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A gala performance on Wednesday, January 24 will celebrate Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Charles Hart’s The Phantom of the Opera hitting 30 years [actually on January 26, with 12,500 performances – which includes 16 previews] and continuing as Broadway’s longest-running show. Sixteen years ago, POTO became the longest-running show in Broadway history, surpassing the composer’s “now and forever” Cats’ 7,485 performances. Who could’ve predicted reaching 25, and now breaking into a fourth decade? The Tony-winning Best Musical, with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe and his book with Lloyd Webber has played to 18 million at the Majestic Theatre – where it opened in 1988 with a then-record advance of $18-million. Four years earlier, the show, based on Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de L’Opéra, premiered on London’s West End, already surpassing 30 years. However, on that long ago opening night Andrew Lloyd Webber, pacing and nervous, wasn’t sure he and co-producer with the composer’s Really Useful Company Cameron Mackintosh had a hit on their hands – or that it would go on to win more than 70 theater awards, including seven 1988 Tonys and three London Olivier Awards. Since 2010, beyond Broadway, the national tours, and a special production for Las Vegas, thousands of high school and university productions have been licensed through R&H Theatricals. Though London advance sales and audience reaction during previews suggested an unstoppable hit, Lloyd Webber states. “I wish I could say I had the best time of my life during those heady days. Phantom is the only show I’ve done that was entirely unchanged during previews. Our brilliant director Hal Prince was so certain we’d be a hit that he suggested we take a holiday and return for the opening.
“At openings,” he continues, “even when you feel you have the public with you, you’re at your most vulnerable. I couldn't bear to sit through the show.” Everyone looked around, but there was no Lloyd Webber.
Mackintosh exited and found him and got him back for the curtain call. Amid the thunderous applause, Lloyd Webber explains in that moment he yearned to have loved ones around him. But (then) wife, Sarah Brightman, playing Christine, was basking in audience adulation with her Phantom, Michael Crawford. “While all were celebrating,” Lloyd Webber says, “I felt alone and frightened.”It didn’t help when the first review, by the London Sunday Times critic, read, “Masked balls.” “Those were the only words uttered,” Lloyd Webber notes. “Most composers, let alone producers, would be suicidal to receive something like that from a major newspaper. It didn’t faze Cameron one bit. He called while having a jolly good breakfast and said nothing any reviewer wrote could alter the fact that Phantom had chimed with audiences.”
Lloyd Webber, even after blockbuster hits Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, and Evita, was used to critical snipes. He points out POTO’s reviews “were wildly polarized between those who really did or really wouldn't surrender to the music of the night.”
What was most upsetting was ruinous gossip that Brightman, an alumna of the West End Cats who’d been onstage since her teens, got the role because she was his wife.
“The fine line between success and failure is perilously small,” states the
composer. “I’m struck 30 years hence with the phenomenon Phantom has become. Much credit goes to the late Maria Björnson for her dazzling design and costumes. And would another choreographer have understood the period as well as former prima ballerina Dame Gillian Lynne (Cats)?”
In 2014, Miss Lynne, now 90, made a DBE (Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth in the New Year Honours List.
In the matter of the famed chandelier, Lloyd Webber notes, “Many said that moment could never work. It turns out to be the most theatrical moment I ever conceived – a moment that can only be achieved in live theater.”
Multi-Tony-winning director Prince says he was instantly hooked on the idea that Leroux’s classic was musical material. “The secret to the show’s unparalleled success was the team of consummate professionals – producers, musicians, our super-prodigious choreographer and fabulous designer – who were always ready for anything. Andrew’s idea to make the emotional center of the show a love triangle struck a chord with audiences. It’s the crucial difference between our musical, the novel, and other versions of the story.”
POTO certainly hasn’t been without its crisis moments.Lloyd Webber wanted to work with his old friend “and master book and lyric writer” Alan Jay Lerner, who accepted the challenge. As plans for the musical proceeded, it became obvious that Lerner wasn’t well. His condition worsened and the day he was to start working on the lyrics, he rang Lloyd Webber to say he must bow out. It soon became known Lerner had cancer. Sadly, he never recovered.
“Now, we had to find a replacement,” explains Lloyd Webber. “This led to bringing aboard Charles Hart, a talented young lyricist I had observed at a musical writers competition and whom was commended highly.” Hart was sent a melody to set lyrics to and the result convinced Lloyd Webber he’d made a good choice.
When the move to Broadway was eminent, “the only Achilles heel we had was Sarah,” recounts Lloyd Webber. “American Equity refused to allow the girl without whom there would have been no Phantom to play Christine. I felt Sarah’s slight as if it were directed at me.” With millions of dollars in ticket sales at stake, a deal was hatched. Brightman made her Broadway debut, and won a Tony for her performance.
In addition to POTO, Lloyd Webber has School of Rock, written with Glen Slater and book adapted from the film by Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey). A new production of Tony-winning Best Musical Cats returned this season for its first revival since closing in September 2000 after 7, 485 performances over 18 years. It closed December 30.An estimated 140 million people in 35 countries (15 languages) have surrendered to POTO with what many feel is Lloyd Webber’s best score. The two-disk original cast album spent five years on Billboard’s charts; and a single-disc highlights recording spent over six years on the magazine’s Pop Album chart.
There’ve been 15 actors in the title role. Returning to the cast for 30th Anniversary performances is Platinum-selling Swedish recording artist Peter Jöback (through March 31), who also donned the mask on the West End. Co-starring are Ali Ewoldt as Christine Daaé (the first Asian-American actress in the role) and Rodney Ingram as Vicomte de Chagny Raoul. There are six current productions of Phantom around the world: London, New York, Sapporo (Japan), Budapest, Prague, and Stockholm — with an engagement to begin in August in Sweden. For more information on the 30th Anniversary of The Phantom of the Opera, visit www.PhantomBroadway.com.
"The Shape of Water"
Just as the Waterford ball drops, so does the anticipation for the 75th annual Golden Globes — the first major awards show of 2018. Being broadcast live, the show can be seen on NBC, Sunday, January 7th, starting at 8pm EST.
And since the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s 90 or so critics divide their cinematic choices into two oddly skewed categories — “Best Motion Picture - Drama” and “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” — there’s 10 films to consider as the possiblebestsof the year.
Which of course begs the question of how to assess these choices they’ve made into nominees. Can one at least take advantage of their odd splitting of categories which allows for more nominees to be assessed and under slightly different terms?
First, here’s the films in the running for the Globes Best Of Movies categories. Up for the “Best Motion Picture - Drama” is “Call Me by Your Name,” ”Dunkirk,” "The Post,” “The Shape of Water" and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”
As for the HFPA’s choices of “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” there’s these films: “The Disaster Artist,” "Get Out,” “I, Tonya" “Lady Bird” and "The Greatest Showman.” None of these films are out-and-out comedies but at least “Showman” is a genuine song-and-dance original musical. I’ll bypass commenting on it since I haven’t yet seen it.
With the other pictures, they could easily land on any indie “best of” list. They’re all essentially small productions with either breakout talent or leads who have performed well before but provide nearly tour de force performances in these films. In both “I, Tonya" and “Lady Bird” their respective female leads manage career-defining performances. "Get Out” seems like a horror film but is really a well-crafted genre bender. And James Franco really imbues “The Disaster Artist” with the idiosyncrasy it merits.
But the Best Director category really reflects how different these choices for this year’s nominees are. Guillermo del Toro (“The Shape of Water”) and Martin McDonagh (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) represent films where the creators push the envelope. The former is a love fable built on the platform of a horror film and the latter is a darkly comic thriller cum protest film.
Ridley Scott (“All The Money in the World”) and Steven Spielberg (“The Post”) reflect those who use a mainstream, tried-and-true approach to polished directing. And both of their films have a sense of importance and offer relevant social criticism. The first tackles the role that traditional media has in illuminating the wrongs committed by government; the second addresses the wrongs a man can commit when he has too much money and power — in this case those wronged are his own family.
Christopher Nolan (“Dunkirk”) really causes us to re-evaluate the traditional war drama by focusing on a moment of history — when 300,000 British troops were trapped by Nazi invaders on Dunkirk’s beach in 1940 — to throw audiences into the experience of being there.
None of the choices for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama” can be faulted, yet this set offers few surprises. In picking tried-and-true veterans Jessica Chastain (“Molly's Game”) Frances McDormand (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) and Michelle Williams (“All the Money in the World”) the HFPA relies on actors who offer consistent quality performances but not necessarily ones that are career-defining. And Meryl Streep (“The Post”) so often lands on the list, its almosttooexpected that this choice for nominee is not to be trusted to be the best since she lands on the list every time. She does a fine job in this film but her effort is that of a craft person and is not her best work.
Only with Sally Hawkins (“The Shape of Water”) did these arbiters anoint a performer with a nomination which is so deserved because the actress did something pretty off-base in playing a character who never speaks and who falls in love with an aquatic creature.
With the “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama” category, there’s at least two candidates — Daniel Day-Lewis (“Phantom Thread”) and Gary Oldman (“Darkest Hour”) — who provide some surprises. Of the two, Oldman is my choice for the award. The performances of Tom Hanks (“The Post”) and Denzel Washington (“Roman J. Israel, Esq.”) are top flight but that’s expected with these consummate professionals. But it’s in Timothée Chalamet (“Call Me by Your Name”) that a new talent gets the exposure he deserves for his performance as a confused teenager who engages in a life-defining affair with an older man.
In the “Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” several films deserving attention got highlighted thanks to the skillfully drawn characterizations of historical figures by Judi Dench (“Victoria & Abdul”), Margot Robbie ("I, Tonya”), and Emma Stone (“Battle of the Sexes”). Saoirse Ronan (“Lady Bird”) deftly played an idiosyncratic young woman who is coming of age. But as to Helen Mirren’s work in "The Leisure Seeker," I know little since I haven’t seen the film.
As for Best Performance by an “Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” Steve Carell (“Battle of the Sexes”) and Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) certainly define the pictures they are in. I am less sure of the work by Ansel Elgort (“Baby Driver") James Franco (“The Disaster Artist”) and Hugh Jackman (“The Greatest Showman”). I haven’t seen these films, but these actors have been awarded enough accolades by cinematic cognoscenti that I trust they are worthy of the nomination.
In the “Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” category, the nominated actors veer outside the expected. Octavia Spencer (“The Shape of Water”) has been a film award nominee previously; everyone else here in this category do their films proud enough to equally qualify for the award. I couldn’t say whether Mary J. Blige (“Mudbound”), Hong Chau (”Downsizing”), Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), Laurie Metcalf (“Lady Bird”) deserve the award because all of these performances were excellent. But I admit to favoring Hong Chau since the film and her performance is so quirky. As for “Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture,” candidates Willem Dafoe (”The Florida Project”), Armie Hammer (“Call Me by Your Name”), Richard Jenkins (“The Shape of Water”), Christopher Plummer (“All the Money in the World”) and Sam Rockwell (“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) are all meritorious choices. But the one that was unexpected or least less predictable has to be Willem Dafoe’s in a uniquely unvarnished film. The one actor not on the list who is really deserving a nomination is Doug Jones as the creature in “The Shape of Water” — he gave it an emotionally rich life even though hidden by costuming.
For the sake of brevity and focus, I will bypass commenting on the other categories of “Best Screenplay in a Motion Picture” and “Best Original Score in a Motion Picture.” I will add though, if for nothing else, I want "Loving Vincent" to win in the “Best Animated Film” category because of its amazing originality -- it's the first animated film to be made entirely of images based on Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings and style. As for “Best Motion Picture - Foreign Language,” everyone one of the nominees — "A Fantastic Woman.” “First They Killed My Father,” “In the Fade,” "Loveless" and "The Square" — are powerful examples of cinematic story-telling. Nonetheless, I admire Angelina Jolie for making “First They Killed My Father,” a painful narrative about the atrocities committed by Cambodia’s genocidal Khymer Rouge. And check out “The Square” which is a searing critique of the art world.
With betting odds too close to call in the Picture and Acting categories, Sunday’s 2018/75th Anniversary Golden Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and telecast live on NBC at 8 Eastern from the Beverly Hilton International Ballroom, should be one of the most exciting in years.
The party atmosphere – with free-flowing bottles of wine and cocktails, will be enhanced by the Twin Peaks style of SNL alum Seth Myers, in his first hosting gig since the 2014 Emmys. He says: “Hollywood, we have a lot to talk about!” and it’s not all good.
Myers follows in the recent footsteps of SNL alum Amy Poehler and Tina Faye. Myers is quite adept working an audience. It will either be a walk-on-egg-shells evening with the sexual harassment issues of the last few months – or a no-holds-barred fest of witty repartee.
The GGs will air in more than 210 countries and is one of the few award ceremonies to include movies and TV achievement.
With too-close-to-call [the closest in years] nominees in several categories and the Oscars almost two months away (March 4), hardly anything is a done deal in the wild ride to victory. That bodes well for suspense and surprise at the first-out-the-gate GGs.
Drama frontrunners are Guillermo del Toro's fantasy romance The Shape of Water, which racked up seven nods including Best and Supporting Actress honors for Sally Hawkins and Oscar-winner Olivia Spencer’s performances; romantic sexual-coming-of-age drama Call Me By Your Name; and vengeful black comedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Then, there's Steven Spielberg’s All the President’s Men-type expose drama of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, The Post; and Christopher Nolan’s WWII “can we get our boys home alive” drama Dunkirk, which shows all too-vividly the horror of war [but with too much CGI].
The Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical field, which this year has little of both, seems to be in the service of improving wins or giving exposure to deserving films, Greta Gerwig's directorial debut Lady Bird leads the pack with four nominations including a Best Actress nod for Saoirse Ronan. I, Tonya follows with three.
Oprah Winfrey will receive the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille Award, which Golden Globes’ board of directors bestows “on a person who has made an incredible impact on the world of entertainment.” It seems years too late, but certainly couldn’t be more well-deserved for the impact Ms. Winfrey has made and continues to make.
Motion Picture, Drama
All five nominees have reaped acclaim as have the actors in four of the films. Cold War fantasy romance The Shape of Water leads the field with seven nominations, closely followed by six for Steven Spielberg’s The Post, which has a daunting pair of beloved GG darlings, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. But in this year of top-grossing indies, Call Me By Your Name and Three Billboards… may cause an upset.
Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical
The Greatest Showman mixes history, often turning it upside down with lots of contemporary and hip twists – and is too reminiscent of the style of Moulin Rouge. Director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers achieve the impossible: meld true-life incidents, stupidity, and violence into a well-crafted satire on winning at all costs. Hilarious, sometimes sad, and devastatingly well-written Lady Bird tackles mother/daughter tensions. Get Out offers the unique combination of biting social satire and a metaphor on racism. In the indiest indie of the year, The Disaster Artist, James Franco takes a cow’s ear and spins gold and, once and for all, proves he’s a triple threat: actor, director, and [co-] producer [along with Seth Rogen and 20 others].
Motion Picture, Actress, Drama
Even with strong contenders Hawkins, Streep, and Williams, could a GG finally go to McDormand, with six GG nominations, for her poignant portrayal of a mother out for revenge?
Motion Picture, Actor, Drama
Can the expertly-played performances of three powerhouse artists prevent a win, in the heated competition between Chalamet in a stirring sexual coming-of-age tale and longtime favorite Oldman, who is transformed into British statesman Winston Churchill. While Oldman, with his jowls, paunch, and cadence, gives audiences a living, breathing Churchill, it’s hard to top Chalament’s final silent, tearful moments in stark close-up in front of that roaring fireplace.
Motion Picture, Actress, Comedy or Musical
Not long after Greta Gerwig came on the scene as Hollywood’s new darling, Ronan came calling. The two acclaimed up-and-comers have bonded for Lady Bird with Gerwig not only in her directorial debut but also directing Ronan. One also has to admire Robbie’s ability to make ice-skating-world’s talented but not well respected Harding a sympathetic character.
Motion Picture, Actor, Comedy or Musical
Jack-of-all-trades and master of most Franco brilliantly captures the absurdist and I-Can-Do-That spirit of indie jack-of-all-trades and master of none Tommy Wiseau. He has stiff completion from Kaluuya as Get Out’s young black terrorized by his white girlfriend’s family; and Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) as the partially hearing-impaired getaway driver caught up in the comedy camper Baby Driver‘s crime maelstrom.
Motion Picture, Supporting Actress
It’s even odds between 2017’s overbearing, shoot-from-the-hip and damn-the-consequences mothers: the always magnificent Metcalf of Lady Bird and I, Tonya’s equally magnificent Janney.
Sadly, and most puzzling, the nominators didn’t recognize Oscar winner Melissa Leo’s Jeykll and Hyde benevolent/monster-from-hell Mother Superior in Novitiate.
Motion Picture, Supporting Actor
Plummer excels in director Ridley Scott’s brave reshoot of over 20 sequences for All the Money in the World, but, after waiting years for him to find the role that will place him back in the big leagues, in Three Billboards… Rockwell delivers one of the most memorable performances ever – akin to Cagney, grapefruit in hand, in Public Enemy.
Motion Picture, Director
In the what-were-the-nominators-thinking shocker that you can bet the Oscars won’t repeat, they forgot this was the year of female empowerment and racial diversity in the industry. Not one woman made it into the category. Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (Detroit), Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola (Beguiled), Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird), Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman), and Dee Rees (Mudbound) made films that were, in most cases, acclaimed and box office champs.
TV Series, Drama
TV Series, Comedy
TV Movie or Limited-Series
For more information, a complete list of motion picture and TV nominations, clips, and photos visit www.nbc.com/the-golden-globe-awards.
Want to ring in the New Year with a buck instead of a bang? Then the place to be is with the international Professional Bull Riders (PBR) January 5 – 7 at MSqG -- but, unless you are brave and wear chaps, the safest bet are seats on the sidelines. In addition to the winter chill, NYC will be getting a dust-up of brawn and bravado for three intense, action-packed performances, as champions and want-to-be-champions mount and try to stay on monster bulls for a mere eight seconds. Sounds easy, you say! Not on your life!The Monster Energy Buck Off lightweight vs. heavyweight edge-of-your-seat action is at 7:45 P.M. Friday, 7:45 P.M Saturday, and the New York finals at 1:45 P.M. Sunday.
The world’s Top 35 bull riders – including World Champion Cooper Davis, two-time champ J.B. Mauney, 2016 runner up Kaique Pacheco, and the youngest PBR World Champion and winner of the 2017 NYC Buck Off, five-foot-five, 130-pound cowboy, 20-year-old Jess Lockwood – battle foes 10 times their weight with only a rope wrapped around one hand.
Rookie Lockwood has had top-prize dollars and horrendous setbacks – but back he comes. In 2016, he soared to world No.1, holding that rank six weeks until suffering serious injuries, including broken ribs and being knocked unconscious in September [by world champion bull SweetPro’s Bruiser]. Each day, the riders face one bull each. Following the final round, 15 riders with the highest cumulative scores will advance to the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.Going into MSqG at 499 rides, Mauney will be only the third PBR rider in 25 years to reach 500 qualified rides – if – and there’s always an “if” when dealing with raging mad 2,000 “beasts” – he completes a ride. The three days are a punishing competition in which one in 15 rides ends in injury. This is a brutal sport where lives can change in an instant. Mauney has has every imaginable injury, including shattered eye socket, bruised kidney and spleen, lacerated liver, and muscle, tendons, and ligaments ripped clear off bones [which required the rebuilding of a shoulder]. He and Lockwood live by the motto: “If you can’t take the pain, get out of the game.”
In each city, riders strive to win their share of the $140,000 event purse. The PBR has paid out more than $150-million, with 27 riders earning more than $1 million. In New York, more than $1.2-million has been awarded in the last decade.The PBR, “America’s fastest growing sport” (according to Forbes), features the Durabull Fighters [similar to daredevil rodeo clowns], who jump into action to deflect the bulls as soon as riders are bucked off. It goes on until only one man’s left standing.This is the 12th consecutive year in NYC for what’s called “the toughest sport on dirt.” The 18-state tour culminates with Las Vegas finals in October when the 2018 champion — the bull rider amassing the most season points, receives the World Championship belt buckle, gigantic trophy, and $1-million purse.
The PBR is a massive undertaking, traveling in 18-wheel rigs which contain the bulls’ luxury accommodations, the steel set, stalls, and, get this, 750 tons of dirt spread 8 inches deep. The Garden event opens a fierce 26-stop tour hitting Anaheim, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Memphis, St. Louis, and Sacramento. The series, produced by Emmy and Peabody Award winning David Neal Productions, is a weekly high-rated TV series on CBS, CBS Sports, and networks worldwide.
For more information, go to www.pbr.com.
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