OnStage

 

VividSeatSurveyThe ticket website Vivid Seats has placed Pittsburgh No. 5 on its list of "20 Best Cities for Broadway Lovers," based on 239 upcoming "musicals and Broadway events" posted on the site since the beginning of 2016.

The polling data includes "number and variety of opportunities to enjoy theater performances" and affordability. Pittsburgh placed behind New York at No. 1; Las Vegas; Lincolnshire, Ill. (home of the Marriott Theatre); and L.A.

The median ticket price for the Pittsburgh events was $145, which seems steep to me, aside, perhaps, for the national touring companies brought here by PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh CLO. I wonder of "Guys & Dolls" at the Public or CLO's summer shows were counted. 

It's also strange that Lincolnshire, Ill., could top all theater in Chicago, and it would be interesting to see what counts as "Broadway" in Las Vegas.

 

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James Corden will host Tony Awards June 12

Tuesday, 02 February 2016 11:20 AM Written by

JamesCordenJames Corden will return to the scene of his Tony Awards triumph as host of the 70th annual ceremony honoring the best of Broadway.

Corden is currently host of "The Late Late Show" on CBS, the Tonys' longtime network that will broadcast the event live June 12 from the Beacon Theatre in New York City. He won the Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his performance in "One Man, Two Guvnors" in 2012.

"I'm absolutely thrilled to be hosting the Tony Awards," Corden said in a statement. "Both times I've worked on Broadway have been amongst the happiest times of my professional life. I consider it a huge honor to be asked to host such an incredible night. It's gonna be fun, I can't wait to dust off my tap shoes!"

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KathleenMarshall2016

Kathleen Marshall, left, and Mary Rawson share a laugh at a Quantum event Tuesday evening.

Quantum Theatre was host to Pittsburgh musical theater royalty tonight, when three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall flew into her hometown for an evening that was a thank-you to Quantum's supporters.

Director-choreographer Marshall grew up in Squirrel Hill with her educator parents and twin sister and brother, Maura, an interior designer, and Rob, as in musical and Hollywood director-choreographer Rob Marshall. On Tuesday evening, Kathleen joined a gathering at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Point Breeze for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres before hitting the stage to be interviewed by Pittsburgh actress and long-time family friend Mary Rawson. 

When the interview began a little after 7 p.m., Marshall was asked about being a busy mother and if she knew where her 5-year-old twins Ella and Nathaniel were at that moment. She said it was bath time, and she hoped her producer husband, Scott Landis (they met when she was working on the Broadway production of "The Pajama Game") would be able to get the kids to bed by 8:30.

Ms. Marshall, who is known for revivals like "The Pajama Game," "Wonderful Town" and "Anything Goes," has been working on new shows lately, including musical adaptations of the movies "Diner" -- with a script by Barry Levinson and music by Sheryl Crow -- and "Ever After." But those would seem to be in her wheelhouse compared to her next two challenges: She is directing her first Shakespeare play this summer, the comedy "Love's Labour's Lost" for the Old Globe in San Diego, and her first television series episode, for the CBS comedy "2 Broke Girls."

She said no matter where she goes, she always carries Pittsburgh in her heart. She returned this time "for the two Marys," Rawson and Quantum board president Mary Murrin, and wished she could stay to see Rawson in her upcoming one-woman show, "Ciara," for Quantum.

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A weird coincidence today: I am headed to the first BroadwayCon in NYC this weekend, which I will blog about as a fan, and as a fan, I had to fill out an application for limited spaces at autograph sessions. I received a notice this afternoon that the only one my names was pulled for was Rob McClure, a Tony nominee for "Chaplin" who is currently on Broadway in "Noises Off." 

Then, a few minutes later, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust sent a press release to say that McClure was replacing Santino Fontana (The CW's "Crazy Ex Girlfriend"; "Frozen"; "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella") in the Feb. 8 Trust Cabaret concert with "Cinderella" herself, Laura Osnes.

I guess it was meant to be.

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The American Theatre Critics Association announced Friday that playwright Sharyn Rothstein has been awarded the 2015 Francesca Primus Prize for her play "By the Water." Jointly sponsored by ATCA and the Francesca Ronnie Primus Foundation, the Primus Prize is given annually to an emerging woman playwright. Rothstein will receive the $10,000 award  immediately and be officially congratulated at an upcoming ATCA conference.

"By the Water" is set in Staten Island, New York, in 2012 in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Marty and Mary Murphy return to the shattered remains of their home to face a crucial question: Should they join most of the members of their working-class community in taking a government buyout and moving to higher ground or struggle to rebuild the house that has been the center of their family life for decades? Sal and Brian, their very different sons, who have their own issues, return home to help them decide, but Marty's dogged determination to stay at any cost rekindles buried family conflicts and antagonizes his relationship with best friends and neighbors Philip and Andrea Carter as Mary tries to play the peacemaker.

Rothstein says the idea for the play sprang from one indelible image. She drove out to Staten Island after the storm to survey the areas earmarked for a buyout: "Leaving behind a community, a lifetime of memories, seemed like an enormous leap of faith and an incredibly difficult decision, but the destruction was gut wrenching. Yet, in front of one neat, clearly beloved house, a man who looked to be in his sixties was tending his lawn. With his whole neighborhood in ruins, with a majority of his neighbors already gone or figuring out how to leave, here was a man clearly standing firm. The image of him standing there amid so much loss was the genesis of my play."

"By the Water" was commissioned as part of the Ars Nova/Manhattan Theatre Club Writer's Room, a two-year development program that encourages playwrights to take risks with their work. The play received readings and a full workshop prior to its premiere production at Manhattan Theatre Club's Stage II in November 2014, where Time Out New York called the play "a force of nature." The play has also been published by Dramatists Play Service.

Rothstein was selected from 39 award applicants by a nationwide committee of critics, chaired by Barbara Bannon (Salt Lake City, UT) and composed of Julie York Coppens (Juneau, AK), Marianne Evett (Arlington, MA), Kerry Reid (Chicago, IL), Lynn Rosen (Bellingham, WA), and Herb Simpson (Geneseo, NY).

ATCA is the nationwide organization of theater critics and an affiliate of the International Association of Theatre Critics. In addition to the Primus Prize, it administers two other playwriting awards: the Harold and Mimi Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award and the M. Elizabeth Osborn Award. ATCA members also recommend a regional theater for the annual Tony Award and vote on induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

Previous Winners of the Francesca Primus Prize

  • Julia Jordan, playwright, Tatjana in Color
  • Brooke Berman, playwright, Wonderland
  • Melanie Marnich, playwright, Blur
  • Brooke Berman, playwright, Playing House
  • S. M. Shepard-Massat, playwright, Some Place Soft to Fall
  • Alexandra Cunningham, playwright, Pavane
  • 2004 Lynn Nottage, playwright, Intimate Apparel
  • 2005 Michelle Hensley, artistic director of Ten Thousand Things Theatre Company, Minneapolis
  • 2006 Karen Zacarias, playwright and founder/artistic director of Young Playwrights' Theater, Washington, DC, Mariela in the Desert
  • 2007 Victoria Stewart, playwright, Hardball
  • 2008 EM Lewis, playwright, Heads
  • 2009 Jamie Pachino, playwright, Splitting Infinity
  • 2010 Michele Lowe, playwright, Inana
  • 2011 Caridad Svich, playwright, The House of the Spirits
  • 2012 Tammy Ryan, playwright, Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods **
  • 2013 Stefanie Zadravec, playwright, The Electric Baby
  • 2014 Jennifer Haley, playwright, The Nether

**  Tammy Ryan is a Pittsburgh resident, Point Park educator and oft-produced playwright. "Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods" is set in Pittsburgh.

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JesseMark

Mark Clayton Southers, the head of Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company (above right), is in full work mode as he continues a miraculous recovery from a car crash in May. He recently wrote on Facebook about a special visitor who stopped by a staged reading for August Wilson's "Gem of the Ocean," which he is directing at Short North Stage in Columbus, Ohio. The play runs through Jan. 17.

"We're about to open the house and I track the producer down to let him know that I moved the entire front row of seats to give the actors a little more room," Southers wrote. "He was inside the large theater giving some couple a mini tour. He introduced me to them as the director telling me that they were driving from New York to Indiana and they heard about our reading on NPR. So they stopped in. Nobody knew it was Jesse Eisenberg until he left.

"When I first met him I paused slightly but I was in pre show mode. I knew he looked familiar.

"The other producer told us that he ran his credit card and was like, 'Hey you have a famous name.'

"He told folks during intermission that he was really enjoying the performance.

"Wow! I love my job!

"Onward!"

Eisenberg, who starred in "The Social Network" and will portray Lex Luther in the upcoming "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" film, has also had success as a stage actor and playwright.

For compelling reading, Southers' "Rehab Chronicles" during his rode to recovery have been collected on a website in chronological order, from July 8 to Nov. 25, telling his "ReMarkable" story. He notes that some are R rated and perhaps unpleasant, but it's his story, told with his harrowing truth of how he got to the point of "Onward!"

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Earnest

David Hou

Brian Bedford in his Tony-nominated role as Lady Bracknell in "The Importance of Being Earnest."

All in all, it's been a crappy week iwith the loss of music giant David Bowie and acting greats Brian Bedford and Alan Rickman. 

PG theater critic Chris Rawson interviewed Bedford, a seven-time Tony nominee, Theater Hall of Famer, TV actor and Stratford Festival mainstay, when he was in Pittsburgh for his one-man show about Oscar Wilde in 2004. He also interviewed him in 2006, during the run of the play "London Assurance" at Stratford.

The many Pittsburghers who make annual visits to sample theater at the Stratford Festival in Canada are certainly familiar with Bedford's work as a director and actor. The festival today said it would dedicate its 2016 produciton of "Macbeth" to Bedford, and released a statement  about its loss: 

The Stratford Festival has been dealt a double blow with the death of two beloved actors within 24 hours. Brian Bedford, 80, one of the Festival's very brightest stars, died of cancer on Wednesday, January 13, a day after the passing of theatrical pioneer William Needles.

 

BedfordHeadShotMr. Bedford was one of the defining geniuses of the Stratford Festival, admired and loved by audiences and fellow artists.

"Brian Bedford was the prime reason I went into the theatre," said Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. "I saw him in Molière's Misanthrope, and it made me feel that he embodied the spirit of comedy itself. And yet he was entirely himself. Here was an actor who knew who he was and we loved him for it. He was brilliantly witty, completely relaxed, and made us all adore him.

"But to see him in tragedy was another revelation. He was absolutely in the moment, with a strongly personal point of view, a vital intelligence keyed to a modern sensibility.

"When I had the great privilege of working with and eventually directing Brian, I was overwhelmed by his generosity. He became a mentor, a role model and an inspiration."

Mr. Bedford's credits read like a list of Shakespeare's greatest hits: Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Jaques in As You Like It, Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Richard III, Timon of Athens, Macbeth, King Lear.

His comic pairings are the stuff of dreams: Benedick to Martha Henry's Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing; Elyot Chase to Maggie Smith's Amanda in Private Lives; Charles to Carole Shelley's Elvira in Blithe Spirit; Garry to Domini Blythe's Liz and Seana McKenna's Monica in Present Laughter.

His work with Noël Coward was as near perfection as any could be, and with good reason: his degrees of separation from the playwright? Zero. Widely regarded as an authority on Coward's work, he has not only directed and acted in his plays numerous times, but he also knew the playwright personally.

His portrayal of the suave sophisticate appeared so effortless that it was almost impossible to reconcile with the reality of his childhood. He was born to a poor family in Yorkshire in 1936. Two of his brothers died of tuberculosis and his father committed suicide.

The young Brian found escape in the theatre, first performing in amateur theatrics and then, at 18, winning a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he studied alongside Peter O'Toole, Alan Bates and Albert Finney. He was a protégé of John Gielgud, who coached him as Hamlet and directed him in the acclaimed Five Finger Exercise. The two shared the stage in 1958, when Mr. Bedford played Ariel to Mr. Gielgud's Prospero in The Tempest.

Mr. Bedford's star rose quickly in the U.K., with leading roles in The Young and the Beautiful and A View From the Bridge. In 1959, Five Finger Exercise transferred to Broadway, where the play found great success and Mr. Bedford found a happier existence. He had a dozen Broadway credits and a Best Actor Tony to his name when then Artistic Director Robin Phillips lured him to the Festival.

He made his Stratford debut in 1975, playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Angelo in Measure for Measure, opposite Martha Henry's Isabella – the first in a long series of legendary performances. Over 29 seasons, Mr. Bedford performed in more than 50 Stratford productions and directed another 20.

Timon of Athens and The Importance of Being Earnest moved on to Broadway, swelling his Tony nomination tally to seven. The Festival's 1998 production of Much Ado About Nothing, featuring Mr. Bedford as Benedick and Martha Henry as Beatrice, toured to New York's City Center, and was recently remembered by Charles Isherwood of The New York Times as one of the great moments in 20th-century Shakespeare performance.

Though he was primarily a stage actor, Mr. Bedford could be seen on some of the day's most popular television shows, including Cheers, Frasier and Murder, She Wrote. He starred opposite James Garner in the 1966 film Grand Prix, and was the voice of Robin Hood in the Disney animated classic.

Mr. Bedford's most recent Stratford credits included the title role in 2007's King Lear, Lady Bracknell in 2009's The Importance of Being Earnest, and his one-man show based on the letters of Oscar Wilde, Ever Yours, Oscar, all three of which he also directed. His 2013 production of Blithe Spirit would turn out to be his final project at Stratford.

"Over the years Brian's luminous presence on our stages made his performances 'must sees' for countless audience members," said Mr. Cimolino. "We were blessed indeed that he chose to make Stratford his artistic home. And we are bereft to think that we shall not see, or hear, his like again.

"Brian, we thank you, we honour you and we miss you."

Mr. Bedford leaves behind his partner of 30 years, Tim MacDonald, also a Stratford Festival veteran.

 

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Michael C. Hall sings the title song from the David Bowie musical "Lazarus" on "Late Night With Stephen Colbert." The song also was on the just released album by the music icon who died at age 69. It begins with the now heart-tugging line, "Look up here, I'm in heaven."

Carnegie Hall in New York will present a tribute concert, "The Music of David Bowie," on March 31. Artists are TBA.

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The Pittsburgh Fringe Festival has announced its line-up for the 2016 event, April 15-17 on the North Side.

Teen & College Fringe:

Fringe Featured:

Mad Hatters:

Mini-Fringe:StorySwap

Pittsburgh Fringe Presents: The Beautiful Cadaver Project"s "Rabbit Hole"

Fringe Anywhere: James Jamison's "Character Box"

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