Last week I was invited to see A Time To Kill, the new drama based on the novel by John Grisham and adapted by Rupert Holmes. I knew very little about it, other than the fact that Sebastian Arcelus and Tonya Pinkins were in it and that it was a courtroom drama. I invited my dad because he’d actually read the book many years ago and likes John Grisham.

To say the least: I loved it. It was about a man (John Douglas Thompson) who hires a very unseasoned lawyer (Sebastian Arcelus) to represent him after he kills, in front of the court house, the men who raped and brutalized his 9 year old daughter. This being Mississippi, and the defendant being black and the slaughtered being white, it was going to be a nearly-impossible case to win.

It held my attention through out two full-length acts and the performances were fantastic. Little did I know that I was seeing a bunch of stars onstage too. The story was so gripping and absolutely compelling. I held my breath when the verdict was being announced.

Among the cast was actor and former senator Fred Thompson who appropriately played the judge for the case with strength and conviction. Patrick Page as the district attorney was tough and charming, if not a little arrogant. Seasoned actor Tom Skerritt played the always-inebriated Lucien Wilbanks with humor and sympathy. A personal favorite of mine was Ashley Williams, who I recognized from Something Borrowed, played the assistant to Arcelus with a quick tongue and a marvelous knowledge of prior law cases. 

And then there’s Sebastian Arcelus. An actor who I first saw onstage in 2002 when he was understudying the role of Roger in Rent. In later years I saw him in Good Vibrations and then Wicked, but he never quite got to show off his acting skills like he does in this play. He played the role of the defense attorney Jake Brigance with conviction and determination and such depth. I was really blown away. 

Holme’s storytelling combined with direction by Ethan McSweeney, lest we not forget this fantastic cast, make for an excellent night at the theatre.

Broadway’s newest saga: Rebecca

Remember when people could wait to hear the newest disaster plaguing Spider-man? Who was going to be injured next or when would Julie Taymor be replaced? Well this season has it’s next producing disaster: Rebecca.

Rebecca was supposed to open last season, but couldn’t due to the fact that it’s producers couldn’t raise the money in time. The marquee went up, and it came down due to a lack of funding. My colleagues and I had been waiting eagerly for Rebecca to start rehearsals and then previews.  The production, which had a mostly successful run in Europe in recent years, is based on the novel of the same title and even more amazingly, they set the stage on fire at one point during the show. 

Whoa. That’s amazing, right? Who WOULDN’T see that? Regardless of how good or bad the material is, being able to light the stage on fire and not kill everyone in attendance would’ve been a feat.  

Although Rebecca will probably never see the light of day now, sadly. Throughout the past month, more or less, the Times as well as Playbill and other sources have been digging far and wide for information on where Rebecca’s mystery $4.5 million investor had gone. 

On September 22nd, the cast was informed they would start rehearsals the following week. This was after it was announced that their biggest investor died of Malaria (in London). Who dies of Malaria, in London nonetheless? 

Soon it was revealed that Ben Sprecher had never met his lead biggest investor, or spoken with him over the phone. There was no certificate of his death or an obituary published. 

Now the investor’s lawyers are involved, as they should be. Sprecher is being accused now of inventing his mystery investor, though he’d have nothing to gain from doing that. 

And most recently it was reported today that Mark Hotton, the financier cooking the books on Rebecca, has been arrested. According to that article, they’d spent $6 million on the show already and have another $8 million in other debts relating to the show. It was discovered that he was working off commission, so his miscalculations had a benefit – for him.

I don’t care how good or bad the material is, I would advise anyone with an extra $4.5 million to spend to throw it the way of this production (though I doubt “the production” still exists – with it’s lead producers and such going to jail).

Like Mike Riedel and everyone ran to Spider-man with all the drama surrounded that it, I think the same would happen with Rebecca. (Though without the household name that Spider-man is, I doubt it’d ever have a chance of seeing the days of a recoupment.)

So… would you spend money on Rebecca if it ever makes it to Broadway? 

Stop the presses! Spider-man is actually watchable, and understandable.

It’s been almost two years since I saw the first incarnation of the now-infamous musical. My review (if you don’t remember it, click here!) gave the few props where they were due, but I also told everyone what needed to be cut and changed.  I’m happy to say that they cleaned up a lot of the garbage when they re-wrote the book.

The unnecessary and intrusive Geek Chorus? That got cut (sorry, Gideon Glick – I think you’re adorable but your role was unnecessary and annoying). The first twenty minutes of the first act taking place in a museum or laboratory and being about Arachnae? Axed. Arachnae’s character is so small and pointless now that it almost makes it not worth keeping (oh, yeah, because they shouldn’t have written it in the first place!). The most impressive part of the show (the fight between the Green Goblin and Spider-man) is now at the end of the second act, not the first – where it should’ve been all along. The Green Goblin doesn’t die at the end of the first act and then magically re-appear in act two.  The Sinister 6 actually make sense now (former scientists of the Green Goblins who he has transformed against their will to get back at them for leaving his company).

And there’s no awkward electric guitarist standing stage left anymore – for no reason whatsoever.

I actually enjoyed some of the music too. Bullying By Numbers is catchy, kind of, but it still makes no sense. If The World Should End is still one of the best, and it comes sooner in the show now too – not at the end of the second act.

I feel like Peter and MJ’s relationship is much better written than it was – there are more layers to it now.

The technical aspects of the show – the flying, and video projections used – are awesome. I was watching from the dress circle and almost cringed when the Green Goblins face was lighting up the stage in it’s entirety. 

Robert Cuccioli was fantastic as the Green Goblin (oddly enough I didn’t look in my Playbill beforehand so I had no idea who was playing the Goblin and mid-way through I said to myself, you know, Robert Cuccioli would be great in this role!). Patrick Page was such an asset to the show, but Cuccioli isn’t letting anyone down.

I never really liked the raspiness of Reeve Carney’s voice, but I think he’s great in the role – transforming easily from nerd into superhero.  Rebecca Faulkenberry  played MJ, and she was good, she has a pretty voice (though she could stand to work on her belt). She got remarkably better in the second act. Maybe I’d just wished I was seeing Jennifer Damiano, but Faulkenberry just left something to be desired. 

 So, Spider-man is still not what a theatrical revelation by any means, but considering what it once was? It’s a thing of Shakespearian beauty now. I was able to follow what was going on, things made sense, and I was entertained by the spectacle. 

Outer Critics Circle Winners Announced; Once and One Man, Two Guvnors Are Top Winners

The winners for the various awards are starting to be announced and that means speculation as to what it means to shows who are up for TONY Awards. 

Once won for Outstanding New Broadway Musical, so I’m crossing my fingers for it’s chances increasing at the TONYs. It also won for Best Book, while Newsies won for Best New Score – but that’s only because Once wasn’t eligible to be nominated for Best New Score. Newsies took the award for choreography, as it should, and Spider-man even picked up two awards for Best Set and Best Costume Designs, which it was definitely deserving of. Ghost won for Best Lighting, which made me very excited as it’s been snubbed for the last spot in the Best Musical category when it didn’t deserve it by any means. Ghost’s lighting is brilliant too.

Danny Burstein won for his performance in Follies in the Outstanding Actor in a Musical category. Having seen this performance, he was quite deserving of this. I’m not sure if he’ll take the TONY though. The buzz has been around Steve Kazee for his performance in Once. If he won the award it would be an outstanding surprise to me, personally, as I thought he’d be the one replaced with a name for the transfer to Broadway.

Before I forget to mention: One Man, Two Guvnors won for Outstanding New Broadway Play, Death of a Salesman won for Outstanding Revival of a Play, and Follies won for Outstanding Revival of a Musical. Will this be the blueprint for the Drama Desk and TONY Awards? Only time will tell…

Outer Critics Circle Winners Announced; Once and One Man, Two Guvnors Are Top Winners

So, the 2011 class of CTI got some pretty exciting news today!  We were informed that Matthew Rego and Michael Rego (of The Araca Group) are unable to speak to us next Monday about developing new works.  I worked for The Araca Group during the summer of 2006 and I never got to meet Matthew and Michael so I was looking forward to hearing them speak.  

BUT! Our replacement speaker is going to be so jaw-droppingly awesome that I’m kind of okay about it.  We’re going to be hearing from Jeremiah Harris, who is one of the lead producers of Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark. He’s going to be talking to us about the (continuing?) development of Spider-man.  WHAT!  And later in the course we’re going to be hearing from Rick Miramontez, who is the Spider-man’s press representative.  

These sessions alone are going to be worth the course fee.  During CTI, we’re held to a strict policy of confidentiality regarding what our speakers say so I won’t be able to write up what he has to say here, but… I’m really excited!

(photo via Vogue)

‘Four Injured Performers Is Just Not Strange,’ Recovering ‘Spider-Man’ Dancer Says

I’ve been keeping a running list of links pertaining to this incident but I don’t know if I’ll ever post it because of how much time has past and because everyone else and their blog is covering it pretty extensively already. 

Thank you, Mr. Tierney for some saying what every sane person in the business has been saying since the start.  Dancers are always getting injured in Broadway shows, it’s the nature of the business.  If you thought that Spider-man was fool proof when you signed your contract, then you’re not the brightest crayon in the box.  I really like this article, even though he’s probably been paid some absurd amount of money to “stay happy,” but part of me also thinks he’s genuine about wanting to get back to the show. 

I also appreciate the fact that he says that as he was falling, he was thinking, “oh shit, did I forget to hook myself in…” He’s kind of taking responsibility for it and not blaming a crew member, Julie Taymor, or her mother – like everyone else is. 

‘Four Injured Performers Is Just Not Strange,’ Recovering ‘Spider-Man’ Dancer Says

Actor Injured in Fall During ‘Spider-Man’ Performance

The boy falls from the sky, indeed! Or the stage, whatever.

I can’t believe I went to sleep before all of this happened.  I hope the actor is okay, and I hear he is.  I also hear that Jennifer Damiano is fine.  Click above for a (bootleg) video of the fall last night during the show. 

It doesn’t look like a cable snapped – it looks like it wasn’t connected to anything at all.  Wouldn’t you hear a cable of that kind of strength snap when you could hear Damiano scream in the pit?  A certain crew guy is getting let go today.  More later!

Update from BroadwayWorld (via showtuneserenade):

Update 12:45 AM: We’re told via a stagehand that this was NOT a flying sequence and that Spider-Man was NOT supposed to drop at all. He was supposed to run to top of the ramp as if to jump with the lights then set to go to black. The cable that snapped is what stops him from going over the edge, and that is what failed. He then fell approximately 30 feet.

Actor Injured in Fall During ‘Spider-Man’ Performance

‘Spider-Man’ Opening Delayed Again

I’m just through reading a chapter of Cy Feuer’s memoir (“I Got the Show Right Here”) where him and his partners delayed their opening (I think the show was Silk Stockings) for about 2 months on the road until it was ready and then it opened to be a hit.  So, I am all for this. 

Yes, delay it and make the second act comprehensible. Turn it into a hit.

‘Spider-Man’ Opening Delayed Again

Spider-man Updates:

So according to a friend who was there, the first act is exactly the same.  In the second act, when Spiderman is defeating the Sinister Six, there’s a bit more flying but nothing outrageous. 

At the end of the show, when Arachne confronts Peter, she has captured MJ and has her hanging in a spiderweb, which apparently has a lot of technical problems and took forever to make it onto the stage.  Now instead of Peter just talking to Arachne, Peter is fighting Arachne while crawling around the web.  It’s apparently really awkward to watch.  They sort of float around on it and choke each other until Peter tells Arachne that he’ll be with her if she lets MJ go.  Arachne responds that she doesn’t want Peter anymore because he’s still human, and she lets them both go.  She then asks Peter to kill her so she can finally be at peace.  Then she flies up into the ‘sky’ on the same rope that she came down on in the beginning of the first act.

Way to make your Act 2 problems worse, Julie.