Really?!? COOL!!

‘Animal House’ Musical Heads to Broadway With Barenaked Ladies

NEW YORK — It’s toga-party time on Broadway.

A classic of the gross-out comedy genre, the 1978 John Landis feature National Lampoon’s Animal House will join the long list of movie hits being retooled as theatrical musicals. Universal Pictures Stage Productions announced development of the project Monday.

The show will have an original score by Canadian alt-rockers Barenaked Ladies and a book by playwright Michael Mitnick, based on the screenplay by Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller. Casey Nicholaw, a Tony Award winner for The Book of Mormon, has signed on as director and choreographer.

Universal has had major stage successes on Broadway and internationally with its properties Wicked and Billy Elliot: The Musical and is producing the national tour of Bring It On: The Musical. The studio’s theatrical division also has served as a Broadway producer on The Merchant of Venice, with Al Pacino, and on the current production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. On both those latter ventures, Universal has collaborated with producers Jeffrey Richards and Jerry Frankel, who are partnering on Animal House.

Also on board as producer is James L. Nederlander, president of theater group the Nederlander Organization. National Lampoon founding publisher Matty Simmons, who was a producer (with Ivan Reitman) of the 1978 feature, will serve as executive producer on the stage project.

Set in 1962, the Landis comedy chronicled the efforts of a college dean to expel the disreputable Delta fraternity from his campus for repeat conduct violations and poor grades, using the squeaky-clean Omega boys to implement his plan. But the party animals proved no easy prey, responding with a counter-attack that culminated in the sabotaging of Faber College’s annual homecoming parade.

The movie starred John Belushi, Tom Hulce, Stephen Furst, Tim Matheson, Peter Riegert, Karen Allen, John Vernon, Donald Sutherland and Kevin Bacon, in his first film role. It was budgeted at a mere $2.7 million and went on to gross $141.6 million domestically.

No cast, dates or venue have been set for the developing musical.


If I were to be in New York, I would go!

Hugh Craig, Daniel Jackman sell out on Broadway
NEW YORK (Reuters) ñ Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig, best known for playing big screen action heroes Wolverine and James Bond, have drawn record ticket sales for their play “A Steady Rain,” but it drew mixed reviews on Wednesday after opening night.
USA Today raved that the two actors put in “stellar turns,” but The New York Times’ verdict was “Big names, little show.”
The producers said this week the play broke the record for the highest weekly box office gross for a non-musical production on Broadway, taking in $1.17 million in the week ending September 20.
Craig and Jackman are among the big name stars producers hope will boost sales on Broadway at a time of recession.
The play, by playwright Keith Huff, was a hit in Chicago before being brought to Broadway, where Jackman and Craig portray two Windy City cops, Denny and Joey, offering different accounts of a harrowing event that changed their lives.
New York Times critic Ben Brantley wrote that the play “is probably best regarded as a small, wobbly pedestal on which two gods of the screen may stand in order to be worshiped.”
He added that the woman he saw the play with likely expressed the feelings of many in the audience when she said: “If only … the play had been set in a police station locker room, where the characters might frequently change clothes.”
New York post critic Elisabeth Vincentelli said Jackman was “vastly appealing” but miscast as a self-destructive troublemaker.
“Craig, his upper lip swallowed whole by a police-issue mustache, fares better and single-handedly lifts up the show,” Vincentelli wrote. “Craig and Jackman were clearly eager to appear on stage together. Too bad they picked a clunky squad car for a vehicle.”
Daily News critic Joe Dziemianowicz said the British and Australian actors “ooze confidence and charisma” but the play “is a stark and modest work that’s all talk and no action.”
He said the play underlined a familiar lesson: “Megastars can turn reading the phone book into an event. But that doesn’t guarantee a wholly satisfying experience.”
Elysa Gardner of USA Today was more generous: “Huff’s briskly absorbing script has its cliches and contrivances, but Denny and Joey are drawn with such earthy wit and non-patronizing compassion that Rain never rings false or superficial.”
“It’s hard to imagine a better vehicle for two actors who clearly don’t need larger-than-life characters to deliver grand performances,” she wrote.
Jackman, 40, an Australian who starred in Hollywood hits such as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” has starred on stage in New York before, winning a Tony, Broadway’s top honor, for his portrayal of singer/songwriter Peter Allen in “The Boy from Oz” in 2004.
Craig, 41, has a strong record on the London stage but is making his Broadway debut. He is best known for playing British super spy James Bond in recent movie box office hits, “Casino Royale” and “Quantum of Solace.”
“A Steady Rain” is scheduled to run until December 6.


I had a chance to see it for free and I wasn’t interested, I can’t imagine having to pay $120!!

‘LOTR’ musical closing early
TORONTO (CP) – Just three months after it opened to largely negative reviews, producers of the $28-million Lord of the Rings stage show have announced it is closing.
“If the critics think they don’t have power, believe me they do,” Rings producer Kevin Wallace told a news conference Wednesday. The show will close Sept. 3. A revamped version will reopen next May 9 in London.
Wallace levelled much of the blame for the show’s abbreviated Toronto run at critics, saying the show had had a “rough ride” on this side of the Atlantic.
“When you’re going to spend $120 (on a ticket), you do need the affirmation,” he said.
Calling London the “spiritual home” of the show, he said British critics responded more favourably.
The show, based on the beloved J.R.R. Tolkien novel, opened with great fanfare in March.
Clocking in at three hours and 30 minutes, it was widely acknowledged to be a technological wonder with 17 elevators embedded in the 36-tonne, computer-controlled stage floor.
But the reaction from many established critics was tepid.
The New York Times said: “Everyone and everything winds up lost in this … adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s cult-inspiring trilogy of fantasy novels. That includes plot, character and the patience of most ordinary theatregoers.”
Added The Associated Press: “Deciphering the story, adapted by Shaun McKenna and director Matthew Warchus, may be the hardest part of a theatregoer’s job. . . . The nearly 60 actors on stage have trouble making much of an impression.”
Wallace said the London version will be tweaked and whittled down to three hours.
Some of the Toronto company will also join that production, with details to be announced in September, he said.
Toronto Mayor David Miller blamed the Rings closing on the reluctance of Americans to travel in large numbers in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Despite the critical barbs, the Lord of the Rings cleaned up at the Dora theatre awards handed out earlier this week. It was named outstanding new musical and won six other awards.


I can’t imagine sitting through this!

Mixed reviews for ‘Lord of the Rings’ musical
The $28-million Lord of the Rings musical, which opened in Toronto Thursday night, earned praise from one important audience member ñ the granddaughter of author J.R.R. Tolkien.
“It√≠s very beautifully done,” said Rachel Tolkien, 35, who ventured from France to attend the show√≠s debut at the Princess of Wales theatre. “Everything that, to me, is the most important and most moving in the books is on the stage.”
The three-and-a-half hour show, with two short intermissions, got a long standing ovation as the cast of almost 60, the producers, composers and British director Matthew Warchus took their bows.
The showís technical wizardry ó with 17 movable elevators ó got a big thumbs up from many critics but many of them gave the show a tepid review.
“Why we√≠re left bored of the Rings” was the headline in Friday√≠s Toronto Star. While reviewer Richard Ouzounian praised the “endless visuals” and special effects, he said the actors wind up like “pawns in a giant rapid-fire chess game.”
Ouzounian criticized the showís director for leaving the audience with a show that was neither a play nor a musical. So much is packed into it, that character development suffers, he said.
Like many critics, he praised actor Michael Therriault ó who recently played Tommy Douglas on CBCís biopic and also starred in The Producers as Leo Bloom ó for his gripping scenes as Gollum.
Charles Spencer of The Telegraph in Britain characterized the show as “weary” and concluded there was “nothing here to rival the imaginative visual coups and heart-tugging emotion of such great family shows as Billy Elliot, The Lion King and Mary Poppins.”
The music, a mixture of folk, mystic sounds and eastern chants composed by Finland√≠s V‚Ä∞rttin‚Ä∞ and India√≠s A.R. Rahman, was engaging, Spencer said. But key moments, such as fight scenes, were lacklustre, he wrote, saying “jaw-dropping coups de th√à‚Äötre are in short supply.”
Spencer also wondered why Canadian stage and film veteran Brent Carver seemed to lack the charisma needed to bring the wizard Gandalf to life.
The Associated Press critic called Carver√≠s Gandalf a “washed-out wizard” and concluded the musical was a flattened adaptation of the trilogy with “moments of satisfying spectacle and elegant design.”
Brent Brantley of the New York Times said he felt lost while watching the show, deeming it “incomprehensible.” It felt like a very long high school drill team competition, he said. He was less than engaged with the music which he termed “Enya meets ashram.”
Brantley extolled the talents of the “scenery-chewing” Therriault as Gollum and Evan Buliung as Aragorn.
The Lord of the Rings is playing at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre.


Well, who expected “the Producers” to work?

Mel Brooks Mulling Broadway ‘Frankenstein’
As Mel Brooks prepares to introduce the movie remake of “The Producers” next month, the legendary entertainer is mulling a return to his cult classic 1974 comedy, “Young Frankenstein,” this time for a possible Broadway version.
“Me and [Thomas Meehan], who wrote the book with me on the original musical of ‘The Producers,’ we’re working on ‘Young Frankenstein’ for Broadway,” Brooks tells Billboard. “Whether it comes out or not, I don’t know, but we’re having fun working on it. I have six or seven songs written for it.”
Asked if this would then lead to an updated film version of “Frankenstein,√Æ much as the Broadway run of “The Producers” has now spawned a film, Brooks says, “As soon as it’s a musical, they’ll want to remake it!√Æ
In the new “Producers” film, Broadway cast members Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick return alongside Will Ferrell as playwright Franz Liebkind and Uma Thurman as Swedish secretary Ulla.
Brooks wrote a new end-credit track, “There’s Nothing Like a Show on Broadway,” which is featured on the Sony Classical soundtrack along with a Celine Dion-style power ballad performance of “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” by Ferrell.
Brooks cautions audiences to stay in their seats for the credits: “So many things are going to happen and the audience will be unsuspecting. They’ll get up and leave and miss three or four minutes of wacky, heavenly stuff.”


Don’t forget the movie version of “The Producers” which is coming out in December!

The odd couple
NEW YORK ó Walking along 42nd Street between Broadway and Eighth Avenue this past month, you could have turned in either direction and spotted Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.
At Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the actors are represented as the characters who brought them together on stage: Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, the bumbling protagonists of Mel Brooks’ The Producers.
Across the street, Broderick and Lane have been rehearsing in the flesh for a new production of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Previews begin next Tuesday at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where the show, directed by Joe Mantello, opens Nov. 4. If you haven’t nabbed a ticket yet, as they say in Max and Leo’s business, break a leg.
Like The Producers, Simon’s 40-year-old comedy finds Lane and Broderick stepping into roles made famous by other performers. Art Carney and Walter Matthau introduced unlikely roommates Felix Ungar and Oscar Madison on Broadway, while Jack Lemmon and Matthau played them on screen. For millions of TV viewers, Tony Randall’s fussy Felix and Jack Klugman’s gruff Oscar became definitive incarnations.
But the stiffest competition for the new couple √≥ Broderick as Felix; Lane as Oscar √≥ may be themselves. Though their only joint project prior to The Producers was the animated Disney flick The Lion King, their rapport in Brooks’ hit musical established them as a showbiz dream team.
“There’s this mythology about Nathan and Matthew, though they’ve just done one play together,” Mantello says. That mythology may take on new proportions in December, when The Producers: The Movie Musical arrives, with Broderick, Lane and Broadway co-stars Roger Bart and Gary Beach reprising their roles alongside Uma Thurman and Will Ferrell.
For now, Broderick, 43, and Lane, 49, seem content to be the hottest duo treading the boards this fall.
Q: I’ve heard you two described as an iconic team. Do you have a sense of being viewed that way?
Broderick: I feel like we’ve had this history in vaudeville, like we came up through the circuit together.
Lane: It’s unusual. It doesn’t happen much anymore. The last team you can really think of is (Jackie) Gleason and (Art) Carney on television. I guess you could say Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. Well, Owen Wilson, he’ll team with anyone.
Broderick: So will I. How about Chris Farley and –
Lane: David Spade? Were they an iconic team?
Broderick: They did four or five movies together.
Lane: That doesn’t make them iconic. (Pause) You know, to us, it’s just about being two actors who respect each other and enjoy working together. We became friends doing The Producers.
Broderick: That show was a perfect fit, right from the shoot for the poster. Maybe we won’t have it here. Then we’ll have the big breakup.
Q: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. How did the idea to work together again in The Odd Couple come about?
Broderick: I’ve always loved that play, and in the back of my mind, I knew that some day I wanted to do it. I like all of Neil’s plays, and I hadn’t worked with him in 20 years or something.
Lane: When I was a kid, I joined the Fireside Theater Play of the Month Club, and the first play they sent me was The Odd Couple. So it’s always been in the back of my head as well. We mentioned it to Manny (Azenberg, Simon’s longtime producer) while we were doing The Producers.
Broderick: We were just starting, still in previews.
Lane: Then (Simon) wrote this letter where he said, “I really want you to play Oscar and (Broderick) to play Felix. I’m not going to give the rights to anyone else; I want you guys, so let’s work out the timing.” What a great way to be able to honor him, with one of his best plays. We both have a history with him, obviously. (Broderick starred in Simon’s Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues on Broadway, and the latter on film, while Lane’s credits include the original Broadway production of the playwright’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor and the national tour of his Broadway Bound.)
Q: What was it like working with him on an older piece?
Broderick: He changed a line here or there, but it was different from working with him on original plays. In those days, he would wander off and come back with a whole new scene.
Lane: Every once in a while, he would still come over with a new page and say, “What do you think?” He couldn’t resist. But we all decided to just do the original play. Don’t update it, don’t give them cellphones, you know? It’s a period piece, a comedy set in the ’60s about divorce.
Q: A lot of people are most familiar with The Odd Couple through the television series. Do you think they’ll find surprises in this production?
Lane: The TV show was wonderful but doesn’t have much to do with the play. Especially Tony’s take on Felix. The show incorporated Tony’s love of opera, and it really became a much more flamboyant character through his performance, which was great. In the play, I mean, he is this obsessive-compulsive type, but he’s also an extremely distraught man who has lost his marriage. It’s gotten so bad that his wife says, “You have to leave, I can’t take this anymore.” And that kills him, because that was his whole life.
Broderick: Both characters have some distance from their divorces in the TV series. Both are more comfortable with it; they go on dates. This is more about taking that first step.
Lane: Yeah, even in my case. I don’t think (Oscar) was a guy who cared that much about how the house was taken care of. But now that there isn’t someone there to take care of things, it’s really gone to seed. He gives this impression of, “Yeah, life’s fine; I go on, I like playing poker and drinking and having a cigar with my friends, and I have a great job.” But when his kid calls him, it hurts a little. And he gets into a little thing with his wife; he’s $800 behind in alimony.
Broderick: That’s a lot of money back in 1965. Our rent is $240.
Lane: How about that?
Q: So the comedy isn’t as broad or consistently wacky as it was in The Producers?
Lane: Not at all. It’s all about behavior. There’s a very sweet quality to it.
Broderick: And a musical, by nature, is different. In The Producers, most of our scenes were short. There were a couple of quick jokes, and then something else happened or you sang. In this play, we’re sitting around blathering.
Lane: I think it’s more than blathering.
Broderick: It is √≥ it’s a lot more, which makes it challenging. You have to figure out how to keep it alive and interesting for long stretches. You’re not thinking “one more minute and then a tank is going to roll on with a Nazi in it.”
Q: Speaking of Nazis, are you pleased with how the new screen adaptation of The Producers turned out?
Lane: I haven’t seen the entire movie put together, but I’ve seen bits and pieces and liked everything I saw. They had these test screenings recently that went extraordinarily well.
Broderick: It looks a lot like the (stage version), which I think is very smart. They didn’t reinvent it too much.
Lane: We’re not Chicago, if you consider that the template for a modern movie musical that works. We’re not dark and sexy √≥ well, Uma’s sexy. But we’re a comedy. You couldn’t suddenly make it all dark and gritty.
Q: Then it’s not structured so that the story takes place inside Leo Bloom’s head, like Chicago shown through the perspective of Renee Zellweger’s Roxie?
Broderick: Hmmm. Maybe I just could have gotten hit on the head on the way to the office, and suddenly I’d see people dancing around and singing –
Lane: And then you wake up in a hospital room in a coma at the end. The doctor says, “He’ll never sing again.” Good night, everybody!
Q: But we’ll be seeing so much of you in the coming months, between the movie and the play.
Broderick: Are we overexposing ourselves?
Lane: I don’t think we’re overexposed. We’re not J. Lo and … whoever.
Broderick: I don’t know. Two people on the street came over yesterday and said they had just paid $250 for tickets to the show, and they didn’t seem too happy about it. “Well, I just spent $250 to get a ticket to see your show. That’s a lot of money.” You know, I don’t think we’re going to be that good.
Lane: Oh, don’t say that. Try to be positive.


I wanna go and see it!!!

Review: Crystal’s ‘Sundays’ Hilarious
NEW YORK (AP) – “My first hero.” That’s what Billy Crystal calls his father, Jack, during “700 Sundays,” the comedian’s fond journey back to his boyhood that opened Sunday at Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre.
And the show can probably remain there for as long as Crystal is willing to tell his frankly sentimental, yet very funny tale. The man may be talking about his own family, but Crystal’s story is a universal one ó of growing up, coming to terms with his parents (not to mention a carload of crazy relatives) and making his way in the world.
Crystal, an elfin man with an endless supply of energy, is a savvy storyteller. With the help of director Des McAnuff, he has put together an affecting memoir that is surprisingly theatrical, considering the comedian is the only performer on stage.
The man certainly has had a varied and successful showbiz career ó from “Soap” to “Saturday Night Live,” movies such as “Analyze This” and, of course, gigs as host of the Academy Awards.
But what he talks about here is more personal, so it’s fitting that designer David F. Weiner’s setting is the facade of the family home, a modest brick house in suburban Long Island. The time is post-World War II when Ed Sullivan was on television, automobiles sported big fins and Mickey Mantle was the star of the New York Yankees.
Crystal is the youngest son of Jack and Helen Crystal. Dad was a jazz musician and concert promoter who also ran the Commodore Music Shop, a legendary jazz record store in New York. Mom was a housewife. And there was a parade of colorful grandparents, uncles and aunts, “the Jewish Kennedys,” according to Crystal, who would “sell you the shirt off their backs.”
The performer, dressed in a casually expensive burgundy sweater and dark slacks, prowls the stage as he lovingly tells their stories. What emerges are vivid portraits of people and a time. He talks of his Uncle Milt, who founded Commodore Records and who, among other things, recorded Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit,” when other record labels turned down the song about the lynching of a black man.
There are pictures, too, of those jazz and Dixieland musicians, garrulous, genial men who called the perpetually eager and always smiling Crystal “Face.” He remembers going to the movies with Holiday and watching “Shane,” which astonished him because it featured a little boy in a major role ó child actor Brandon de Wilde.
There’s Aunt Sheila and the story of her lesbian daughter’s wedding in San Francisco as well as his family’s encounter with a local Mafia kingpin who accidentally wrecks the family’s new Plymouth, among others.
Home movies and old black-and-white photographs complement Crystal’s monologue, and they show a peppy little boy, mugging for the camera and frantically tap-dancing, or adults doing the goofy things that always occur when the filming of home movies begins.
Yet the heart of Crystal’s evening is Jack Crystal, a man who died too young (he had a heart attack in a bowling alley at the age of 54). His death jolts his 15-year-old son into a new appreciation of what the man accomplished and what his mother, Helen, then did to keep the family together.
The show’s title, “700 Sundays,” comes from a calculation by Crystal that father and son spent that many Sundays together before Jack Crystal died. Sunday was the one day of the week the two had to enjoy each other’s company since Jack Crystal always held two or three jobs. Too short a time, of course, but they were enough to produce an affecting, hilarious evening of theater.