The ultimate TMQ! (At least, for this season.) Plus, we almost, but not quite, apologize to Gregg Easterbrook. After the jump, this week’s TMQ…
Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category
Monday night’s announcement that the new musical “The Last Ship” will close on Jan. 24 after a meager four-month run, despite unusual efforts by Sting, its composer, to increase ticket sales, raises that question more than most other foundering musicals in recent years.
Hmmmm. Hmmmm. Hmmmm. Why, indeed, did “The Last Ship” fail (and cost the show’s producers their entire $15 million investment), even though Sting himself joined the cast?
Mr. Seller said that he had no theories for why more female theatergoers (who make up about 70 percent of Broadway audiences) and Sting fans did not embrace “The Last Ship,” about the troubled lives of shipbuilders and young people in a struggling British town.
Could this be…a clue?
(No, really. I’ve been sneezing my ass off the past couple of days.)
I missed this over the weekend: former Houston mayor Bob Lanier.
Finally, one I missed until late yesterday: Billie Whitelaw. You may know her as the nanny in the original “The Omen”, but she was very famous in England. She may have been best known as Samuel Beckett’s muse and collaborator:
She accepted his artistic vision without always understanding its explicitly rendered ambiguities. They read his plays together, discussing not their meaning but the most minuscule elements of the text — the pauses and sighs and guttural sounds as well as the words, the inflections demanded by the language, and his need, as she said in interviews, to remove the acting from the performance. “Flat, no emotion, no color,” he would often caution her, she said.
Two of our new favorite things in the world:
- Kickended, an archive of failed Kickstarter projects. And when we say “failed”, we don’t just mean “didn’t meet their goal”; these are projects that attracted no pledges at all.
- The Clickbait Headline Generator. The real genius of this is the “View This as a Fake Website” function.
We actually want to write the “Three Types of Fun You Should Never Have With a Freelance Nurse” article, as we have some ideas for that. Unfortunately, those ideas make us cringe so badly we can’t bring ourselves to start writing.
In other news, this week’s TMQ, after the jump…
By way of the A/V Club, I’ve learned of something called “Holler if Ya Hear Me”, a Broadway musical “inspired by the music and lyrics of the popular rapper Tupac Shakur”.
While some Broadway shows rely on budget reserves to muddle through slow weeks, “Holler” struggled from the outset. The production never brought in more than $175,000 a week in gross revenues, becoming one of the worst-selling musicals of recent years. Last week the show grossed $154,948, or 17 percent of the maximum possible amount, and only 45 percent of its seats were occupied.
Here’s the NYT review:
Drawing on themes that Shakur rapped about in his scabrous, four-letter-word-filled lyrics (no one has taken a kid-friendly Magic Marker to them, I’m glad to report), the musical attempts to draw a vision of black life in urban America that acknowledges the danger, the violence and the self-destruction but also the hope, the courage and the potential for transcendence. To this end, it employs more than a dozen of Shakur’s songs and a couple of his poems. But the lyrical density of rap — in words per minute, many of the songs are off the charts — makes an uneasy fit for theatrical presentation, since the sizzling phrases fly by almost before you can grasp their meaning.
At this point, you’re probably not wondering what brought this to mind:
And, of course, there’s the usual invocations of “it’s going to be difficult to do another rap or hip hop show on Broadway” and “Tupac’s urgent socially important insights and the audiences’ nightly rousing standing ovations deserve to be experienced by the world.”
As for the latter, no comment. As for the former:
Yet one new musical featuring rap and hip hop, “Hamilton,” is widely expected to come to Broadway during the 2015-16 season after an initial run at the Public Theater this coming winter. The show is by Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose show “In the Heights,” which also featured rap and hip hop, ran for three years on Broadway and won the 2008 Tony Award for best musical.
Edited to add: more from the PoR:
- There is a Jim Steinman Wiki.
- Jim Steinman was intimately involved in Batman: The Musical. Yes, you did read that correctly, and no, it was never produced.
- The Jim Steinman Wiki does not currently have an article about Dance of the Vampires. However, Wikipedia does:
The NYT has a feature on the “industrial musical”.
The 1956 Chevy show cost $3 million, while “My Fair Lady” opened on Broadway with a budget of $500,000. Big budgets attracted top-drawer talent. “Go Fly a Kite” was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb, the team behind “Cabaret” and “Chicago.” Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock wrote “Ford-i-fy Your Future” for the tractor and implement division of Ford, as well as the songs for “Fiorello!” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Bob Fosse was already at work on “The Pajama Game” when he toured with “The Mighty ‘O’,” a 1953 Oldsmobile show.
$3 million in 1956 money works out to about $25,700,000 in 2013 money. Or about a third of the cost of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”. The NYT piece seems to be mostly promotion for a new book: Everything’s Coming Up Profits: The Golden Age of Industrial Musicals. But I’ll admit: I’m intrigued by the book, and will probably purchase it at Half-Price when it shows up there.
Apparently, there was a serious proposal last year to add bass fishing to the list of high school sports which are approved and regulated by the Texas University Interscholastic League. It did not pass. And honestly, I’m a little weirded out by the idea; where would students practice? How? How often? In boats or from the shore? Can you practice bass fishing in Midland? What would the bass fishing championship look like? Would it be televised on one of cable’s many outdoor channels?
(Not making fun of bass fishermen at all. I realize there’s an active bass tournament scene, and if that’s your thing, God bless you. I just think the logistics of doing this at the high school level are strange. Especially since if you’re a high school bass fisherman, you can probably compete in professional tournaments for real money; it isn’t like professional bass fishing is subject to the same sort of size and weight issue that high school football is.)
Lawrence asks me from time to time if there are any movies I’m looking forward to in the coming year.
Generally, my response is the same: I don’t pay that much attention to what’s coming six months from now, so I don’t have any anticipated movies in my queue. I don’t start looking forward to something until I hear about it and hear reviews (or even gossip) about it, which usually takes place maybe a month or so before the movie actually opens.
But now I have an exception. Or, to put it another way…
Holy crap! They’ve made a movie out of Charlie Victor Romeo!
I was lucky enough to see the stage version when it came through Austin. I’m glad I went, but I fully understand A.O. Scott’s comment that “It is also one of the most terrifying movies I have ever seen.” The stage version was…intense. So intense that the cast would come out after the show and have a discussion with the audience; I think this was to help both sides decompress.
Right now, it is only playing in New York. I’ve signed up for their mailing list and am hoping for an email with an Austin date sooner or later. To give you some idea about how excited I am: I’m even willing to relax my strict “Alamo Drafthouse only” policy for this movie.
(And RoadRich, if you’re out there, I want you to come with me when I go see it.)
I’m not sure I understand the point of this article. Ostensibly, it is about the supposed economic impact on the neighborhood businesses of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” closing.
But even a full house at the 1,930-seat Foxwoods, the biggest Broadway theater, is just a drop in the bucket of the roughly 400,000 people moving through Times Square daily at this time of year.
And it can be hard to determine just where audience members for “Spider-Man” — some 89 percent of whom are from out of town, according to the show’s most recent research — have been spending their dollars, though some businesses popular with tourists seeking a classic Broadway experience say the show’s absence will be felt.
So it doesn’t seem like the NYT has any way to quantify the impact, just a bunch of anecdotes from businesses in the neighborhood. Some of them expect reduced business, others say they expect people (especially actors) to keep showing up. Is there a point?
The new agreement freed the 16 clubs involved in the lawsuits from abiding by the 1997 law and required the owners to contribute $1 million annually to a unit in the Houston Police Department devoted to fighting human trafficking. But a number of religious leaders and advocates for sex-trafficking victims have opposed the deal. They said it sent the wrong message about Houston’s tolerance for such entertainment, and allowed the 16 clubs to buy their way out of complying with the law. The Houston Area Pastor Council is considering suing the city over the agreement.
Is that $1 million from each club, or $1 million total? And is it just me, or is there something odd about private businesses giving money to the police department to enforce the law?
Desert Hot Springs, California is in trouble.
Turn north, and you make your way up an arid stretch of road to a battered city where empty storefronts outnumber shops, the Fire Department has been closed, City Hall is on a four-day week and the dwindling coffers may be empty by spring.
Why? I’ll give you one guess.
Here, under the budget enacted last spring, about $7 million of the city’s $10.6 million annual payroll went to the 39-member police force. The situation was so dire that an audit, compiled weeks before municipal elections in November but not made public until later, showed that Desert Hot Springs was $4 million short for the year and would run out of money as early as April 2014.
Last week, the city cut all municipal salaries, including those of the police, by 22 percent. The city also capped “incentive pay” and cut back on holiday and vacation days. Naturally, the police officer’s association is stating these cuts are illegal.
Police officers here, as in many California cities, can retire as young as 50 with 30 years of service and receive 90 percent of their final salary every year — drawing those pensions for decades. Police unions say the fault lies with state and local politicians who failed to adequately fund the pension system over the years, and inflated benefits during boom years. Others wonder whether such salaries and pensions were ever affordable, particularly in cities as small and struggling as this. In Desert Hot Springs, for example, for every dollar that the city pays its police officers, another 36 cents must be sent to Calpers to fund their pensions.
Desert Hot Springs has a current population of around 27,000.
The average pay and benefits package for a police officer here had been worth $177,203 per year, in a city where the median household income was $31,356 in 2011, according to the Census Bureau. All of this had gone largely unnoticed until becoming the center of debate during the recent municipal election.
Oh, and by the way: Desert Hot Springs filed for bankruptcy in 2001, and is still making payments on a $10 million civil judgment against the city.
But, you know, the police aren’t the only people who get large salaries.
An examination of tax records, contracts and other documents by The New York Times found that hefty stagehand salaries at many New York nonprofit performance institutions are more widespread than was previously known.
You don’t say.
At nine top such institutions that have contracts with Local 1, stagehands make up 36 of the 98 most highly compensated employees, or about 37 percent. The average annual total salary and benefits of those highest-paid stagehands, at places from the Metropolitan Opera to the Roundabout Theater Company, is nearly $310,000, according to the nonprofits’ most recent tax filings.
That’s good money. I wonder when they can put in for retirement.
Backstage workers can earn more than the onstage talent. Five stagehands at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center were each paid more in total compensation in 2011 than the highest-paid dancer at New York City Ballet, filings showed. And, in 2010, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark” paid its stagehands a total of $138,000 a week, while the principals and members of the ensemble earned slightly less than $100,000 put together, according to documents submitted to the state attorney general’s office.
The paper of record seems to want readers to be shocked and appalled at how much stagehands are paid. Personally, I’m glad to hear that they’re making big money; I think they have every right to negotiate lucrative contracts with their employers, and I don’t see any reason to be indignant that “the four top stagehands at the Metropolitan Opera earned more than $500,000 each in total compensation (including retirement and other benefits), tax filings showed.“