Cougar the Musical: fun, sexy and entertaining

I went to see Cougar The Musical at St. Luke's Theatre this afternoon, and it was simply delightful!

Cougar the Musical

What fun! I love a show that celebrates women's sexuality, especially when the women are experienced in life.

Each Cougar in the show goes on a journey that includes encounters with young pups and discovering love along the way. And I'm not necessarily talking about love of their partners, but of love of self, acceptance of sexual prowess as a part of who they are, and a love of life with all it's infinite possibilities.

This fun romp, filled with song, dance and humor (where age is never an issue where love is concerned or when it comes to hooking up for some fun), plays on Saturdays at 2PM in New York at the St. Luke's Theater.

Cougar the Musical is a celebration of life and women who refuse to stop living it... even as they get older!!

Get your tickets here.


The Talent Behind WHAT MAISIE KNEW!


What Maisie Knew is one of my favorites, both as a project I worked on, and as a film. This movie, based on a modernized version of Henry James 1897 Novel, was beautifully shot and smartly cast (and crewed). 

Since its premier at 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, What Maisie Knew was nominated for the Tokyo Grand Prix at the 2012 Tokyo International Film Festival, and was chosen as the New York Times Critics' Pick. It's done well in the indie film world, and continues to gather more fans. Now available on iTunes, Amazon and Vudu, What Maisie Knew is definitely worth seeing.

Play-button-redPush Play to watch trailer if you cannot see video on your device. 

Directing team, Scott McGehee  and David Siegel, knew what they were doing when they cast this film. The chemistry and talent of the actors is why this movie is relate-able to all of us, even though it's shot from a child's perspective. Seeing the world through a child's eyes is part of the magic that Onata Aprile brings this to life as Maisie, which won her the "Outstanding Achievement in Acting Award" at the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival.

An amazing child-actress, Onata carries this film with her endearing and emotionally real performances in scenes with Julianne Moore (Maisie's aging rock star mother), Steve Coogan (Maisie's art-dealing father), and with both Alexander Skarsgård (Lincoln) and Joanna Vanderham (Maggie) -- the two adults who see what Maisie knows.

Joanna and OnataBeside Onata Aprile, the other great talent who was unknown to most American audiences before this film is Joanna Vanderham (Pictured here with Onata  during the filming of What Maisie Knew).

Joanne's preformance as Maggie made me cry and laugh and feel. Working with her was a dream, so I am happy that she is now playing more and more visible roles -- like the role of Denise in the PBS Masterpiece Classic Series,The Paradise. If you haven't started watching it yet, you should!

Soon, Joanna can be seen playing Pamela in Dancing on the Edge, a 2013 British BBC drama by Stephen Poliakoff, which will air on Starz as a miniseries. It premiers October 19th at 10PM, so set your DVR or whatever it is you these days do to make sure you don't miss the next big thing in TV. That's what Joanna Vanderham is quickly becoming -- the next big thing!

The more I see, the more the talent of What Maisie Knew amazes me.

Cinderella on Broadway: as magical as ever!

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I went to see the revival of Rogers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA on Broadway a few weeks ago and fell in love all over again. Maybe I'm just a sucker for a good love story, but I know this musical inside out, and have since I was a child. I grew up watching it, listening to it, and singing every song . . . in my own little corner.

I admit I was a little skeptical when I heard that they had "updated" it, especially given my familiarity, and childlike awe for this musical. It's kinda like love, the second time you fall it's almost never as powerful or wondrous as that first magic crush. So you really don't want to go, if it's just going to hurt. Trust me, I've had devastating revival-depression before (See my review of the 25th anniversary reworked version of LES MIZ). 

But Musical Theatre is my one true love, so I put my fears aside and went. I even let myself feel hopeful enthusiasm along with of all the other audience members. As we entered the theatre, I was filled with anticipation. I was so excited about the possibility of being swept off my feet again, I bought myself the Cinderella tiara from the theatre souvenir counter. AND I wore it, feeling as if I was going to the Ball to meet my Prince.

Uh-oh! I'm in trouble now. Worried that revival might break my heart beyond repair, I took my seat. 

Then, something amazing happened. The overture began and, suddenly, I was lost in the music. Played flawlessly by the orchestra, it sounded even better than I remembered -- perhaps it's the new orchestration. Still, I knew every note and had to bite my tongue not to sing out the news!

If you are unable to view video on your devise, push the play to watch the Cinderella on Broadway Trailer. Play-button-red

"It's possible, it's possible!" I was completely caught up in the show from overture to ovation. It was as magical as I had dreamed it could be.

I love the updates too, they all were perfectly consistent with truth of the story, and the real meaning behind love.

Cinderella's strength came through in Laura Osnes' performance. Her voice is Disney beautiful, as is she. Osnes is very believable as a girl who has found a way to make her lot in life (being basically her step-mothers and sisters handmaid) tolerable. Without an ounce of bitterness, this Cinderella is smart. She finds joy in reading and learning, and never falls victim to playing the victim to her circumstances. Instead, because of her own understanding of limitations, she is kind and empathetic towards others. This quality come through in her desire to help people champion their causes to make their lives better. Laura Osne's Cinderella comes a cross as sincere -- a girl who dreams, yet sees the world realistically. (Side-note: I also absolutely LOVED Laura Osnes as Bonnie in Frank Wildhorn's BONNIE & CLYDE.)

The prince, played by Santino Fontana, is just plain funny. His voice is so gorgeous, it's enchanting. If he wanted to sing to me all day, I might even consider marrying him, too. Though this prince has his own reservations about running the kingdom, it is clear that he will never be truly great without Cinderella's savvy. Nice touch, new book writer, Douglass Carter Beane!

Speaking of the new book, I loved that there was a new character added, Jean-Michell (Greg Hildreth), who challenges the prince to make the kingdom a better one while also providing another quirky love-storyline with one of the "evil" step-sisters, Gabielle (Marla Mindellle). I didn't even mind that Ann Harada's Charlotte is the only one singing the Sister's Lament. She's funny and endearing in her evil ways. But one of the best played under-appreciated roles was Lord Pinkleton (Phumzile Sojola), his voice is delicious and his demeanor is hilariously formal in his tights.  

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The visual impact of the show is magical - from the set, designed by Anna Louizos (See my illegally taken photo of the stage), to William Ivey Long's stunning costumes (pictured below, behind me and my friend outside the theatre) Amazingly, every magic transformation happens on stage -- right in front of the audience. No lighting tricks necessary when there is true magic. This is the stuff of real theatre. This is why we love Broadway Musicals.

Don't miss the magic! From cast to music, from book to setting, there is nothing but wonder to be had with this brilliant production of Rogers and Hammerstein's CINDERELLA. We all deserve a night at the Ball.

A Lovely Night!

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The Heiress on Broadway ends with success

I'm sad to say that the limited run of The Heiress on Broadway had its final performance last night. I very much enjoyed the show, which was the Broadway debut for both Jessica Chastain (as the heiress, Catherine Sloper) and Dan Stevens (as the handsome Morris Townsend).

This play is a story of love and cruel reality.

Both Jessica Chastain (who found her way into all our hearts as Celia in The Help), and Dan Stevens (British television & stage actor most know for his role of Mathew Crawley in the series Downton Abby) brought The Heiress to life through their subtle and moving performances as the young leads, but none more than Miss Chastain, herself.

With her portrayal of Cathrine's transformation from wide-eye, awkward, naive girl to strong, determined, unrelenting woman, Jessica took audiences on an unexpected ride through the trials faced by coming of age, finding love, and learning the truth.

To make her believable as an unattractive woman, Jessica donned a fake nose and unbecoming wig to play the role Catherine who strives to get her father, Dr. Austin Sloper (David Strathairn), to approve her marriage to the young, handsome Morris Townsend. Armed by her belief in Morris' love, and untethered by her father's lifelong wish that she were more like her late mother (graceful and beautiful), Catherine stands up for what she wants for the first time in her life. Despite the nagging insecurities embedded in her psyche since her birth as her father's disappointment, she remains blissfully unaware of his belief that no man would/could love her for her charm, whit, or beauty -- but only for her inheritance. 

Ultimately, it is not the disappointment of her lover's failure to show up for their secret marriage that dampens Cathrine's hopes of happiness, it is the reality of her father's views about her which kill her dreams. Forced to face a very different world than she had believed in before she knew his true feelings, Cathrine does not falter. As the reality her father outlines to her sinks in, she accepts the truth for what it is without losing herself. Finding an inner strength born out of an understanding of her own limitations, Catherine is determined not to fool herself further. No longer idealistic about the world or her future, she becomes a force to be reckoned with as she takes complete charge of her life for the first time.

The complexities of Catherine's character make it a difficult role to pull off. An actress without the right take or understanding of the intricacies of this character could easily result in Catherine coming across as a pathetic, lonely woman or a bitter, angry bitch -- unlikeable in either case. But not with Jessica Chastain. She skillfully navigated the twists and turns of Catherine's journey with grace so the audience couldn't help but fall in love with Catherine through her metamorphosis. Awed by the pure acceptance and fortitude that Jessica instilled in this character, the audience not only ended up respecting Catherine's unwavering strength to face life without any illusions, but kept routing for her until the bitter end. Bravo Jessica!

If you didn't get the chance to see Jessica on Broadway, have no fear. Both of her latest blockbuster movies, Mama and in Zero Dark Thirty (for which she won the Golden Globe and is up for the Oscar for Best Actress), are currently playing in theaters around the nation. In both, Jessica will, once again, wow you by her talent at bringing to life very different characters (with of these roles differing greatly from her Broadway role of Cathrine, and her first Oscar Nominated role of Celia in The Help). In each of her works, Jessica Chastain's acting range is impressive. She thrives on playing many different kind of women, and we are glad to have that kind of actress back on the silver screen.

Stay tuned for more on the Oscars, Jessica Chastain and the next big movie of her career, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (which is dear to my heart....for reasons to be revealed in a later post).

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SMASH-ing Bollywood

OMG...did you see the latest SMASH on NBC? I'm referring to the Epi that just aired tonight - Monday, April 23rd.

I am officially in love with Bollywood.

The fantasy segment that takes place during the dinner scene at an Indian restaurant with Karen (Katharine McPhee) and her hot boyfriend Dev (Raza Jaffrey), which manifested as a Bollywood number, is the best thing I've ever seen. Now, I urgently need to go see Bollywood movies everyday! Watch some for yourself

The number made me so happy that I had to rewind and watch it several times, over and over again, before I could finish watching the episode. It's amazing!

Thanks SMASH for opening my eyes to an artform I never knew I loved so much. BOLLYWOOD!!

(Sidenote: When I was out the other night having cocktails with my peeps from the Metropolitain Opera, I met one of the SMASH stars, Jaime Cepero, who plays Ellis (Eileen's Assistant). He was lovely, young and green. Someday, I'm sure he'll learn the value of knowing the crew that makes him look so the name of his costumer.)

Bollywood Rocks!!

Bonnie and Clyde win hearts on Broadway

Bonnie and ClydeI admit I'm a sucker for a good love story, especially one that lives out of bounds and thrives against all odds. The romance of Bonnie and Clyde is a timeless and epic love story that has captured the imagination of our nation for over half a century.

Take that and put it to music and what do you get? In this case, a production that magnificently expresses the story of the romance, danger, risk-taking, wonder and hope of the legend of Bonnie and Clyde.

Although known outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde have always been seen as heroes and celebrities. This production emphasizes that element of their story. Through this show you come to understand, on a gut level, that the reason for Bonnie and Clyde's success was their love for one another. Together they were able to rise above what they had, and where they came from, to make a life for themselves that was beyond anything they would have had separately.

Click here to view Bonnie and Clyde Broadway Musical Trailer on Youtube.

Bonnie and Clyde's inability to live without one another is expressed exquisitely, not only through the music by Frank Wildhorn with lyrics by Don Black (which is beautifully written and preformed), it is also expressed through Jeremy Jordon and Laurie Osnes' embodiment of these two lover through their physical and emotional interactions with each other. The music, harmonies and vocal performances of the score create a world in which you feel a part of this love and desire, not an observer of it.

Jeremy Jordon and Laurie Osnes sweep you off your feet, convincingly recreating the intense connection of these two characters. From the moment they first meet the chemistry between them is real and palpable. There is not a moment where you doubt their desire, tenderness and need for each other. Because there is no holding back in the very physical connection of Bonnie and Clyde (and by physical, I mean PDA relationship on the stage), the touching and kissing has the potential to be awkward or too explicit. But it never becomes either because Jeremy and Laurie's performance is so pure that the tender devotion which underpins the physical is always evident when they touch.Bonnie-and-clydeThe BONNIE AND CLYDE Broadway Musical works because, as an audience member, you feel like you are let inside their world and allowed to go along for the ride with them. Bonnie and Clyde seem like your friends, not criminals, creating empathy for their plight in life and admiration for their tenacity. They never give up, even when everything seems to work against them. And even when you know that they won't live forever, you route for them to make it through anyway. From beginning to end, you never feel like an outsider looking in - you feel like a part of the it all. 

Don't miss Bonnie and Clyde on Broadway

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The AUDELCO Awards: I pick Jay Ward in "Cool Blues"

Back in March, I wrote a review encouraging those who could to see "Cool Blues," a play written by Bill Harris about alto saxophonist Charlie Parker in 1955, to go see it. Produced at The New Federal Theatre in New York City, the most moving aspect of this play for me was watching Jay Ward's performance as Kid Welpool. Ward_Jay_Legit-long

Apparently, I'm not the only one who noticed his talent. On Enchanted Tickets Review of "Cool Blues," Jay Ward was noted for his skillful rendition of an addict settling into madness. I'm please to let you know that his performance has now earned him a well deserved nomination for Best Supporting Actor by the AUDELCO Award. AUDELCO

AUDELCO, the Audience Development Committee, Inc., was established in 1973 by the late Vivian Robinson to honor excellence in New York Afican American Theatre through presentation of Vivan Robinson/AUDELCO Recognition Awards (aka Viv awards). The awards were created to promote "recognition, understanding and awareness of the arts in the African-American community".

Congratulations Jay Ward!

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Cool Blues is really cool: at the New Federal Theatre

Cool Blues_flyerCOOL BLUES a New Federal Theatre production, is playing at the Henry Street Settlement Underground Theatre through April 3rd.

I'm not sure I understood it all, and I'm not really a big Jazz History buff, but this play is definitely worth seeing. The story itself is about a Jazz Saxophone player called B -- who was actual name was Charlie Parker (Marcus Naylor), and his extraordinary talent.

Set in the 1950's, the action primarily takes place in the apartment of his wealthy white friend Baroness Alexandra Isabella von Templeton, known as Xan (Terria Joseph). Their friendship is unconventional for the time and the differences in social position is touched on. Some of the messages were typical addressing the idea that Blacks are not afforded the same opportunities as whites and therefore should illicit some sympathy - which I find to be a tired story. But that was only addressed as necessary for this story that took place in a very different social and political time than the present.

The play focused on a man who'd had success in his art. B takes the audience on his journey as he reviews his life (through memory sequences and visions) as he comes near death; evaluating what he had accomplished and what he'd lost along the way and even dreaming of what could be.

The memory sequences worked well. I very much enjoyed those that incorporated his friend Bud Powell, Jazz Master Pianist (Played by the talented Jay Ward - Pictured below). 









Mr. Ward's performance of Bud Powell from a vibrant talented young player, to the man he became later in life when he suffered from schizophrenia is moving and heartbreaking.

If you love Jazz, are interested in that era, and the lives of these Jazz Greats, COOL BLUES is a play to see.




SPIDER-MAN: a Broadway Entertainment Event!

IMG_5208 We all know that SPIDER-MAN on Broadway has been having some trouble saving the word from villains without injury. It's most definitely a complicated production - but that makes for a fantastical experience.

True, Julie Taymor was fired this past Wednesday...and replaced by Phil McKinley (THE BOY FROM OZ) and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to re-write and revise the show. But that made seeing it now even more fun, so I went to see the Spidey Julie was fired from.

Despite complaints that the story sucks and songs are far from what one would expect for a true American Musical Theatre was a wondrously entertaining experience.

The word "awesome" comes to mind. The amount of stunts and effects that are incorporated into this theatrical event is overwhelming. It's not so much about the story or music as it is about creating a different world for the audience to live in for 2 hours and 45 minutes (which is a little exhausting with all the simulation).

It's all about the special effects. I can best describe this production as a mixture of a living comic book, Cirque Du Soleil, a rock concert and Step Up 3 Final Battle. And to top it off, because of all the press regarding the injuries sustained by the actors during SPIDER-MAN's preview run, Fear Factor comes to mind. I was truly afraid for my life, watching Spider-man and his various girls flying over my head throughout the production - I could have been killed if a cable snapped!

Still, you would think that with all the money they are pouring into SPIDER-MAN, they could have done a better job hiding the cables...LOL. But seriously, sight-lines were horrendous and a big distraction for me during the show. I was sitting in the 7th row - prime seating (in fact, it was the seating reserved for press so it should be the best in the house) and I could see everything they were doing off stage left. This took me out of the story and annoyed me greatly.

The other problem I had as a viewer was that there is so much happening at one time that sometimes - like when Spidey is flying over me to the back of the theatre, or when several different actions are simultaneously occurring on numerous levels of the elaborate set - I didn't know what to watch to stay with the storyline. I believe it is the director's responsibility to insure that the audience can follow the main action and know where their eye should go at any given point in the production. In this way SPIDER-MAN failed. I think I even missed him saving the world because there was so much happening at once...

But the highlights were truly HIGH lights - the costumes were magnificent, but we knew they would be with Julie Taymor on the clock. And some of the sets and illusions created with the use of imaging combined with physical set pieces moving were brilliant. They brought a two-dimensional comic book world into three dimensions.

And the dance numbers were fantastic! Especially, the initial Arachne number with the set weaving in concert with the dancers behind her. And the "Pull The Trigger" dance with the solders - that was amazing.

So to sum it all up, if you don't really care about the story and don't necessarily want to hear great music but you want to have an experience like none other on Broadway, SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK is definitely worth seeing.

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New Works 2011: a festival of short plays

New Works 2011 That's right, I'm performing in one of the original plays being presented at this year's New Works 2011 festival of short plays. The festival is running from January 26-29 at 8pm at the Richmond Shepard Theatre on East 26th at 2nd Avenue in New York City.

Events like this, are what makes New York the place to come for arts and theatre, providing an opportunity for playwrights, actors, and directors to show off their work. Join me for a fun evening of 27 actors presenting 8 new short plays, from comedy to drama. I'll be playing the part of Sue - a bubbly, member of the Paugatuck Players - in the delightful new comedy, THE COMMITTEE by Jim Gorden. 

Don't miss it!
For reservations call the Box Office at: 212-684-2690