"UP IN THE CHEAP SEATS"

Theatre yesterday and today

 

 

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THE PRINCE OF BROADWAY

Hal Prince died today. And if you love musical theatre, it is impossible to imagine it without his creative input and generosity of spirit. In the world of theatre, there was no one I personally admired more. Not only for this many contributions as a producer and director, but also as the “prince” that he was. He mentored and aided in the careers of thousands of people over his nearly seventy-year career. It is no exaggeration when he was often referred to as the most important person in the musical theatre in the second half of the twentieth century. Harold S. Prince (1928–2019) For anyone unfamiliar with his accomplishments, prior to his first producing effort Harold S. Prince was a stage

JUROR #8

Yesterday I wrote a column on the actor Jack Warden, citing his performance as Juror #5 in the 1957 film 12 Angry Men. It got me to thinking I might write about another of those dozen grand actors, and it dawned on me that I already did (which is not too surprising, as I've written more than 350 of these "Theatre Yesterday and Todays" over what still feels like a short three-year period). In December 2017, I put together a take on the long and enviable career of Henry Fonda, which I am amending a bit to emphasize his contribution to 12 Angry Men. For not only did he play the lone holdout juror, he was also the film's producer, and therefore responsible for bringing it to the screen. To start

YOU DO KNOW JACK

For no reason (other than I just finished watching Twelve Angry Men for my umpteenth time), I thought I would write about one of the dozen wonderful actors from that 1957 film: the always pitch-perfect character actor Jack Warden. As Juror #7, he sits at the other end of the table from Juror #6 (Edward Binns as the foreman), sweating profusely and wearing a summer hat that he rarely takes off. Anxious for a swift verdict, with tickets to that night's ballgame burning a hole in his pocket, his impatience and general lack of intelligence are played to the hilt, though never descending into caricature. It's hard to believe this is the first feature film Sidney Lumet directed, in that he display

THE MOON, THE METS & MAME

Fifty years ago today, Neil Armstrong became the first man to step foot on the moon. I remember as a twelve-year-old being glued to the TV alongside my whole family while we watched Walter Cronkite, the most trusted newsman in America, wipe away tears at the sight of it. Most anyone who was alive on the planet could tell you today in an instant where they were that night. Neil Armstrong in the iconic photo shot on the surface of the moon. But that summer of ’69 was also about a lot of other things for me as a kid growing up in Great Neck, Long Island. The New York Mets, the worst team in baseball for the past seven of its eight seasons since joining the National League in 1962, were beginnin

BACK TO THE BARN

I began rehearsals today for David Yazbek and Jeffrey Lane’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Priscilla Beach Theatre in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where I’m directing a young company culled from some of the choice university musical theatre programs in the country. It’s fitting to return to PBT (for reasons you’ll soon find out) and the rich history of the theatre, and my connection to it, is worth repeating to those haven’t heard me tell it. This column is the product of some research I’ve done over the years in order to go behind-the-scenes of how this 144-year-old barn structure became what it is now: an historic playhouse. Although down to two acres from what was once a sprawling farm in th

AN ESTIMABLE DEBUT

Thirty-seven years ago tonight, a twenty-six year old actor made an auspicious Broadway debut. Cast as a slightly crazed young playwright in a revival of Noël Coward's Present Laughter at the Circle in the Square Theatre, this New Jersey native has since appeared in more than twenty other Broadway shows (many of them musicals) and fifteen Off-Broadway dramas and comedies. In that time he's fit in numerous films (sensational in The Birdcage); TV sitcoms (nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards), dramas and mini-series (F. Lee Bailey in The People v. O.J. Simpson); on-camera commercials and voiceover work including Timon the Meerkat in the first Lion King ... as well as lending his talents to

A TALE OF TWO DAVIDS

This year marks the 40th anniversary of when I got my Equity Card; the official start of my career as a professional actor. The production I was cast in that got me that card was the world premiere of a play called The Buddy System, by Jonathan Feldman, at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park (it was about young counsellors at a boys' summer camp). I remember the entire experience like it was yesterday, and among the eight-person cast are friends with whom I've kept in touch all these years. Two of them, David Garrison and David Wohl, I've been particularly close to, and whose careers I have followed joyously, whether it be film, TV or on the stage. And out of sheer coincidence, I got to see

COMEDY TONIGHT

My long and abiding affection for the Larry Gelbart, Burt Shevelove, Stephen Sondheim musical comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is because it is true to its title: Funny Stuff Happens. When it opened fifty-seven years ago tonight, critics were mad for what was described by one as being "about as crazy as anything you've ever seen in old-time vaudeville." When The Producers, with its similar style of low-comedy opened eighteen years ago, it was deemed the most hilarious show to hit town since the original Forum back in 1962. And with Nathan Lane, then the closest thing to bringing back the memory of Zero Mostel, it made people of a certain age nostalgic for a time when a c

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© 2016 Ron Fassler - All rights Reserved

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