For me, it was a 2D theater.
This isn’t your grandparents’ Broadway. It’s not your parents’ either. That’s probably the best way of describing the new musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, a wicked, wacky and rocking new musical about populist political figure Andrew Jackson. The show, which can be described as 1/3 musical, 1/3 history lesson, and 1/3 sketch comedy, depicts the man who founded the Democratic Party and became our nation’s seventh president as a spoiled rock star in tight pants, who — depending on who you talk to — was either one of the best presidents ever or its most dangerous. The show leaves that open to interpretation, and decides to go for unorthodox laughs. For starters? The narrator takes a bullet to the neck within minutes into the first act.
Front and center in the comusical is Benjamin Walker, a young Broadway veteran who has appeared in films including Flags of Our Fathers and Kinsey. He’s been playing Jackson since December 2007, when it had its premiere at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in L.A. From there, the show moved off Broadway, and eventually landed at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre last month. I met up with the actor at the theatre late last week fittingly at fireside (who cares if it was fake), and asked him about the show’s unlikely journey to Broadway. Taking a page from the show, which is extremely off the cuff, I kept the mood light — at least I tried to — and spontaneous (thanks guy who walked by in the middle of the interview — twice!).
We all know the story of Jonathan Larson, who in 1988 wrote this play. He took Puccini’s “La Boheme” and transposed it to the alphabet city of New York City, and spotlighted the epidemic of AIDS. In 1996, “Rent” moved to Broadway, winning the Pulitzer Prize, the Obie Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, three Drama Desk Awards, and four tony Awards. Unfortunately, the author died unexpectedly of an aortic aneurysm the night of the show’s final preview. Many people have seen this show in its many incantations…from Off-Broadway to Broadway; to Hollywood; and now to Elmsford. Continue reading
Green Day’s growth as a band continues to astonish me. If you told me over a decade ago, back when I was wearing plaid and moshing in the pit with my best friend Steve, that the Berkeley, CA punk trio would become the most influential band of my generation, I’d probably laugh in your face. Yes, I loved the band (Steve and I once dyed our hair green before a show) but quite honestly, even I thought they were flash-in-the-pan material. I’ve never felt so good about being so wrong.
For me, the band began proving they were more than one-trick punk ponies with their terribly underrated 2000 album Warning. Those thoughts accelerated in 2004 (sadly the same year in which Steve passed away), when Billy Joe Armstrong, Tre Cool, and Mike Dirnt released American Idiot, an instant classic punk rock opera that’s arguably the best rock album made in the 2000s. Following that Grammy Award winning landmark disc, the band came out with 21st Century Breakdown last year, reinforcing their importance in rock music history with an equally if not more prophetic rock opera.
Thanks to the new groundbreaking material, sharing their music with my closest friend and those many college “green” days, the band holds a special place for me. I say all of this because, heading into the Broadway musical adaptation of American Idiot, which opened tonight (April 20), I’ve never been more excited to see a show. With all the self-induced hype, Idiot had a lot to live up to. In so many ways, it did, and yet, it didn’t. In the end, the shortcomings don’t matter as much as you’d think because the show rocks.
American Idiot roars right out of the gate with televisions flashing images of George W. Bush, post-9/11 news reports, and other noise we watch in this TMZ era before an energetic cast bolt on stage singing and dancing with and to the title track. From there, the show paints a story (an abstract one at that) about Johnny (John Gallagher, Jr.) a self-professed “Jesus of Suburbia,” who’s sick of the world, doesn’t know which direction to go in, and rounds up his friends Tunny (Stark Sands) and Will (Michael Esper) to leave suburban life in search of a better one in the big city (cue Holiday.) Continue reading
The most soulful new musical on Broadway ironically was created by a world-famous, curly-haired keyboardist who happens to be Jewish. Yep, David Bryan, who has played the keys for Bon Jovi since yours truly was in diapers, has co-written the new musical Memphis, a clear Tony frontrunner that’s blowing the roof of the Shubert Theatre. The show, set in the segregated south, centers on a white radio DJ named Huey Calhoun (Chad Kimball) who shakes up the town when he falls for a black singer named Felicia Farrell (Montego Glover) and starts playing soulful music mainstream whether people are ready for it or not.
I caught up with the two leads — Kimball and Glover — and asked them what it’s been like to be a part of the latest Broadway smash. (While her husband waited for every last health care vote to be counted, Michelle Obama took her kids to see the Broadway musical last night). While the two have appeared on Broadway before (Kimball’s credits include Into the Woods and Good Vibrations while Glover made her debut in The Color Purple), the pair say this is — by far — the biggest moment they’ve ever had on the stage.
A good one…
“Hahaha…Harold Zidler in the movie Moulin Rouge! Well, it’s orange and crazy, and he is crazy. Love that movie.”
If you blocked the name on Mary Birdsong’s resume, and just read a few lines of it at a time, you’d be convinced she’s a dude. Perhaps not, but when you consider her credits are emblazoned with such men friendly shows as Reno 911 and flicks like Artie Lange’s Beer League, one might guess that. Why anyone would have a copy of her resume and cover up her name is another story, but I needed a strong opening and I think I’ve succeeded.
The boys in tights may get all the press (and deservedly so) in Stephen Daldry’s Tony Award-winning musical adaptation of Billy Elliot, but anyone who has seen the show knows veteran character actor Gregory Jbara subtly steals the show as the boy’s proud (eventually anyway) papa.
Jbara, who took home the Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for the role, has been waiting his whole life for a role that he could really show off his skills and shine in. He found it with “Elliot,” and don’t think for a second he doesn’t know and appreciate that.
“This role was a complete roast beef dinner,” he said. “It’s my coming of age thing…no more goofy or silly roles.”
In the recent years of the American musical theatre we have witnessed the channeling of famous authors “writing” American musicals. We have seen “Les Miserables,” compliments of Victor Hugo; “Man of La Mancha”, courtesy of Miquel de Cervantes, and in 1962, “Oliver”, by Charles Dickens.
Now, at the White Plains Performing Arts Center, the county’s newest professional theatre in New York, we are greeted by singing urchins, asking us to “Consider Ourselves” at home. And we are definitely feel that way. Continue reading