Theatre yesterday and today



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I — along with 153 other lucky folks — got to attend a Q & A with the legendary actor-writer-director-author Alan Alda yesterday afternoon. It took place in the intimate Robin Williams Center on West 54th Street courtesy of the AFTRA-SAG Foundation. Alda held the audience in the palm of his hand with an overabundance of charm and wit that were dazzling (there’s no other word for it). His secret, I suppose, is that he is a genuinely authentic person who has lived an exemplary life. His effortless ability to communicate honestly and directly is a tonic, especially at a time in our national psyche where such a person is a rarity. In all seriousness, it felt as if we were celebrating all that is


This being Veterans Day (and with memories of war dead on our minds), it’s appropriate that on this date eighty-two years ago the fabled Mercury Theatre’s revolutionary modern-dress production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar opened on Broadway. The brainchild of its director Orson Welles (who also produced alongside John Houseman), with its conspirators dressed in suits and ties, the game of back-stabbing (and front-stabbing) was a first for audiences caught up at the time in an international game of intrigue that portended an encroaching menace by way of a fascist leader. Sound familiar? Orson Welles (at age 22) as Brutus in Julius Caesar (1937) Founded by Welles and Houseman, the Mercury to


If you’re a fan of Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller, the ebullient stride piano player and jazz composer whose work has been forever enshrined in the Tony Award winning Best Musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin’, then it might come as a surprise that once upon a time he composed the score for a hit Broadway musical Early to Bed, that opened in June of 1943. This was only three months after Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! had arrived, changing forever the way audiences perceived musicals, with its songs interweaved dramatically and that began sixteen years earlier with Showboat (also with a book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein). The times they were a-changing, and even though Early to Bed broke no n


I have written close to 400 of these “Theatre Yesterday and Today” columns over a two and a half year period and was surprised that after discovering today was the birthdate of Art Carney that I hadn’t already written one about him. I keep a master list and had to do a search twice because I could have sworn I had done it before now. Anyway, in the tradition of better late than never, here is a salute to one of my favorite actors. Arthur William Matthew Carney (1918–2003).​ Predictably, when Art Carney passed in 2003 at the age of eighty-five, the first line of nearly all his obituaries mentioned his portrayal of Ed Norton, the proud sewer man and do-or-die best friend of bus driver Ralph Kr

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© 2016 Ron Fassler - All rights Reserved

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