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"Be More Chill" is a Show, Not a Karaoke Session

I'm being told of people's experiences seeing Be More Chill which just opened Off-Broadway. While everyone is raving out it, the common complaint I'm hearing are that passionate fans are singing along with the show which disrupts the experience for the people around them. 

While I am never one to try to quell fandom, I do take a hard line with this. If a fellow audience member is doing anything that distracts me from watching a performance, I lose it. It doesn't matter if it's cellphone use, unwrapping tiny candies, talking and of course, singing along with the show. 

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Never one to shy away from causing a stir, New York Times Chief Theatre Critic, Ben Brantley, has crossed a line with many due to his review of Head Over Heels which opened at the Hudson Theatre last night.

In his review, Brantley discusses the performer Peppermint with the following: 

These assorted role reversals are overseen by the wise oracle Pythio (Peppermint, a contestant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” described in the program as “the first transgender woman to create a principal role” on Broadway). Pythio identifies as “nonbinary plural.” Dametas (Tom Alan Robbins), the King’s viceroy and father of Mopsa, finds himself strangely drawn to her — I mean them. 

In addition to agreeing with anyone who would call these comments pretentious, I would also agree with anyone who would call them transphobic.

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The saga between Music Theatre International(MTI) and a children's community theatre company in Virginia just keeps getting more bizarre. 

Last week, MTI released a statement which countered many of the claims that Theaterpalooza owner, Teresa Walker, had made to local press outlets. 

On Tuesday, Ms. Walker released another statement where she claims her company is being bullied and harassed by MTI and even going as far as invoking "fake news" in regards to what MTI has stated thus far. 

The statement, obtained by OnStage Blog, was sent out to the Theaterpalooza theatre community. 

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Why Exactly Do You Go to the Theatre?

Why do people go to the theater? It’s a question to ponder on and there really is no single answer to it in my mind. I think there is something special about going to a theater and seeing a show versus going to see a movie. There is something about having that action right in front of you. After all, there is nothing like live theatre. I imagine it’s probably an escape for some people other than it being a pleasure. I know it is an escape for me and it brings me so much joy, excitement, and contentedness that I’ve kind of become addicted. Not only is it my passion, but it is a huge part of my life. Without it, I would feel as if I lost my imagination.

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'Billy Elliot' Performances Canceled Out of Fear They Could Turn Boys Gay

This morning, the Hungarian State Opera announced that a third of their performances of Billy Elliot: The Musical would be canceled due to criticism and fears that the show could turn boys gay. 

Seriously. I'm not joking. 

According to a report from CNN, the opera said that the press reports had resulted in "reduced interest" and that 15 out of the 44 performances would no longer go ahead.

In an opinion article on a conservative Hungarian website,  a contributor named Zsofia N. Horvath accused the State Opera of disseminating "rampant gay propaganda."

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News broke yesterday that the long-rumored Cats movie is officially on for production. It was announced that the Tom Hooper(Les Misérables) film is slated to start filming in November. No casting has been announced yet. Wayne McGregor(Woman in White) will serve as choreographer. 

I'd be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised that Cats is coming to the big screen. First of all, it's not like anyone was clamoring for this to be made, so I'm not sure what the excitement this is going to drum up from fans. The recent Broadway revival failed to reignite the interest that the original production had done. It's not a good sign that a revival of the 4th longest-running show in Broadway history closed after just a year. 

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Trump Supporter Attempts and Fails to Disrupt Performance of 'A Bronx Tale'

This morning it was reported that at last night's performance of A Bronx Tale, a man sitting near the front row, stood up and displayed a pro-Donald Trump sign towards the audience. 

The incident occurred during the curtain call of the show, which just seems pointless because the audience is already cheering the show.

Obviously, this man's protest was in response to Robert De Niro's "F**k Trump" comments during the Tony Awards. Mr. De Niro directed the musical and its film source material. 

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Let's Be Honest. Patti Murin was Screwed

Just so we're clear:

Patti Murin is a hundred times classier than to publicly or privately agree with anything said in this article. 

Patti Murin is a hundred times more professional than to acknowledge anything said in this article. 

Patti Murin is a hundred times more respectable to say anything similar to what is said in this article. 

To be quite honest with you, I hope she never reads this article. 

But certain things need to be said and when it comes to the 2018 Tony Awards, Patti Murin was screwed. (So was Alex Newell, but that's a different column for another day)

When Frozen premiered earlier in the year, the reviews were pretty consistent. While the show didn't win over the critics, one aspect was mentioned in virtually every review - how great Patti Murin is as Anna. Outlets such as The Daily Beast, Chicago Tribune, Time Out all pointed out how Murin was one of the best performances in the show and some even said, the entire season. Even BWW's Michael Dale titled his review, "Patti Murin Is A Ray of Sunshine in Disappointingly Perfunctory FROZEN".

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Tonys 2018 : The De Niro Dilemma

Anyone who watched the Tony award show in its entirety caught Robert De Niro’s bleeped-out remark about President Trump, and, of course, it spread through social media like wildfire.  His f**k Trump statement was a quick, yet succinct, personal, and some would say political, comment that drew the ire of some and admiration from others.  So, does this type of remark belong at an awards ceremony?

In the past, I have remarked that I don’t have a problem with expressing a political opinion at these types of shows. When actors addressed Vice President Pence at Hamilton, I supported their right to make their feelings known, and I believe in the power of celebrity to effect change.  Their address to Pence was purposeful, yet respectful. 

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Revival of "Kiss Me Kate" Adds to the Bleak Future of Female Creatives on Broadway

Three female designers may have won Tonys on Sunday, but the outlook for the 2018-19 is worrisome for anyone who hoped that women would make great strides in being included on Broadway's creative teams. 

Today, the dates and theatre for the upcoming revival of Kiss Me Kate were announced. In addition to its opening night on March 19th, 2019 and its home at Studio 54, the production's creative team was also unveiled. And to my ever-so-slight surprise, it's all male. In the director's chair will be Scott Ellis, choreography by Tony winner Warren Carlyle, and music direction by Paul Gemignani. Other members of the team include David Rockwell (Sets), Jeff Mahshie (Costumes), Donald Holder (Lighting), Brian Ronan (Sound) and David Brian Brown (Hair & Wig design). Apparently, this already problematic revival is going for total Broadway nostalgia by hiring only white men to run it. 

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How Much Singing Should there be for an Acting Tony in a Musical?

Years ago, Dame Judi Dench won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love. If you've seen the movie, her role is one of the most memorable. However, there was some debate over the merit of her award. After all, she was only in the movie for 8 minutes. Interestingly enough, acting Oscars have been awarded for less screen time. Beatrice Straight won hers for Network for only 6 minutes of work. 

A similar debate has arisen over Sunday night's win for Tony Shalhoub for his performance in The Band's Visit. While other nominees such as Ethan Slater sung and danced through Spongebob Squarepants and Joshua Henry had to take on the musical theatre doctorate known as "Soliloquoy", Mr. Shalhoub hardly sings at all. While I don't have the sheet music in front of me, having seen the show, I would guess that he sings roughly 32-64 bars in the entire show.

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Tony Award Wrap Up - Highs, Lows, Tears and Snubs

Surprises? There were a couple. But other than a few unexpected wins, the 2018 Tonys shaped up exactly the way most people thought they were. The Band's Visit dominated the evening with 10 wins which surely pleased the "theatre snob" crowd who feel like the sky is falling when it comes to "quality" Broadway shows. 

Did The Band's Visit deserve every award it won? Yes and no. But it did certainly warrant some of the bigger wins in the evening. Let's run down some of the highlights as well as the lowlights of the ceremony. 

Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban as hosts

I'll be honest, they did a lot better than I thought they would. I had low expectations for the evening but they surprised me with some funny songs and intros. I won't lie, I don't want to see them host the show again, but they certainly carried the banner well for one night.

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McCoy Rigby Entertainment's new local production of “NEWSIES”—which continues performances at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts through June 24—is a wonderfully caffeinated jolt of a stage show, highlighted by a remarkably talented and athletically-blessed ensemble that leaps and belts one show-stopping number after another. 

That's no exaggeration—the show had so many moments when the show had to pause for enthusiastic applause.

Admirably directed and choreographed by Richard J. Hinds—with rousing musical direction from Brent Crayon—La Mirada's “NEWSIES” aims to be an amiable hybrid between the popularly-received original stage show and a new iteration that feels fresh for us Fansies forever obsessed with the earlier Disney-backed production that played Broadway and went on tour for a few years. It's quite a laudable task to undertake, and for many instances throughout the production, this La Mirada mounting does achieve feeling separate and new.

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Broadway Released Some Statistics for this Past Year, and They're Not Encouraging

The folks over at ProductionPro, a technology company aimed at digitally assisting theatrical and film productions, compiled some statistics regarding this past season on Broadway. While some of the stats were encouraging, such as realizing that the average ticket isn't as pricey as some would assume, others were downright depressing. Especially when it came to the employment of women. 

As opening nights were being announced this year, I started to have reservations about this season. More and more shows featured male heavy casts, both principal and in the ensemble. Shows like "The Band's Visit", "Angels in America" and "Spongebob Squarepants" featured almost all-male principal roles. Yes, there are shows like "Three Tall Women" but there's only three. So I was a bit fearful of what the statistical outcomes would look like, and ProductionPro confirmed all those fears.

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Theatre College Will No Long Give Grades to Improve Mental Health

One of the most prestigious theatre programs in the United Kingdom will be trying something new come Fall. First year students at Cardiff’s prestigious Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama won’t receive academic marks comparing them with classmates.

According to The Stage, "Rather than having a numerical mark attached to their feedback, students are only given written comments. The college hopes this will encourage them to focus more on their personal development and dissuade them from comparing themselves with others."

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The Bonds We Make During a Show

To me, there is always a specific mental and emotional bond that happens between people when they work on a production together in the theatre world. This goes for the actors as well as the production team. You spend so much time together, bonding in different ways, making connections and getting to know people on a more personal level.

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Chatting with "Mean Girls" Star Kyle Selig!

Meet Kyle Selig!

Kyle is currently playing the role of the Aaron Samuels in "Mean Girls" on Broadway which has been nominated for 12 Tony Awards including Best New Musical. "Mean Girls" is based on the 2004 film written by Tina Fey (who also went on to write the book for the Broadway show which earned her a Tony Nomination). The movie made $129 million at the box office, and since its official opening, the film has developed a strong cult following around the world. So bringing this to the Broadway stage was a very smart and inevitable move.

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If the Creators of HAIRSPRAY Don't Care About its Casting, We Should.

While the all-white creative team behind HAIRSPRAY seems to think that reverse racism is real and that Seaweed can be played by anyone non-Black, them not caring doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care. It means we have to care more. Non-Black people, including and especially Non-Black POC,  have to stand up and push back against this rhetoric. They say “yes” because they cash that cheque, but we have the Power of the Almighty Wallet to say “no.”

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The Case FOR Theatre Competition and Festivals

As adults, is it 'cool' to hate competitive theatre festivals and events? Is it in our moral DNA to say it's not right to judge art?' Does our stance change if we are also thrilled by it, and would we have a different point of view if we were the ones winning? 

Does a stance on it keep anyone from signing up to watch junior high and high school kids pump out chair-slamming, self-conscious-but-also-raw Shakespeare scenes in hot classrooms on a random Saturday morning? Do you say you're against it, but still participate because you can earn $60 and, even though it's an ethical dilemma, you can still 'make a difference'? 

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Playbill's Blunder Leads to Unfair Criticism of Ruthie Ann Miles

On Thursday, Playbill reported that actress Ruthie Ann Miles would be returning to her role as Lady Tiang for the West End production of "The King and I". Managing News Editor, Ryan McPhee, also reported that Miles would share the role with Naoko Mori. 

The article also pointed out that "The casting update follows the news that Miles lost the unborn child she was carrying two months after a Brooklyn car crash that took the life of her four-year-old daughter."

Obviously, the news spread like wildfire yesterday with major publications picking up the story such as People Magazine among others. 

The only issue was, no one had confirmed whether or not Miles was returning to the role.

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The New "Heathers" TV Show is About to Become the Alt-Right's "Glee"

While the show is fictional, the groups that are being portrayed as the villains are still actually being widely marginalized by their communities and even their government.

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