Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Open Thread: Good Reads

What's in your bag, on your desk or next to your bed? Do you have any recommendations in favor of or against anything you've come across? Hop on in the discussion!

I am a little ashamed to admit that I don't really have anything now that I'm working on. I got a copy of an unauthorized guide to LOST (what an addicting TV show), which I plan on reading once my show opens. Other than that I've really just been up to my eyeballs in play scripts.

And last call folks, I do the drawing for the free book and CD set tomorrow! Get in the hunt!

- David J.

Friday, May 26, 2006

O! What a Beautiful Luncheon!

At a recent lunch, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center President Judith Lisi sat munching on her usual Caesar salad and sipping an iced tea, politely conversing with the other folks at her table.

Okay, so the table was in New York City’s fabled Rainbow Room and the lunch was being held to promote the multiple Tony Award-nominated musical The Color Purple. Oh yeah ... her conversation was with Oprah – that Oprah.

Lisi, a guest of the producers, sat next to Winfrey and Oprah’s friend Gayle King at the head table.

A member of the board of the League of American Theatres and Producers, Lisi was in New York for the annual spring conference and was thrilled with the opportunity to chat up Winfrey, one of the lead producers on the Broadway smash. “I have had occasion to meet a lot of famous, important people. But I’ve got to say, I was really thrilled to meet Oprah. When I talked to her, I felt like I really knew her.”

Lisi was particularly moved by Winfrey’s address to the assembled crowd of show biz people. "Oprah spoke of her longtime connection with the Alice Walker book, her deep commitment to the production and the ‘moment of surrender’ that she believes ultimately brought her the role of Sofia in the film version and propelled her career forward."

Hey, Judy! Do you remember what you had for dessert?

- Paul B.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Reminders: win stuff and tell us what you're spinning!

Enter here to win a book and CD set from The Second City!

Go here to join an open thread on what music is catching your fancy these days.

- David J.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

'Jersey Boys' making state hip again

"Jersey Boys," the Broadway musical based on the life and music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, provided the greatest surprise of a recent whirlwind gauntlet of seven shows in five days.

There were two standing ovations in the first act alone, after "Sherry" and "Dawn (Go Away)." That's how good the musicians and singers were.

Now you can see what all the fuss is about when the cast makes the talk-shows rounds in advance of the Tony Award presentations. (The show grabbed eight nominations, including Best Musical and Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical -- John Lloyd Young -- as well as Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical.)

Those appearances are:
  • Thursday, May 25 -- LIVE with Regis and Kelly
  • Wednesday, May 31 -- NBC Today Show -- Katie Couric Farewell
  • Saturday, June 3 -- NBC Weekend Today Show
  • Friday, June 9 -- CBS Early Show
  • Sunday, June 11 -- Tony Awards

Check your listings for local times and stations.

Meanwhile, "Jersey Boys" and "The Drowsy Chaperone" will be fighting it out for the hearts and minds of Tony voters.

Easily dismissed pre-opening as another in a line of so-called jukebox musicals, "Jersey Boys" features little-known, wrinkles-and-all plot material about the band that started in the 60s and with a sound that continues to this day through the solo career of Frankie Valli.

Despite the band's best-selling career, not many stories were written about The Four Seasons, compared to their contemporaries. They were just "boring guys from Jersey."

As it turns out, they had run-ins with the law and with each other, and the most lasting partnership of the band has worked on a handshake for 30 years.

Playing to sellout audiences in New York, the musical has a good story and it has a heart. That heart just also happens to be racing along to more than 30 Four Seasons songs done so well that the cast easily performs them live in front of the surviving original band members.

Original member Bob Gaudio, keyboardist and principal writer, has been intimately involved with this production and is making plenty of PR appearances.

He's frequently told by adoring boomer audiences, "I grew up listening to this music."

His frequent answer: "So did I."

He spends a lot of time on his boat in Tennessee these days, although he's said, "Where this show goes, I go."

We hope it won't be long before it's time for him to take a little cruise in Florida waters.

- Michael K.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Open Thread: What are you listening to?

Got any new finds, old finds or even new-old or old-new finds? What's clogging up your iPod, stuck in your CD player or #1 in your audioscrobbler profile? Enjoy an open thread today on music.

I've been rather open to suggestion lately and have been really enjoying Gnarls Barkley's St. Elsewhere, Danger Mouse's Grey Album (Jay-Z's Black Album mixed with The Beatles White Album), Dungeon Family and on a non-hip-hop tip Arcade Fire. None of that is groundbreakingly obscure or anything, but all were things I'd heard enough about from friends and from Rolling Stone or other blogs to make me go check them out.

Speak your mind! What's grabbed your attention, or what haven't you been able to shake? Also, don't forget to sound off on Second City for a chance to win a very cool book and CD!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Win a book/CD set set from The Second City!

Last year TBPAC brought the legendary improv group The Second City and their 45th Anniversary Tour for two performances in our Ferguson Hall. The performances were a big hit complete with full houses for what was essentially a "Best of" evening of sketch comedy.

Little did I know at the time that The Second City has a whole theatrical division which tours many shows - new and old - across the country. So it wasn't much of a surprise when I saw we were going to bring them back this season with their musical Sex & The Second City, which is here June 2-3.

There was once upon a time when I fancied that I might go on to the Windy City in the footsteps of idols of mine like Belushi, Aykroyd, Myers and Murray with the hopes that it too might lead to a spot on Saturday Night Live. For those not in the know, The Second City has been the primary feeder company to SNL since the original Not Ready For Prime Time Players hit the air in 1975. Even today's stars like Tim Meadows, Horatio Sanz, Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch got their start there. There's also Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, who's made quite a name for himself recently with his show The Colbert Report (not to mention his recent White House press banquet appearance).

To really date myself - those of you over the age of 30 may also remember a show called SCTV featuring the likes of Martin Short, Joe Flaherty and John Candy among many others - well, it was after all Second City TV.

It's pretty impossible to have a discussion about American sketch comedy over the past 50 years without it revolving around The Second City. Did I say 50 years? You may have noticed most of the folks I've been talking about started there as of the '70s, but you can go back to the late '50s and you would have found the likes of Kevin Kline, Alan Alda, Joan Rivers or Alan Arkin.

A neat local tie-in: resident company Jobsite Theater's own Kari Goetz-Keller is an alumni of The Second City's LA company (there are also companies in Las Vegas, Detroit, Denver and Toronto).

So, gentle readers, give me your best Second City memory or bit of trivia. Who is your favorite performer or character? What's your favorite sketch? Comment away. I have a nice new shiny book and double-CD set waiting on one lucky entrant, which I'll do a random drawing for at the end of this week.

My favorite? It's hands-down, bar-none with no room for any exceptions under any circumstances one Mr. John Adam Belushi. If you're looking for a good book on him, I highly recommend BELUSHI, a biography written in quotes from friends, family and colleagues and put together by his wife. My dad used to let me stay up late at nights as a very small child to watch SNL, and as an early teen I watched old repeats relentlessly. Sometimes I'd watch Animal House two times a day. By the time I was in high school the dean of students even called me Belushi from sophomore year on. To this day I keep a Samurai action figure at my desk at work, and a portrait of Wild Bill next to my computer at home. God, I love that Albanian.

Now it's your turn!

- David J.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Update: NE 2nd Ave

I was just downstairs speaking with Teo Castellanos about his show, you know, the one I just posted about a few hours ago?

Interestingly enough, I was discussing my thoughts on who I thought would dig on the show and brought up how I'd mentioned both Leguizamo and Danny Hoch. He smiled a little and admitted he's actually good friends with Danny Hoch and has worked on film with John Leguizamo. Little did I know when I made that post ...

- David J.

Expanding horizons ...

The very first show I saw in the Off Center Theater (now the Shimberg Playhouse) was a hip-hop styled one-person show by Danny Hoch which was titled Jails, Hospitals and Hip Hop. I was there opening night, as was local actor/comedian/griot "ranney" - but we were about it. In all seriousness, there was probably only a dozen of us there to see the show, which was fantastic. Danny has gone on to make that show a movie in addition to a lot of TV and film (White Boys, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Black Hawk Down, Bamboozled) and it's always exciting to see him on the big or small screen after sharing such a great night of theater with him.

I've been a big fan of the one-person form for a long time. They're really, really great stuff. I've previously mentioned Leguizamo and Bogosian here before, but there are many others though who have made the form what it is today - David Sedaris, Whoopi Goldberg, Spalding Gray and a legion of comedians who've all created a one-man show in hope of landing an HBO special or network TV pilot.

One of the greatest advantages to seeing shows in the Shimberg is the intimacy of the venue. Unlike the almost palacial in comparison Carol Morsani Hall, the Shimberg is roughly 30 feet by 60 feet and only seats 75 to 130 people. You just can't replicate the immediacy of seeing a show in that size venue. One can quite literally almost reach out and touch the action (though that's typically really frowned upon). A lot of folks from places like New York often comment that the space reminds them of a lot of the theater spaces back home.

So I'm excited to get another opportunity to check out a show this weekend. (For me especially it's nice to go see a show that I'm genuinely interested in and that I don't have a hand in producing - it's nice being able to go to the theater to just relax and enjoy yourself) Teo Castellanos is in town to perform his one-man show N.E. 2nd Ave. Imagine the characters you could meet as a small Caribbean bus travels down the bumpy urban streets of Miami ...

As I was doing a bit of research on the show it all came full circle - I found this link for a hip hop festival in New York that Teo is performing at in New York with ... Danny Hoch. I was also told that this will be Teo's final "small" tour like this before you looks to move onward and upwards. I wonder how long until he pops up in a movie and I can say "I saw him when ..."

Here's a podcast I found interviewing Teo:

powered by ODEO


- David J.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Nothing 'Drowsy' about this

Courting Tony voters and prospective bookers, the director and two cast members of "The Drowsy Chaperone" dropped in on the League of American Theatres and Producers conference in NYC last Thursday.

Something worked.

The show gathered 13 nominations yesterday, including Best Director, Best Actor in a Musical and Best Actress in a Musical, making the League guests three for three plus a Best Musical nomination for the show.

Director Casey Nicholaw was the choreographer for "Spamalot," but this is his first Broadway directing job. Sutton Foster previously won for "Thoroughly Modern Millie." And Bob Martin has won numerous "Canadian awards," but this is his first role on Broadway.

The show is a musical (within a comedy) about a man who listens to a 1920s record only to have it come to life around him. It's a literal representation of what happens when the stars of story, casting, direction, music and choreography align; we are totally absorbed into a performance.

The show began as an original production years ago during a stag party for Martin. Fortunately, his friends were all very talented.

Now, it's a huge hit on Broadway. (Don't you wish you had friends like that?)

Here's a bit of what they had to say:

Casey: What attracted me was its love of musical theater. It was just shaping it and turning it into a big, Broadway musical.

Sutton: I wanted to do something different after "Millie" and "Little Women." I was basically fried and burned out. I wanted to do something that was more of an ensemble piece. I auditioned and I never wanted a job more. What's so wonderful is that everyone has a moment to shine. I feel totally satisfied with my experience with the show.

Sutton: They asked me what kind of tricks can you do (referring to some of the acrobatic moves in the musical). I said, "I can touch my tongue to my nose." (And then she does.)

Casey: When stagehands start quoting the show, you know it's a good thing.

Bob (when asked about his impressions of NYC): You people honk your horns a lot.

Bob (when asked about reviews): The bad ones haunt me like a cancerous tumor. I remember one that called me "annoyingly charmless."

Sutton: (when asked about reviews): I don't read them. Bad reviews are terrible. And the good reviews are never good enough.

You can catch "The Drowsy Chaperone" at the Marquis Theatre in New York, and later on, on the road.

By the way, the show's marketing takes full effect of its nod-and-a-wink style.

One of its advertising lines: "In the real world, the only people who burst into song are the hopelessly deranged." So true.

See you at the theater.

- Michael K

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

2006 Tony Award nominations are in!

Take a look at the 2006 Tony Award nominees, hot off the press!

Don't forget - you can also sign up for Tony Award RSS feeds here.

- David J.

New blood perspective

(The following was given to me at the end of the day yesterday, May 15, from our new PR intern. - D.J.)

Today was not the first time I have been to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. I have been here several times before as a theater patron. Today was different though, because today was my first day as an intern for The Center.

As a theater enthusiast there is always something elusive about the backstage area. So, getting a behind the scenes look was thrilling. Walking down the halls, I could only begin to imagine the artists that had taken that very path to the stage. As I made my way onto the giant stage at Morsani Hall, I felt like a star, even if it was just for a moment.

As a patron, I have always admired The Center, and taken a great interest in the work it does. Today I got a new perspective by touring the facility and talking to the many people who make it a success. My first day as an intern has only made me even more excited about this wonderful opportunity.

- Jenna B.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Oprah skips sweeps to tout 'Color Purple'

More news from the League of American Theatres and Producers conference in NYC (delayed by transmission problems)

We previously had the good fortune to see "The Color Purple" while it was in previews.

In a dazzling May 11 lunchtime of Tony voters and potential tour venue representatives, the show's producers brought out the ultimate trump card: Oprah!

Plus the entire cast of the show.

Oprah lobbied hard to get her role in the Spielberg movie. And now she's lobbying hard for this musical whose marquee reads "Oprah Winfrey presents The Color Purple."

(It's not an insignificant push. The same day as the luncheon, The New York Times ran an article about her endorsement clout. "Getting on Oprah is like winning the lottery," one company PR person said. "Because her audience really trusts her, if Oprah or her producers sincerely fall in love with some product or person, the results can be spectacular.")

Here's what Oprah had to say about "The Color Purple" -- the Alice Walker book, the Steven Spielberg movie and the Broadway musical:

I passed out copies to all my friends. I told them, 'if you don't read this, you are no longer my friend.'

The Color Purple is about transformation. It is transcendent in its ability to touch the human chord of validation. Everybody is looking for validation. 'Do you hear me?' 'Do I matter?'

What people realize through these characters is 'I do matter.'

We need more vehicles that say hope is possible. I'm grateful to be part of something that says and does that.

We like your votes, but ultimately it's beyond awards, votes and critics. It's about how people feel and are moved and touched to do more in their own lives.

I don't believe in luck. I believe there is a divine current moving through all our lives.

- Michael K

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Catching a buzz during theater week

Notes and more from this week’s League of American Theatres and Producers annual spring conference in New York City

You gotta love theater conferences. Where else would you break at noon on Wednesday to make sure people had time to get to matinees? And there’s a lot of buzz right now because the Tony nominations will be announced next week. The Tonys are Broadway’s Grail. Wait, that was last year’s Best Musical.

Attended by 500 touring Broadway producers, presenters and press agents, The League conference is a mix of the practical (“Data Mining in the Information Age”) and the productions; it’s not unusual for attendees to see seven shows in five days. There also are star sightings (Tommy Tune, Frankie Valli) and even some in-depth conversations.

On Tuesday, director John Doyle interviewed the two stars from his acclaimed new production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” the demon barber of Fleet Street, now playing at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre.

In his first Broadway production, Doyle had the notion to have everyone in his cast act, sing and play instruments on stage. Down from the original 1979 cast and orchestra count of 54, the 10 multi-talented cast members play tubas, violins and other instruments – trading off instruments like relay race runners. It started in England in small houses, but then Sondheim caught wind of it. He blessed the new production, and even wrote some new music.

Eavesdropping on director Doyle, Patti LuPone and Michael Cerveris:

  • Michael: It was the first Broadway show I ever saw. I saw it seven times in the next year and a half. I’ve come to think that Sweeney is the Hamlet of musical theater. It takes everything you have and asks for a little more.
  • Patti: You just have to be pliable in the hands of your director.
  • Michael: I’ve come to realize that the best thing is, just show up bring your bag of tools.
  • Patti: I don’t know what I looked like to you, but I felt sexy.
  • Michael: The first thing you had me do is lie down in the coffin and I thought, ah, this is how it’s going to be. (on joining the cast a week late with Patti) I was gobsmacked by the musicianship and skill of the company. We felt like the dumb kids in class trying to catch up.
  • Patti: It was the best experience I have ever had. Ever. It was civilized and that’s not a word you hear in the theater.
  • Michael: Steve’s intimidating because you make him intimidating.
  • Patti (on Sondheim watching rehearsals): This is history. This is living history. Audiences are desperate for an emotional connection.
  • Michael: Theater sometimes thinks it has to compete with the movies.
  • John: We are storytellers. That’s what we got into this d--- business in the first place. (hearing that Sondheim was coming to English to see the show) I’ll have to sell my house. He’ll sue me because of what I’ve done to his musical.”
“The Wedding Singer,” based on the Adam Sandler movie of the same name, name checks (and sometimes face checks) symbols of the 1980s like Pong, Mr. T, Tina Turner, greed, “Flashdance,” cell phones, mullets, aerobics and Van Halen. Two-time Tony nominee Laura Benanti plays the title character’s love interest Julia.

At a “Jersey Boys” party Tuesday night, the four Broadway cast members of the hit show sang “Rag Doll” a capella in front of original members Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio. Not too intimidating.

– Michael K.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Red Hot Tony News

TBPAC is excited to help the League of American Theaters & Producers with an initiative to share information on the annual Tony Awards (and hopefully more inside news down the road) in a real-time environment via RSS feeds. The League is adopting a lot of new technology via a partnership with IBM On Demand Business.

A little after 3pm today, the Tony Awards launched a page for RSS feeds on this year's awards. You may subscribe to Tony-related feeds from Broadway.org here, including getting this year's news before the mainstream press has a chance to get it out!

The actual Tony Award nominations will be announced May 16, with the award ceremony to be held on June 11.

We wanted to give you live, fully-integrated updates here at CULTURE SHOCK, but it appears that Blogger isn't set up to mirror/syndicate other feeds like that. We're looking at other options and should be announcing our upgrade soon.

As an employee of the League told me today - we're really leading the theater industry in this technology, and we even say that knowing how behind we are as compared to a lot of other industries!

- David J.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Goodbye to Angela

After just more than 5 years of dedicated service to TBPAC, our very own Angela Lakin will be heading off to greener pastures. She's been a pretty frequent contributor to this blog. You may recall her name from many of the opera stories.

Angela started here as a PR intern and moved up to a full-time position in that department before transferring to Marketing. She's been an invaluable asset in handling kid shows (including our annual Eggstravaganza event), classical arts (including our own Opera Tampa company), Latin programming and various other niche shows.

Not only has she put her brain to task as an employee, she's been sighted in some classes at the Patel Conservatory, she's been a singer in the Opera Tampa Chorus and (as many of us have been in the department) she's been a frequent model for photos we've needed for various purposes.

As we say farewell to Angela today, I'd like to leave you with a few of her more "memorable appearances." (Thanks, Mei!) In my mind, though, she will go down in history as the recipient of the very first Best Actress in a Phone Conversation Award.

We'll miss you much, Angela. Don't be a stranger ...

Angela is everywhere. Even hubby Lorne is amazed

Glinda, the Big Boss and Elphaba

Angela even helped me film a commercial on a moment's notice.

In addition to a mastermind marketer, she could be a dancing queen.

We bid this Girl of the Golden West a fond farewell. Happy trails!

- David J., on behalf of the TBPAC Marketing Department

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Deborah Voigt in the news again

A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog entry about Deborah Voigt’s gastric bypass surgery. Well it appears this dramatic weight loss has led the singer to add a new role to her repertoire ... Tosca! This past weekend she debuted in the role at, where else, the Metropolitan Opera.

In a review from the New York Times, reviewer Anthony Tommasini said, “Ms. Voigt gave an involving, impetuous and vocally burnished portrayal.” Other comments include, “Her bright and penetrating sound recalls Birgit Nilsson’s Tosca.” and “...she brought undeniable vocal charisma to the role and some tender personal touches.”

Want to read more about her performance? Check on the full review at New York Times.

- Angela L.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dame Edna pulls a (your choice: Sheen, Clooney, Crowe ...)

I saw this link on CNN.com just now, and it's just too weird not to pass on. 72-year old Barrie Humphries (the actual person who plays the character Dame Edna, who has been no stranger to the area with her shows the past several years) knocked out a photographer. From the way the story reads, Humphries packs quite a punch despite his age.

- David J.

Monday, May 01, 2006

From mocha to movies?

Starbucks Films? Starbucks Book Club? They may not be too far away. The Business Day section of Monday's New York Times announced the coffee chain is looking to begin promoting books and movies as they have currently done with CDs.

The first film release is about a child and a spelling bee (did you wonder when the TBPAC tie was coming?) - Akeelah and the Bee, which stars Laurence Fishburne.

They believe the high level of trust their customers have in what they sell will directly carry over to these new ventures and they'll be able to use their brand and massive corporate apparatus to make themselves as a fixture of the entertainment industry. And while the company is controversial to some -- including those in Seminole Heights, many who still don't want a store in their area -- it was able to propel the Ray Charles' "Genius Love Company" CD onto the best-seller charts. The 6 million pairs of (bloodshot) eyeballs hitting those more than 8,500 locations daily in 30 countries provides a great marketing opportunity. No two ways about that.

Disclosure: TBPAC has a Starbucks connection, they are the official coffee of The Center and they are the title sponsor to our Expanding Horizons series. I've been enjoying the free joe handed out before opening night shows all season. Please don't send me any hatemail. I really like coffee.

We're all yolks ...

For the past 10 years TBPAC has been home to Magic 94.9FM’s Eggstravaganza. It’s a free family Easter event held here the Saturday before Easter with free breakfast, activities for the kids and an egg hunt. But it doesn’t require a calendar for the TBPAC staff to know it’s time for Eggstravaganza. We know by all the “egg jokes” in emails. Need an egg-xample? I can give you an egg-cellent one (get it?). Yes ... they are rather silly and corny, but it’s tradition and who am I to fight tradition.

Each year we continue to be amazed at the number of people that come out for this event. To give you an idea, this past year the staff served breakfast to about 1200 and that doesn’t count the people who were “bringing food back to their families who are sitting down.” To give you another image, we put 25,000 plastic Easter eggs on the lawn in Curtis Hixon Park. The egg hunt starts at 11 a.m. It’s over, no joke, by 11:01 a.m.

Check out a couple pictures from this year’s event.

- Angela L.