Tag Archives Broadway

John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons” Review

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How many of us know the full extent of Latin American history? The minute we start our school education we learn about the history of America and Europe. Everything from the Civil War, the signing of the Declaration of Independence to Columbus (Leguizamo has a few words about him). I’m sure many remember being taught about the Mayans and the Incas, but what else?

John Leguizamo’s Tony nominated Broadway show, Latin History for Morons debuted on Netflix November 5th.

Leguizamo takes us to the number one place we learn history; the classroom. Riddled with boxes, books, chairs and a chalkboard; Leguizamo is gonna teach you real Latin history that was pushed aside. Everything starting from the beginning, 3,000 BCE. His main purpose, in my opinion, to deconstruct our American history and interweave the negated Latin contributions that made our current ‘great’ nation.

Don’t assume that this is a ninety-minute show about a boring lecture. Because it’s not! Using Leguizamo’s notorious comedic personality, you will have no issue watching and you come out smarter than when you came in.

Despite Leguizamo using comedy to keep us entertained, like all of a sudden he’s in his underwear and dances to salsa and cumbia, there are core issues he addresses. Issues that all Latino people face. You can guess what those are.

Leguizamo goes deep into Latin history. He uses cited information from respected literature and authors to debunk our common knowledge that was brainwashed into our subconscious. Also, what textbooks refuse to acknowledge.

By the end of the show you will have laughed your heads off and have learned more in 90 minutes then you probably remember in eight years of school education. Every Latino should watch this. It reaffirms a place in society and gives a self-worth that has been misconstrued over 3,000 years. That’s a long time.

 

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John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons”: Image Credit: latinhistorybroadway.com

15 Years Later and ‘Wicked’ the Musical Is Still Going Strong

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Wicked’s success came 15 years ago in the year 2003, thrilling theater-goers with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a story based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. The novel was a creative interpretation of the classic Frank L.Baum tale, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. And of course, who could forget the musical inspired by Baum’s novel, 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy. With such a solid foundation for a springboard, it’s no wonder that Wicked, the prequel to the original Oz story, was hugely successful and continues to be so.  

The ‘Wicked’ 15th Anniversary Special on NBC: ‘Wicked’ the Musical Is Still Going Strong

If it wasn’t obvious enough that Wicked is still an impactful Broadway musical, the Halloween special on NBC is a telling indication. The special premieres on Monday, October 29 at 10 p.m. Don’t miss A Very Wicked Halloween: Celebrating 15 Years of Wicked if you’d like to join in the anniversary celebration. Who will host the special? The two original stars of the Broadway hit, Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel. Can it get any better? The show will also be host to performances by Chenoweth, Menzel, and other stars.

What Do Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel Have to Say About ‘Wicked’ 15 Years Later?

The two Broadway actresses are not at all surprised at Wicked’s success, even after so much time has passed. Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel sat down for an interview with E! News recently to discuss the success of Wicked. “The themes are love and friendship and forgiveness and that’s what we look for in life,” Chenoweth said of the musical. “Sometimes it’s hardest to have forgiveness and love and all those themes with people you love the most, and I think that’s what Wicked does so well.”

Menzel gave her own thoughts on Wicked, stating, “It’s always been a powerful piece about two female characters at the center, at the heart of it, which was always really great and unique to begin with, which is even more relevant today. Even more important.”

Read the original article from E! News

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15 Years Later and ‘Wicked’ the Musical Is Still Going Strong. Featured Photo Credit: NBC

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Worst Musical on Broadway

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As a musical fanatic and a huge Gene Wilder fan, I was absolutely ecstatic to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on Broadway. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was a large part of my childhood and still is one of my favorite movies of all time. I couldn’t wait to see what kind of large, glamorous sets were going to be rolled out on stage displaying the crazy Wonka-Word. I was expecting something that would blow my mind with that same childhood wonder and a little bit of fright I’d experienced when I saw the movie for the first time. What I saw put the Gene Wilder classic to shame.

The saddest candy world ever: japhyweideman.com

Let’s start with the set, or lack thereof; when I think of Wonka Factory and the candy world seen in “Pure Imagination,” I imagine an intimidating yet magnificent building, and a giant, psychedelic display of gumdrop trees and, of course, the iconic chocolate waterfall. The set choice for this production: a minimalist set to encourage the audience to picture the world with “pure imagination.” Although the idea seems clever on paper, it made me confused: where was the fun? The creativity? The hint of spookiness? I felt my heart break seeing something that looked so lazy and slapped together. There was even an entire scene where all the odd characters go through an “invisible obstacle course,” in which the actors mimed around the stage exclaiming, “Watch out!” It felt extremely underwhelming. There were no set pieces for Veruca Salt’s episode when she tries to steal a nut cracking squirrel, except a lame shadow on a backdrop of a conveyor belt with nuts. The biggest let down of all was when they rolled in the candy world on the stage and it was miniature, I don’t think all the characters could fit on it at once. It was so unspecial and pathetic, there was a sinking feeling in my chest. In my opinion, one of the most important parts of a musical, especially Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is a creative set, and I was completely let down as an audience member to see nearly nothing.

Incoherent singing: seatplan.com

“The characters are okay, I guess,” is never a good thing to hear from the audience, and that’s exactly what I felt and heard from several other theater enthusiasts during intermission. I really liked the idea of making the characters more contemporary, I thought it could have been really creative. However, these characters were totally one dimensional and over the top, and not in a good way. Augustus and Mrs. Gloop looked the parts but were barely audible, they sang incoherently until they finally disappeared into the shallow chocolate pool. Violet Beauregarde’s “Queen of Pop” with a dad-manager was actually very funny to me, yet the two were nothing but loud and annoying. Veruca Salt and Mr. Salt were a Russian ballerina and her stoic father, honestly they weren’t very interesting except for the outbursts of “Mine! Mine! Mine!” Mike Teavee was probably the most dynamic out of the other children; he played the part well and acted like a spoiled millennial brat, and his mother’s character of a mom drinking to escape her awful kid was the only thing that made me laugh out loud. Then we are left with Charlie, Grandpa Joe, and Mr. Wonka himself. Charlie and Grandpa Joe were simple, the boy was sweet and the grandfather was senile, once again, nothing extraordinary. Willy Wonka was alright, he was a great singer but his attitude was surprisingly sarcastic. I didn’t feel like I was in the presence of Willy Wonka, I felt like I was in the presence of an actor who treated the entire musical like it was a joke which, by the way, it was.

Veruca about to get ripped apart by squirrels: broadwaymusicaltrades.weebly.com

Last, but not least, the tone of the production was unclear. Sometimes, we don’t realize how much the tone affects a musical until it’s just not right. With an eccentric plot like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, there’s so much room for artistic choice in how the scenes evolve: they can be light hearted, dark humored, or sinister. In this version, all of the tones listed were used, and still the tone of the musical made no sense. There were cheerful jokes, yet the bad children were dying evilly in the factory. This threw off the momentum of the performance and caused it to be stagnant. There was no consistency and it came out so awkward and confusing.       

The performances were unmemorable, I would never have guessed a Tony Award winner had directed the musical. Overall, it was a huge waste of time and money to see and I feel like part of my childhood has been disgraced. If you were thinking of seeing something magical and cool go see Spongebob: The Musical and save your money.

 

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Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: The Worst Musical on Broadway Featured Image Credit: musicfeeds.com, broadwaymusicaltrades.weebly.com, japhyweideman.com, and seatplan.com         

72nd Tony Awards Preview

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With summer just kicking off, the biggest night of Broadway is just around the corner, the 72nd Tony Awards. Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban will make their hosting debuts in the legendary Music City Radio Hall. To help you get ready for the all red carpet razzle dazzle and the inevitable live show flubs, here is what you should expect to see for the buzzing 2018 Tony Awards show.

 

But before we get to all of that, one notable award being given out will be the Excellence in Theatre Education Award. Melody Herzfeld, the drama teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, will be receiving the honor, in acknowledgment of excellence in theater education and how she plays a vital role in helping students embrace their creativity and reach their full potential. Talk about a true hero.

Photo: Ian Witlen | www.theCameraClicks.com

Now what you’ve all been waiting for. Mean Girls and SpongeBob SquarePants lead the field with 12 nominations each, and will face off against The Band’s Visit—itself with 11 nominations—and Frozen for Best Musical. There’s also some history being made on the play side, with the revival of Angels in America earning 11 nominations, breaking the record for most nominations for a play in Tony Awards history. But bigger than that may be the success of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, leading the way as the most honored new play with a total of 10 nominations. It’s official, J.K. Rowling has cast a spell on Broadway.

Other noteworthy awards being handed out are the two Special Tony Awards, which will be received by legendary musician Bruce Springsteen and John Leguizamo.

 

Make sure to tune in to the 72nd Tony Awards when it airs this Sunday, June 10, at 8pm on CBS.

 

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72nd Tony Awards Preview. Featured Image Credit: Tony Awards Facebook

Is Chris Evans Ready for a Broadway Career?

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We all know Chris Evans for being the patriotic Captain America in the Marvel cinematic universe. He’s a jack of all trades, from being in one of the most popular superhero franchises in the world to doing indie films and trying his hand at directing. Now Evans has taken on a new look (literally) and is on the Broadway stage. Lobby Hero opened at the Helen Hayes Theatre in early March and ended its limited run this past Sunday, May 13th.

The play, written by Kenneth Lonergan, takes place in a building lobby in Manhattan where lobby becomes much more than a mundane waiting room. The ethics and principles of four individuals come to conflict when a murder alibi is involved. Officer Bill (Chris Evans) who is highly respected in the force is really a misogynist who feels entitled to do as he pleases. Officer Dawn (Bel Powley) is the female rookie cop who believes one should uphold the law no matter what, even if it means putting other people’s integrity in jeopardy. William (Bryan Tyree Henry) is the African American security guard captain who is dealt with a common societal issue of covering for his brother suspected of murder whether or not his alibi is true. Then, you have Jeff (Michael Cera) who is plagued with guilt knowing that someone is obstructing the law and tries to decide what is the right thing to do.

 

 

It’s a different experience seeing Evans on the Broadway stage, especially when he’s adorning a serious mustache and upright hair. But Evans looks almost at home on stage. We’re used to seeing Evans playing love interests in independent films and kicking some alien butt as Captain America. His character Bill is something we don’t often see from him, but he embodies the persona so convincingly. You know you’re doing your job when you persuade the audience to like your hateable character, which Evans manages to do in a way that engrosses you in the storyline and witty comedy with a New York accent. This is actually the only time you will ever actually hate Chris Evans, which is hard to do. With Evans Marvel contract coming to an end, don’t be surprised if you see more of him plastered along Broadway PlayBills.

 

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Photo credits: 2econd Stage Theatre

Denzel Washington Returns to Broadway

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It feels like forever since we last heard from Denzel Washington on Broadway. But that soon changes. It’s about time, now Broadway fanatics will see one of Hollywood’s most iconic actors shine on the big stage. As for Washington, he’s just pumped and ecstatic to return to the stage.

“I’m very excited to come back to Broadway in this great play and to be working on it with American director George Wolfe,” Washington told the New York Post.

Denzel Washington photo

Photo by Athena LeTrelle

The 63-year-old, two-time Oscar winner will be starring in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh. The play, which takes place in a Manhattan saloon, features Washington in the role of Theodore Hickman, a.k.a. Hickey, who is a charming traveling salesman.

I’m sure this play will be a sensational hit. Why’s that? Because the last two plays he starred in, A Raisin in the Sun in 2014 and Fences in 2010, were among the top earning plays of their respective seasons. On top of that, he has become a heavy hitter, winning a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his work in Fences.

Eager fans should rush to buy their tickets online or at the box office now, because they will probably sell out fast. Especially with it being Washington’s return to the Broadway stage.

The play opens on April 26 and runs to July 1. At the moment, regular ticket prices range from $79-$199; however, premium ticket prices range from $209-$350. Tickets are available on Broadway.com.

 

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Denzel Washington Returns to Broadway. Featured Image Credit: Broadway Show Tickets

Mean Girls Has Come to Broadway

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Get in losers, we’re going to Broadway. One of the most popular movies of 2004, the high school comedy classic, Mean Girls, has made a comeback on Broadway. After being tested at the National Theater in Washington D.C., Mean Girls has finally arrived to the Broadway stage at the August Wilson Theater.

The musical will still follow the same storyline as the movie, but it’ll take place in modern day with smartphones and social media. Mean Girls also has an extremely talented cast; featuring Erika Henningsen as new-girl Cady Heron, Taylor Louderman as queen bee Regina George, Ashley Park as gossip girl Gretchen Weiners, Kate Rockwell as the dumb blonde Karen Smith, and Barrett Wilbert Weed as the edgy Janis Sarkisian. Together they will all make a show to remember. You will be amazed and laughing in your seats at this new take on Mean Girls.

There are going to be a few changes on the stage, including a little bit more exposition of Cady’s life in Africa. Henningsen said in a USA Today interview, “You see her in her environment so you understand when she gets to high school and is overwhelmed by all these teenage hormones why she acts the way she does.”

Although the transition from movie to musical has its cutbacks (Henningsen let out that Cady will not be puking on Aaron Samuels), don’t be afraid, there will still some of the amazing one liners that had us all in stitches. Regina will be bitchier than ever, Karen will have her ESPN abilities, Gretchen’s hair will be full of secrets, and it will be pink pink pink. However, Mean Girls is adding a empowering solo from Janis, “I’d Rather Be Me.”

After she’s been tormented by Cady and Regina, Janis decides to “raise her right finger” and be her own person. The whole song questions the cliquey relationships girls force each other to be a part of, and Janis makes it clear that she is done with the fakeness of high school girls. Even though it’s not in the original Mean Girls, this solo gives a lot of emotion to the musical. It’s one of the things that makes this performance relatable to a hell-on-earth high school experience.   

Comedian Tina Fey, the original screenwriter of the film, wrote Mean Girls into its own book which the musical is based on. The production team also consists of  Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), composer/producer Jeff Richmond (30 Rock), and Lyricist Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde). With a team like this, how can Mean Girls not be fetch?

Get your tickets here!

 

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Mean Girls Comes to Broadway Featured Image Credit: Mean Girls on Broadway Official Facebook 

Laura Benanti Interview

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It is safe to say that Laura Benanti is easily one of the most recognizable names and faces on Broadway. Laura first made her stage debut at age 18 as Maria in The Sound of Music, opposite Richard Chamberlain. Since her debut, Benanti has starred in the Broadway production of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown for Lincoln Center; in Gypsy in the role as Gypsy Rose Lee, in which she won the Tony Award; and in Nine as Claudia. She is a Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle award-winning performer. She’s had recurring roles on TV’s Nashville, The Good Wife, and Nurse Jackie. She also starred in NBC’s The Sound of Music LIVE as Elsa Schrader. Then, in 2013, Benanti released her debut full-length album, In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention: Live at 54 BELOW via Broadway Records. For her next adventure, Benanti is ready to show the world her newest superpower as Alura Zor-El, Kara’s Kryptonian mother, in the new CBS series, Supergirl.
Cliché: You are one of the most notable names on Broadway. Do you still feel nervous before each show?
Laura Benanti: First of all, thank you. Secondly, yes. I have come to understand that nervous and excited are just different sides of the same coin, and I try to feel the positive effects of my “nerves” instead of dwelling on the fear. Meditation has helped me tremendously with that.
Is it true that you will be playing Amalia in the 2016 revival of She Loves Me?
It’s true! I will be co-starring with Zachary Levi, Gavin Creel, and Jane Krakowski in the Roundabout Theater’s production.
What do you love most about being on Broadway and the stage?
Communicating with the audience. There is nothing like hearing the audience gasp, laugh, cry, and applaud!
Soon you will be switching hats and moving to TV to play Alura Zor-El in the new Supergirl show. How will you juggle both mediums of entertainment?
I can really only do one at a time, unless the TV show shoots in NYC (which Supergirl does not). I’m shooting Supergirl now, and will stop in the new year to begin rehearsals for She Loves Me.
What has been the hardest part for you in making the transition from stage to TV?
Oddly, I get MORE nervous in front of the camera than I do in front of an audience. Relaxation in front of the camera, dropping into my body completely, are the most difficult things for me. “Being natural” and not seeming like you are acting is really hard.
Did you read any of the Supergirl comics in preparation for the role?
I had never read comic books before preparing for this role. Now I love them! I have only read a few, but I think they are great fun.
What drew you to the role, and do you relate to your character in any way?
I worked with Greg Berlanti on a show called Eli Stone many years ago, and I like him very much. When he called me and offered me the job, I was thrilled at the opportunity to work with him again. The main thing that drew me to the role is a spoiler… so I can’t tell you. You’ll have to watch!
What other projects, stage or otherwise, are you working on right now?
Aside from getting ready to star in She Loves Me, I am writing a book and doing concerts all around the country. I’m also writing and directing some fun web videos.
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Laura Benanti Interview: Photograph courtesy of Getty

Renée Marino Interview

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Renée Marino has toured the country in various shows and settled down on Broadway before making her film debut in Clint Eastwood’s Jersey Boys (released June 20), though it wasn’t the first time Marino has played Frankie Valli’s wife Mary Delgado. She first played the role of Mary in the 2009 national tour and followed that with a summer stint on Broadway. Since the release of the film, Marino has been preparing for her August wedding to Michael Lopez-Calleja. After that, this Jersey girl is heading back to LA to pursue more film roles and is “taking it one day at a time.”
Cliché: Was theater always your first choice or did you want to do something different? 
Renée Marino: Well, the first thing I started out with, when I was five years old, was as a dancer. From there, it just kind of developed on. I started doing community theater in my town, and after I started doing that, I just caught the bug. I loved it. From then on, that was it. I was a part of theater, and I never looked back.
Your stage journey has taken you from tours to Broadway, so how has the adventure been for you?
It’s been great. For me, it was nothing but determination and perseverance. I always feel blessed and—I’ve said this many times—when you are getting paid to do what you love, it’s like not working at all. This career is no joke. There is a lot of rejection, and there are a lot of ups and downs. One minute you could be working at the top of your game in a Broadway show, and the next day, the show closes. That’s what’s so hard about this career, but for me, it was something that I knew I loved and was going to go for it. I feel like once you accept the fact that this is how it is, then I think you are okay. That’s been my experience. I continued to work hard and kept dreaming and kept training. I’ve enjoyed all of it.
Renee Marino- by jillWhat’s it like touring on shows compared to performing on Broadway?
I’ve done all different sorts of tours. The first tour I did, Cats, was no joke. After I did that tour, I felt like I could accomplish anything because that tour was a bus and truck tour. We literally could be in a city for a night, do the show, hop on the bus, be on the bus for 12 hours, go to another city, and it’s all for a show that is very physically and emotionally demanding. It’s a lot to ask your body. That was great though. It was awesome. We toured all over North America, and we were in Mexico and Canada, so it was such a great first experience in touring. Then the other tours I did, like Disney’s High School Musical and Jersey Boys, were amazing. For me, it almost felt like I was on a paid vacation because I was getting to do what I love and saw different cities. That is the biggest difference between a tour and a Broadway show. With a Broadway show, it’s very different. When you are on tour, those people become your family. You are not only performing with them, but you are living with each other, you are going out together, you are all in the same place. When you do a show on Broadway, of course at the theater, it’s amazing, and you do become a family. But it is a little bit different because a lot of times, people already live in New York City, so they don’t go out as much, and you go to your own apartment after the show. There is always a joke when you are on tour that you are in the tour bubble. Being on tour is like being in your own little world.
You were in various Jersey Boys, right?
Yes. My first was in 2008. I originally—for six months—was what they call the universal swing. That means I cover all the girls’ parts in three different companies of the show. They would fly me wherever I needed to go. I would fly to Vegas for the Vegas company or Chicago, so that was really exciting because I was doing everything. And then, I got moved up to Mary Delgado on the first national tour in 2009. I did that for a year, and then I did Broadway last summer.
And then from there you took the role to film.
That is where Clint Eastwood first saw me. I then later went in to audition for the film and got the call a few weeks after that. It was really great that Clint got to see me play the role, like not just audition, but actually in action. That was really great.
How was it adapting the character from the stage for the film?
Well, the character of Mary is the same. They didn’t change her because this is a real woman. This was really Frankie Valli’s first wife. The character is the same, and translating it from stage to film was more about just starting fresh for me, treating it as if it were the same story but taking myself out of my stage habits. When you are on stage, things are very set. You know you do this on this line and that on that line. It was letting that all go and just being in the moment with the other characters in the scene and allowing her to flourish in this new world. That was really it. I feel like there was a little more freedom because it’s a whole new atmosphere when you are doing it on film.
What about working with some of the old cast?
It was a mix, and it was really great. John Lloyd Young, the Frankie Valli, and I did the roles together last summer on Broadway for six months, so that was really great. We had already established that connection. Erich Bergen, who played Bob Gaudio, is a good friend of mine. We did the show together in Las Vegas. The guy who played Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) was in the Toronto company, so he and I never did the show together, but he was in the company. The guy who played Norm Waxman, his name is Donnie Kehr, he was in the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys. I never worked with him. Another friend of mine, he played Charlie Calello; he’s one of The Four Seasons that comes in later. He is also in the Broadway company. For Erich Bergen and I, we had so many moments when we couldn’t believe we got to do it together.
Have a favorite part of the show or maybe a scene you really love doing?
Honestly, I just love this character so much. I love Mary. I think if I had to pick a scene, I think the first scene where we meet and we’re at the pizza restaurant, and she’s spewing these lines at him when he’s trying to flirt with her. I think that’s such a funny scene to play. It’s comical; she’s sassy and gets to show her fiery and flirty side.
How was it working with Clint Eastwood?
It was so great. He’s the coolest guy. He is really a fantastic director. He doesn’t stand in the way of the actor’s creativity; he does quite the opposite. He allows you to do what you feel is right, and I believe that’s why his movies are so great. He was an actor first and foremost, so he knows what it’s like, and he welcomes ideas. He has more of a collaborative effort as a director as opposed to making it like a dictatorship. He truly allows it to be a warm atmosphere where if you have an instinct, he welcomes it. It was one of the best times of my life filming with him.
This was your film debut. Is this something you want to continue pursuing?
Yes, absolutely. After filming, I had that feeling that I didn’t have enough. Even now, with the film being out, there is a sense of sadness because I miss everybody. I’m used to being on stage, and on Broadway, it’s the opposite. Once you open a show, you do eight shows a week, so that’s a start of something. With film, once the film is out, everything is kind of done. I’m really excited to see what’s next. I’m out in LA now and will be pursuing more film and TV.
Is there something you would love to be a part of?
Honestly, I would love to do a film—this goes under musical film, because my character (Mary) doesn’t sing, and I am a singer—possibly about some past Broadway star or someone that had that singing and dancing and triple threat ability. I would love to do a biography of someone where I could do all of that.
Is there a Broadway show you have always wanted to be a part of?
There is a Broadway show coming up called On Your Feet, and it is the Gloria Estefan story, and I would love to be a part of that. First off, I love Gloria Estefan. I would love to play her in a Broadway show. When I did my first professional job, I was the lead singer in a casino down in Biloxi, MS. One of the big medleys we did was this big Gloria Estefan medley, and it was everybody’s favorite.
You are engaged, so how is it balancing that with work?
I’m so lucky. I’m with someone who is my best friend, besides being my love, and he is the most supportive person that I have ever met, especially being on this journey with me. When I was out in LA filming, he was there with me. He’s just by my side at all times, and if I feel upset about something, he’s right there. I’m lucky that he’s not in my business, but he shares my love of shows and films. He enjoys that, and at the same time, he owns his own company, so he understands the business side of things, so he helps me with that. We help each other stay balanced.
Renée Marino Interview “Jersey Girl”  was originally published in the Aug/Sept 2014 issue of Cliché Magazine
Photographed by  Jill Stokesberry

Interview with Jim Norton

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Of Mice and Men is a title that does not go unrecognized in America. John Steinbeck wrote this great American classic in 1937 and was immediately adapted to Broadway the same year. Since its release, there have been numerous adaptations, such as the most recent Broadway play at the Longacre Theater. This 18-week run has had marvelous success, as well as proving to be a moving adaptation with its flawless casting and set design by Todd Rosenthal. This wonderful combination of talented actors and detailed rural sets makes it sad to see the play hitting the end of its production in a few weeks on July 27th. In this interview with Jim Norton, Cliché’s own Heather Glock spoke with the actor who takes on the role of Candy, the farm’s aging and disabled stage hand with a dream as big as his heart. Jim opened up about the importance of the themes in the play, the American Dream and his underdog role.
Photo: James Franco as George and Jim Norton as Lennie
Photo Credit:  Richard Phibbs
PLEASE NOTE, THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS
 
Cliché: This book was banned during its original release and was considered controversial due to the discussion of sexual matters and the comparable acts of euthanasia towards the death of Lennie. Would you consider Steinbeck’s work still a thorn in morality’s side, or perhaps an honest reflection of the predatory nature of human life?
Jim Norton: I think we have moved on a lot since the book was originally published. I do not think that the attitudes are prevalent now as they were then. I was nineteen when I first read the book; I come from Ireland, and I was brought up in Dublin. And I remember very well getting my equity card when I was 19 and some senior actors that I was working with at the time suggested that it was time that I read some good American literature and the first Steinbeck novella I read was Of Mice and Men, so it has a very pleasant memory for me. That lead me to read everything that Steinbeck wrote. I was very impressed by his attitude towards life and his politics and philosophies. It’s rather interesting that all these years later that I would end up playing Candy.
The American Dream is a central theme in this work. Your character strives to make his dream with George and Lennie come true, since he fears his disability will declare him useless at the ranch. Do you believe that Americans are pushed to this dream when they realize that they have outlived their usefulness?
I suppose when you see the huge disparity between those whom have and those whom haven’t, which sadly still exists. It is a very sad situation. Candy was an agricultural laborer and they [the laborers] were underpaid and were oppressed. They were like tramps that rode about the state looking for one job to another, and the farm workers were degraded and badly paid. I think Steinbeck writes beautifully about this incredible loneliness and anger and hopelessness of the lot. Nobody in the story gets what they want. It is very bleak in that respect and Candy sees a little ray of light if he joins up with Lennie and George. He finally feels that he lost his dog and he lost everything, but finally, towards the end of his life, that he can find somewhere restful and quiet and some control over his life–and of course that is taken away when Curley’s wife is killed.
Of Mice and Men dismisses women from the men’s dream of paradise, as well as displaying their sexuality as a trap to ruin men. This is made clear at the climax with Curley’s wife to the last scene in the clearing. It is almost a mirror image of man’s fall from the Garden of Eden as Candy, Lennie, and George’s perfect world is destroyed. How does Leighton Meester handle this role in the male-dominated production?
She is terrific! She is wonderful. There are only two females in the play; Curley’s wife and Candy’s dog, and none of them are given names, which I think is a deliberate ploy on Steinbeck’s part to point out  to us on how unimportant women were in that world; how unimportant Curly’s wife is, even though she was the catalyst for what happens in the play. I think he [Steinbeck] was making a very strong point there.
This famous book has been adapted into different movies and TV movies, as well as Steinbeck penning a stage play the same year the book was released. Audiences have also witnessed an opera in 1970 as well as a recent radio play. What is it about this American classic that stands the test of time? What personally drew you in?
Well, it is just a great story. I mean we are looking for stories and we want to hear great stories because they make sense of our lives. I think that is its great appeal. The fact that this story has been done in so many versions and so many different types of media is because it is a great human story about dispossessed Americans, but it also has a universality that goes beyond that, and that I think is it’s great appeal.
Dominance is a big element in this work. Due to the treatment and lifestyle on the ranch, most workers such as Curley possess this aggressive behavior and easily dismiss the weak and impaired. Candy is kind and never tries to gain respect through intimidation. Due to his insecurities and kindhearted nature, do you personally feel that the audience can empathize with Candy, perhaps because his fears are relatable and the audience wants to see the underdog succeed?
Oh, very much so! There is this great empathy that you feel every night on stage, particularly the moment when they take the dog away. There is the most incredible silence that you rarely hear in the theater, and the background noise of the crickets, you can hear them quite clearly. There is moment that lasts nearly three minutes where hardly anything is said and the audience is holding their breaths because they can’t believe it, and those who read the books know the dog is going to be killed, but there are still people who haven’t… which surprises me! He is a very sweet character in the midst of all this aggression, and he is a really genuine person. He is a very sad character, but it is lovely to play him. He represents the underdog and the oppressed people.
Which makes almost makes it more disheartening to watch him get his dream ripped away, wouldn’t you say?
Oh, yes. As I said before, no one gets what they want. No one in the play achieves their dream. They all have dreams of different kinds and Candy is the one who most expresses it and is most articulate in his inarticulate way, and what he wants is so simple, it was  what everyone wants: a little house with some trees and some comfort towards the end of his life, because now that he doesn’t get that at the end of the play, we don’t know happens beyond that. It is very open-ended the way Steinbeck has written it. I think that Candy’s journey is over and that they would fire him and get rid of him because he is of no use to them anymore. I imagine he would probably die on the roadside somewhere.
Many Hollywood actors are gravitating towards Broadway. You made your Broadway debut in 1999 in the production The Weir. What motivated you to do so?
I was asked to do it. The Weir was a wonderful play which opened in London, and from there I went to the west end, and from there we took it to Brussels and then to Canada and we took it to Ireland, and then suddenly out of nowhere, several producers said that they wanted to take it to Broadway. It was very interesting for me because it was at a point of my life where I was thinking of maybe giving up the theater. I was working theatre all my life, and thought this was hard work and that I should concentrate on television and film, which is far less exhausting and better paid! Then I was offered this part of Jack in The Weir and it really changed my life because it brought me to Broadway, and it opened that doorway to work in New York that I hadn’t had before. I got to do Caesar, and from there I won a Tony and people became aware that I was around and it has continued ever since. It was a very interesting thing that happened and for which I am very grateful that it had happened because I love working in New York. I think I have done about four or five Broadway shows since then.
You have been a part of Broadway for some time. With this comes memorable moments. In this 18-week run of Of Mice and Men, what moment, if any, has stood out in being particularly special?
I think just being here. I have never been in a play that has been as successful as this one, such a huge Broadway success. We have had full houses from opening night, since the first preview in fact. We have broken box office records in the theater and we are bringing in a huge number, I guess mainly due to James Franco, huge numbers of young people in to the theatre who haven’t been to plays before. There have been lots of kids from intercity schools, who come to see the show, and we have done talk backs with them afterwards and it is just wonderful to see what we hope is the future audience realizing how exciting is it to be in a theatre and to see a great story being told. So, that to me that has been the joy of doing it and it is a terrific company and a really great ensemble and even though with three star names in it,  they have integrated themselves perfectly into the company, so it has been a joy to go to work every night.
 
Of Mice and Men will run at the Longacre Theatre until July 27th 2014. Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.telecharge.com/Broadway/Of-Mice-and-Men/Overview

Spring in the City

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It’s not cold enough to bundle up and hit the ski slopes, and it’s not quite hot enough to throw on a yellow-polka-dot-bikini and hit the Jersey shore. It’s that infuriatingly pretty time of year when we can’t decide what to do for entertainment anymore: spring. Sure, there’s always dinner and a movie, but that always leaves something to be desired. For that, we turn to a little state called New York. With the perfect blend of culture and crazy, New York always has something going on. We’ve compiled a list of cool things to do throughout the boroughs to keep you motivated but more importantly, to keep you satiated.

See a Broadway Show
If you’ve never seen a play, you’re missing out on one of the most amazing experiences that New York has to offer. Though, who are we to judge? Maybe you’re just not sure what’s out there! That’s why we’re here to inform you. Music lovers, especially, will be thrilled to discover tributes like Motown the Musical, A Night with Janis Joplin, and Jersey Boys. Literature lovers will go crazy over A Raisin in the Sun and Macbeth. Of course, there are always fan favorites like The Lion King, The Book of Mormon, and Wicked.  Whether it’s on Broadway or off, go indulge!

Shop at a Flea Market
Who said New York City gets to have all the fun? Brooklynites definitely know how to have a good time. If you think a flea market is just a bunch of people selling their junk, you’re absolutely right. If you think a flea market is just a waste of your precious time, you’re absolutely wrong–and you’ve definitely never been to the Brooklyn Flea. There is certainly no shortage of flea markets all over the city, but the Brooklyn Flea is an urban oasis. Every weekend, the event promises fresh food, repurposed furniture, stunning antiques, retro clothing, vintage jewelry, and everything in between. The vendors’ “junk” doesn’t feel like junk at all, but fabulous one-of-a-kind pieces that will have you rearranging your home to make space for a rainbow Buddha lamp that you didn’t know you needed. Let’s not call this an event, but an experience–one that every city slicker should experience if only once.

Take a Class
While you can do this pretty much anywhere, no place offers variety quite like New York. There are literally hundreds of classes to choose from; what’s more is that many of them are free! On warmer spring afternoons, take advantage of yoga in Bryant Park. On chillier days, plenty of rec centers offer free indoor yoga on the weekends. The New York Public Library boasts everything from chess lessons to crochet/knitting instruction. Do you want to learn how to cook like a Top Chef or perfect your pottery skills like Demi Moore (Patrick Swayze not included)? Check out Groupon and Living Social for awesome daily deals on either hobby. We guarantee you’ll find yourself having fun trying new things–things that you never knew you had any interest in!

MUSEUMVisit a Museum
You don’t have to be an art buff to appreciate New York City’s incredible museums. You also don’t have to be loaded. With most museums offering donation-only days, there’s no reason not to make the trip to Manhattan. Whether it’s The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Frick Collection, or The Cloisters, there’s enough inspirational eye candy for the average Joe to just stare for hours. If you think it’s all paintings, think again. You’ll encounter everything from unicorn tapestries to suits of armor. If you’re looking for great photo opps, play paparazzi with your favorite celebrities at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Science and anatomy lovers will be blown away by BODIES… The Exhibition where over 200 human forms are displayed in all of their inner beauty. There’s no shortage of museums in the city, so find one that fits your interests.

Take a Tour
It’s common knowledge that tourism in The Big Apple centers on staples like The Statue of Liberty and The Empire State Building. While you should definitely see these landmarks, if only once, know that city tours can be so much more unusual and fun! Take a ride on the TMZ bus to see all of the city’s celebrity hot-spots. Take advantage of the countless New York City and/or Brooklyn brewery and winery tours. Take a bike tour through Strawberry Fields in Central Park–not after your brewery tour, of course! You should probably avoid a tour through the New York City precinct. Just use your imagination (and Google)! There’s so much more to see than old Lady Liberty.

Check out our Feb/Mar issue to see the rest of “Spring in the City” and more!