"
FOREVER PLAID AND ROAD RAGE
The delicious Forever Plaid has found a home at the Flamingo Hilton Hotel in
Las Vegas. I first fell in love with Forever Plaid years ago when it was an off-Broadway
Since then I've recommended the various touring productions to people who have reported
back only favorable comments.
PLAID at the Flamingo Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas
It's a clever musical set in 1964. En route to pick up their custom-made plaid tuxedos for their
first singing engagement, the Forever Plaids were slammed broadside by a school bus filled with
eager Catholic teens, on their way to witness the Beatles make their U.S. television debut
on The Ed Sullivan Show.
While the teens miraculously escaped uninjured, the members
of Forever Plaids were killed. Fabulous reviews and favorable word of mouth have led to
productions of Forever Plaid being re-born across America.
The Las Vegas show features 27-year-old Bruce Ewing, who plays alternating roles as Jinx
and Sparky. An 11 year show biz veteran he's just released his first solo CD Tonight at Eight:
Songs from Broadway.
He is also trying to break himself of a very bad habit - road rage." I have resolved to
cure "road rage," although heaven knows, in Las Vegas, that's not easy," he claims. "My temper
sometimes goes crazy when people drive stupidly. I get angry, I start yelling at people in my car -
but now I laugh at how stupid I must look and sound."
In an attempt to control his vocal outburst the performer is trying to avoid busy streets, which
isn't always that easy. "I'm trying!" he stressed. "I'm trying to drive on back streets more."
We can only remind Bruce that the plot of Forever Plaid is fiction. Relax, practice
deep-breathing, listen to music. Leave extra early. Crashing that car in a bit of road rage will not
get your option picked up
In addition to the Flamingo Hilton in Las Vegas, a company of Forever Plaid is at the
Chanhassen Theatre in Minneapolis.
A WINTER BEAUTY
Bill McMahon, the winner of the 1997 Paul Green Playwrights Prize, administered by the North
Carolina Writers' Network, will see his play A Winter Beauty presented by the Emerging
Artists Theatre Company, open March 22 at The Mint, NYC.
Emerging Artists Theatre Company was founded in 1993 to develop original, character driven
American plays that explore the human condition.
The company's full length productions have included; Jonathan Reuning's Wild Echinacea,
George Singer's Leopold and Loeb, Catherine Filloux's The Price of Madness, and
Sarah Hollister's Sister's Dance.
A Winter Beauty is about accepting loss, dealing with one's pain, and the need for close
friends. It stars: Russ Anderson, Bob Bucci, Tom Dusenbury, Blanche Cholet, Jay Evans, and
Luis Villabon. Sets designed by Warren Kemp, costumes by J. Kevin Draves, the lighting under
the direction of Annmarie Duggan, and the sound by David Pinkard.
MUSIC AND FRIENDS a concert to
benefit the Harlem School of the Arts had some blue ribbon entertainers in Audra McDonald
and Robert Klein. The event is next Monday, March 29.
JULIS CAESAR directed by
Joe Dowling is at the Guthre Theater in Minneapolis, through April 4.
THE OREGON SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL has opened its 64th winter season with four productions.
shows will join the 1999 repertoire over the spring and summer months.
Last year more than
345,147 tickets were sold, for a record box office of $8.6 million. Last year Time
magazine named the OSF production of Lillian Garrett-Groag's The Magic Fire, which
played the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., one of the 10 best plays of 1998.
OSF won a
regional Tony Award in 1983.
THE CIVIL WAR PUSHED BACK RIGHT OUT OF THE THEATER
After a number of push back dates, the Frank Wildhorn, Gregory Boyd and
Jack Murphy musical The Civil War, scheduled to have its regional premiere this summer
in Minneapolis, has been canceled.
Instead, the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical
Evita will come to the State Orpheum Theater June 22-27.
Natalie Toro plays Eva Peron,
the wife of Argentine dictator Juan Peron.
The production will feature the original choreography
of Larry Fuller, which was nominated for a Tony Award, after the show opened on Broadway in
Meanwhile, The Civil War opens April, 22 at St. James Theater in New York.
THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD Paul Rudnick's off-Broadway hit had added some fabulous cast members.
Julie Halston and Lea DeLaria are now on board. DeLaria recently gave a break out performance
in On The Town for which she won an Obie award.
STEVE LAWRENCE & EYDIE GORME entertain Thursday and Friday at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks,
THIS AND THAT
ROLLIN' ON THE T.O.B.A. has
moved to Broadway. The off Broadway hit - see Broadway To Vegas columns of Feb. 1 and
February 22, 1999 - moves to the Kit Kat Klub on March 24. The marvelous salute to the last days of
Black Vaudeville stars Sandra Reaves-Phillips, Rudy Roberson and Ronald "Smokey" Stevens.
Broadway, after an absence of 20 years, in a musical version of The Visit.
The wonderful revenge parable was written by Friedrich Duerrenmatt.
Turning this into
a musical was the inspiration of Barry Brown, who begins rehearsals in December,
with tryouts in Boston
early in the year 2000.
A March is opening planned for the dark comedy about a wealthy
woman wronged by her lover, who has diabolical plans for getting even.
The adaptation will be
by Terrence McNallly.
Songs are by John Kander and Fred Ebb.
THE METRO THEATRE COMPANY based in St. Louis, is the only company from the United States invited to
participate in the International Theater Festival for young people this summer.
Founded by Zaro
Weill and Lynn Rubright 26 years ago, the company has previously performed throughout the
United States, Canada and Rome.
Metro will give eight performances of their signature work,
Stuff: A Theater Piece With no Words, which allows the performers to explore the
creative possibilities of ordinary objects such as ladders, mops, buckets and trash cans.
DOCK YOUR YACHT Beau Rivage,
the $650 million resort in Biloxi, Miss, owned by Mirage Resorts, Inc., opened last week with
Kenny Loggins doing the entertainment honors.
The Little River Band and Three Dog Night
are among the bands slated to perform in the Beau Rivage's brew pub, the first in Mississippi. The
1,780-room property is believed to be the largest resort anywhere along the U.S. Coast and is
designed to draw tourists from the Florida-Texas corridor.
There are even 31 berths so that
yachts may dock in front of the joint.
ROW ROW ROW YOUR BOAT
Sports fanatics can rest well knowing that neither snow nor sleet deter our
country's rowing teams from going heave ho. Our roving reporter Trudy Knight-Peek reports that
Lake Lure N.C. has gone awash with rowers. "The U. S. Coast Guard rowing team came here
the first time to train. Then Miss Porter's School for Girls and Wake Forest College from
Winston-Salem, N.C. were all at the Lake Lure Resort training their rowing teams. Even when we
had about four inches of snow and in the bitter cold, all of them were out rowing their little hearts
out. A lot of them were even in shorts." Good schools have good scullers.
Mention BROADWAY TO VEGAS for Special Consideration
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Next Column: March 29, 1999
Copyright: March 22 1999. All Rights Reserved. Reviews,
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