Justin Bieber & Lady Gaga Lookalikes Appear In Celebrity Gossip Musical

Clubs with themes have migrated to Times Square to cash in on their financial base: tourists. Hayne Southern moved her Lucky Cheng’s to The Drag Queen Capital of the Universe, from her longrunning First Ave. location to 240 W. 52nd Street where the old Touch nightclub once showed everybody how not to be cool. The old Lucky Cheng’s space has new operators gearing it up to be wonderful. After many years catering to the hip, Lucky Cheng’s became completely dependent on tourists, bachelorette parties, and gatherings like this, so a move to the center of that universe, Times Square, was in the cards.

Culture Club, an ’80s-themed nightclub, thrived on Varick Street for eight years. It also enjoyed a large and loyal following, with tourists being a big part of that. Culture Club moved to 20 W. 39th Street, the former home of Club Speed which, according to neighbors and anyone else with social responsibility, could not close fast enough. Culture Club is fun and attracts a crowd looking to play along. Owner Robert Watman is a theme machine, having offered up the 70s-themed Polly Esthers club and ‘90s-themed joint Nerveana.

Culture Club is now offering a new off-Broadway musical-meets-nightlife interactive show.” Totally Tubular Time Machine (TTTM)  blasts onto our scene last Saturday and from all accounts was a blast. From what I can gather, it’s a time machine that has imitation pop icons performing as themselves and in unusual pairings: "Britney Spears, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Beiber, Vanilla Ice, and more…right there with you, and in front of you, and all around you!"

The pitch goes on to tell us that:

"Totally Tubular Time Machine is an immersive, radical pop music experience filled with live performances, party favors, and celebrity gossip, including a fun battle of the pop stars, i.e. Lady Gaga vs. Madonna. Guests witness 2013 Madonna warn 1989 Madonna of a pop star named Lady Gaga who will steal the beat to “Express Yourself,” while Justin Bieber went back in time and fulfilled his dream of dancing with Michael Jackson. Guests also re-lived the time when JLO and Puff Daddy were a couple and watched them perform her recent hit “On the Floor” together. It’s Back to the Future meets the MTV Music Awards, and you’re the star in this totally immersive, radical mash-up of pop music from the ‘80s, ‘90s and today!"

It’s Saturday nights. I’m there. They got me at Bieber. 

Off-Broadway’s ‘The Last Five Years’ Captures The Little Moments

The last five years of a life is all about those little moments – the pensive glances across a mediocre party, the temporary despair at unexpected romantic loss, the jolt of a second’s success.  And so is the same for the off-Broadway show The Last Five Years, playing until May 18th at Second Stage Theatre; hovering over the entire production like it’s a fishbowl isn’t going to stir you nearly as much as recalling the tiny dots of sincerity brought by the two stars – the only characters in the show: Jamie, played by Adam Kantor, and Cathy, played by Betsy Wolfe. In a show about the beginning and end of twenty-something love, the completely sung-through musical tracks a relationship in reverse; while Cathy begins at the end of it, Jamie begins at its beginning, five years back. And apart from a rare moment when they meet in the middle on a late-night boat ride in Central Park, they never sing together. The result: a he-said, she-said musical that is full of too many exuberant and heart-trampling songs for you to realize it.

Jazz, rock, musical theatre ballads, country, klezmer – Jason Robert Brown’s score has a little bit for everyone – and so does the relationship at hand. With Kantor’s spin on Jamie – a 23-year-old writer who gets his book published almost right out of college – you see what Cathy loves (and can’t stand) about him: his talent at storytelling, his unrelenting and fearless ambition, and a narcissism that yanks him from the present moments with Cathy. And you sense the burgeoning envy and resentment Cathy feels toward his success, considering she’s an aspiring theatre actress who just can’t seem to land a role, and with every rejection, feels smaller and smaller. The seesaw dynamic is painful to witness, with audience sniffles heard by the second song.

Of course, there are moments of disbelief that make the show not entirely gratifying: although Jamie is a young character, Kantor looks and acts a bit too young to deliver the emotional thunder of the role , and sometimes Wolfe’s wholesomeness is almost a bit too theatrical and animated to believe. And yet, these qualities are also the forces that make you feel for them. Detached from emotion, whitewashed with a smile – they’re the shells that sustain and then crack – in all those little moments, and they’re what makes The Last Five Years worth witnessing.

Learn more about The Last Five Years, & follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

‘Peter and the Starcatcher’ Moves to New World Stages, Retains Most of Its Charm

Peter Pan—and by extension Peter and the Starcatcher, its prologue in play form—is a story about changes. Or, at least, it is a story about changes insofar as it is a story about stasis. The notion of Peter, and what makes him endlessly fascinating, is his ability to stay the same forever. In doing so, he’s forced to give up memory of everyone he ever loved. That seems to be the trade-off. The most tragic part of the book may be when Wendy returns to him, some time after their adventure and mentions how he saved their lives from Captain Hook.

"Who is Captain Hook?" he asked with interest when she spoke of the archenemy.

"Don’t you remember," she asked, amazed, "how you killed him and saved all our lives?"

"I forget them after I kill them," he replied carelessly.

When she expressed a doubtful hope that Tinker Bell would be glad to see her he said, "Who is Tinker Bell?"

"O Peter," she said, shocked; but even when she explained he could not remember.

"There are such a lot of them," he said. "I expect she is no more."

That, of course, is what makes Peter Pan a tragedy to any adult, though everything else contained within it may be all fun and frolic.

And the new production of Peter and the Starcatcher at New World Stages certainly abounds with fun and frolic. Rick Holmes seems delighted to be playing Black Stache, perhaps as he formerly played Lord Aster in the Broadway production of the show that nabbed five Tony Awards last year. If he is delighted, it’s for good reason; Captain Hook not only gets the best lines in the play, and the moment when he inadvertently chops off his hand is absolutely the moment that gets the best laughs. And Holmes’s performance as a giddy pirate king is exciting and vivid enough to make you long for a pirate’s life.

Alas, some of the rest of it might make you long for a glass of rum.

Jason Ralph, who originally served as Peter’s understudy in the Broadway production, plays the title character with great comic charm—right up until the moment Peter realizes he’s condemned to be a child forever (and it is a kind of condemnation). He seems too robust for much of the performance to go so gently into that eternally childlike night. You find yourself wondering why he does not struggle harder against fate given that he seemed to be struggling wildly until that moment. I suppose there’s a lot to be said about being on an island filled with many singing mermaids and some inexplicable cannibals, though.

The wistfulness, though—the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind elements of Peter Pan—those never quite seem captured here.   

All the same, is interesting to see the story move to The New World stages. A play that takes place almost entirely in the cargo hold of a ship seems suited to a stage carved out under an entire city block, and those older viewers might find the experience greatly enhanced by a glass of, if not rum, then certainly a vodka tonic. You will, at least, unlike Peter, remember Captain Hook.

Annie Baker Cleans Up Off-Broadway With Her New Play, ‘The Flick’

On Broadway, there are superheroes flying above an audience, a handful of actors singing while pushing around a bright red pick-up truck, and the familiar chandelier crashing onto an opera house stage (although it seems to drop a lot slower than it did when The Phantom of the Opera premiered twenty-five years ago.) Meanwhile, at a smaller theater just blocks from those large theaters, is Playwrights Horizons where Annie Baker’s play The Flick is showing to much smaller crowds who are not witnessing the distracting spectacle of a big-budget musical, but rather a small-scale examination into human behavior featuring characters resembling people who would pass by the small theater unnoticed on Forty-Second Street. And it involves a lot of cleaning.

“You sit in a movie theater for two hours and watch a past-tense, recorded version of reality on screen,” Baker says to me over coffee at Kos Kaffe in Park Slope, where she lives, a few days before The Flick’s opening night. “When the movie is over, these real people come out and start to clean up. It’s like an act of theater that takes place after a movie ends: the dance of cleaning, of going up and down the rows.”

The Flick follows three employees of a run-down movie theater in Boston—Avery, Sam, and Rose—as they clean and mingle following the projection of second-run movies. The Flick is representative of a dying breed of theaters—that small town, one-screen movie house, the kind that doesn’t accept credit cards and still projects actual film rather than an updated digital projector. The specifics give an added weight to the characters on stage; they aren’t the typical anonymous multiplex employees. They are instead three of the most realistic, fully formed characters you’ll find in contemporary theater, thanks in part to Baker’s meticulous ear for dialogue and pitch-perfect eye for how people work, love, and live with each other.

But it’s the set that is perhaps the most striking part of The Flick: the audience, separated by the invisible movie screen at the foot of the stage, faces rows of empty theater seats. It’s down those rows that Avery and Sam silently make their rounds—sweeping up popcorn, picking up soda cups, finding the occasional shoe—pausing often to make conversation about the state of American film (Avery insists that Pulp Fiction is the last great American movie, an argument Sam tries to negate by submitting various titles released in the last decade as great works of art) or to play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, as their common interest does not extend much further than their jobs. It’s the details of the seemingly mundane that first prompted Baker to write The Flick: to examine what happens after the audience leaves and the play continues.

“I was interested in exploring the phenomenological difference between theater and film by literally making the fourth wall a movie screen,” Baker says, revealing the idea for the set was what inspired her to write a play that takes place in a movie theater. The setting also allowed Baker to delve into the near-universal cultural experience of movie watching. “You can meet people who don’t read books, look at paintings, or listen to music, but everyone has seen movies,” she continues. “All of our personalities and love stories and friendships and careers are shaped by movies. Our personal narratives are determined by the movies we watched as kids, which is beautiful and also a little, well, fucked up.”

the flick
Photo by Joan Marcus

The twenty-year-old Avery, who is taking time off from college following family and personal troubles, most embodies this sentiment. His encyclopedic knowledge of movie trivia seems to rule his life, and his view of film as an art form sets him apart from the other two characters, who appreciate commercial films like Avatar as much as the supposed serious films like the work of Paul Thomas Anderson. His snobbery even makes himself weary; in one scene, Avery sits alone in the darkened theater, telling an anonymous friend over the phone about a dream in which he must pick one movie to sum up his life as he enters Heaven. He is disappointed that the film he picks for himself is the 1992 comedy Honeymoon in Vegas.

Despite the satirical take on taste, Baker takes a glance at how film dictates our actions and behaviors. Movies are seen as a comfort, Baker insists, on account of their universal acceptance. Baker herself knows this first-hand. “I was a crazy movie buff as a teenager, and in my twenties I felt like I had fallen out of love with movies,” she says. “I was an unhappy teenager, and movies can really feel like this balm when you’re unhappy and lonely in a small town.” She insists that her disillusion with film did not follow a specific, triggering moment; rather, it happened naturally. “When I moved to New York and became a grown-up, I didn’t need them anymore. But I was interested in getting back to my first love when I was writing The Flick.”

Not only did Baker return to her first love for inspiration, she may have dug up some of those unhappy emotions from her adolescence when developing her characters. Avery, Sam, and Rose all exhibit an active disappointment with the menial day-to-day aspects of their lives. Avery complains that everyone seems to act like a stereotype of what they think they are supposed to be. Rose, who is aggressive in both her personality and her looks (she dyes her hair green and exclusively wears loose-hanging black shirts and t-shirts), admits, “I’m afraid that something is wrong with me and I’ll never know what it is.” Sam, a portly, awkward thirty-something, is slow to reveal details about his personal life—a mentally handicapped brother who is able to find a partner while Sam harbors an unrequited crush on Rose—and struggles to achieve his goal to move up in his position to work the projector at the theater. Baker’s characters, in The Flick as well as her earlier plays, Body Awareness and Circle Mirror Transformation, express a specific discomfort with themselves and their surroundings. One would expect Baker to be awkward and quiet herself.

That’s not the case. With a thin frame and long, blonde hair and bangs framing her round face, Baker gives off the illusion that she is much taller than she is. Her presence as an artist is immediate, even from photographs—she has the tendency to give just the hint of a smile, seemingly effortlessly, so much so that it resembles at first glance a frown. But after sitting down and talking with her, it’s clear that the hyper-intellectual façade isn’t accurate; she is soft-spoken, friendly, inquisitive, and talkative. She seems almost the opposite of her characters—she is self-assured and confident. But she is willing to admit, despite the critical acclaim she has achieved in her very brief career, that she is “a lazy writer,” someone who cannot successfully knock out several plays in a year. (She spent three years writing The Flick.)

She also knows her work will not receive universal acclaim, thanks in part to the preview period for The Flick. “There have been extreme responses,” she tells me. “On some nights, there are people laughing possibly too hard, and on other nights there’s a lot of silence during the first act and people leaving at intermission. People have told me they don’t want to watch a three-hour play about people cleaning.” Despite the varied response, the subject matter is still what Baker wants to explore. “I approach my plays with the intention of drawing attention to people, places, and phenomena that are a part of people’s lives,” she tells me, “like the guys who clean up after us at movies. I want to make people think about them for a few hours. I just want people to notice.” Luckily, audiences are paying attention. If Annie Baker’s early success is any indication, they will be noticing for years to come.

Annie Baker portrait by Zack DeZon.

Follow Tyler Coates on Twitter.

Justin Bieber & Lady Gaga Appear In Celebrity Gossip Musical

Clubs with themes have migrated to Times Square to cash in on their financial base: tourists. Hayne Southern moved her Lucky Cheng’s to The Drag Queen Capital of the Universe, from her longrunning First Ave. location to 240 W. 52nd Street where the old Touch nightclub once showed everybody how not to be cool. The old Lucky Cheng’s space has new operators gearing it up to be wonderful. After many years catering to the hip, Lucky Cheng’s became completely dependent on tourists, bachelorette parties, and gatherings like this, so a move to the center of that universe, Times Square, was in the cards.

Culture Club, an ’80s-themed nightclub, thrived on Varick Street for eight years. It also enjoyed a large and loyal following, with tourists being a big part of that. Culture Club moved to 20 W. 39th Street, the former home of Club Speed which, according to neighbors and anyone else with social responsibility, could not close fast enough. Culture Club is fun and attracts a crowd looking to play along. Owner Robert Watman is a theme machine, having offered up the 70s-themed Polly Esthers club and ‘90s-themed joint Nerveana.

Culture Club is now offering a new off-Broadway musical-meets-nightlife interactive show.” Totally Tubular Time Machine (TTTM)  blasts onto our scene last Saturday and from all accounts was a blast. From what I can gather, it’s a time machine that has imitation pop icons performing as themselves and in unusual pairings: "Britney Spears, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Beiber, Vanilla Ice, and more…right there with you, and in front of you, and all around you!"

The pitch goes on to tell us that:

"Totally Tubular Time Machine is an immersive, radical pop music experience filled with live performances, party favors, and celebrity gossip, including a fun battle of the pop stars, i.e. Lady Gaga vs. Madonna. Guests witness 2013 Madonna warn 1989 Madonna of a pop star named Lady Gaga who will steal the beat to “Express Yourself,” while Justin Bieber went back in time and fulfilled his dream of dancing with Michael Jackson. Guests also re-lived the time when JLO and Puff Daddy were a couple and watched them perform her recent hit “On the Floor” together. It’s Back to the Future meets the MTV Music Awards, and you’re the star in this totally immersive, radical mash-up of pop music from the ‘80s, ‘90s and today!"

It’s Saturday nights. I’m there. They got me at Bieber. 

Getting Nutty With the Nutcracker

Ever since I was a wee girl in Denver, my grandmother always took me to see some version of the Nutcracker, whether it was a classic ballet or a modern take done in black and white. Either way, I loved it, and even as a full-fledged adult I seek out productions. This year, I found three adaptations of George Balanchine’s ballet that give it a fun twist.

Created by Liz Muller and Collin Simon, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King highlights the adventures of little Clara and her wooden nutcracker, which is based on the original 1816 story by E. T. A. Hoffmann. The only thing you will recognize is the premise and the star characters. Otherwise, it’s steampunk musical and dark comedy involving singing mice, broken dolls, and some spunky minions that leap, jest, and run all over the stage. Playing at The Beckett Theater on December 11 through the 15. Buy tickets here.

You can probably guess what the Nutcracker Rated R is all about—yup, sex, drugs, family secrets, and dolls. This is their seventh season running with Angela Harriell directing and choreographing the modern dancers. Watch as little teenage Clara goes on a binge of strip clubs, cocaine, and meets all sorts of unsavory characters. This is not my grandma’s Nutcracker. Playing at (Le) Poisson Rouge on December 20, 21, 27, and 28. Buy tickets here.

For a more traditional take on The Nutcracker ballet, The American Ballet Theatre’s version at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) is a safe, and wonderful bet. Choreographer Alexei Ratmansky puts the Tchaikovsky in his dancers feet as they prance around the stage to a live orchestra, bringing magic to the tale that, while the different takes are fun, the original is amazing. Playing at BAM now through December 16. Buy tickets here.

IT’S HUMP DAY: This Week’s Sexiest NYC Events

It’s Wednesday and you know what that means: we get our hump on. This weekly column is devoted to finding the hottest events across NYC that’ll arouse and titillate even the most jaded New Yorker. Partake in these shows and soirees across NYC and make tonight – and the rest of your nights this week – very sexy.

Topless Girls Caroling:
I mean, this is a no-brainer. Burlesque dancers from three different troupes join together at LES rock club R Bar on Saturday to sing and desecrate your favorite Christmas tunes like, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.”  Whoops! Ah well, no holiday is safe from the ire of guttered minds. Sat., Dec. 8th at R Bar, 7pm. All the details here.

The Sixth Annual Menorah Horah:
Hanukkah hotness hits Highline Ballroom on Sunday, when Jewish international burlesque duo The Schlep Sisters hold a pageant-style show where eight Hanukkah hopefuls vie for a spot in the very-exclusive Menorah Horah Royalty. Retro swimsuits and dreidel and latke songs included. Who will compete? Who will win the crown? I’m schvitzing just thinking about it. Bring your JDateSun., Dec. 9th at Highline Ballroom, 6pm, $25. All the details here.

Mies Julie:
NYT theatre critic Ben Brantley said “There is more erotic heat generated by the play’s two central characters than in any production in town.” And well, crap, if even stoic Brantley is turned on, then you can be sure you’ll be too when witnessing the off-Broadway play Mies Julie, a night-in-the-life of a black farm laborer and his “master’s” daughter in this smoldering post-apartheid drama. When the show’s over, release some steam at neighboring indie & intimate gastropub reBar.
Show runs until Sun., Dec. 16th at St. Ann’s Warehouse, $70. All the details here.

Naked Holidays:
Alright, so if topless just isn’t enough, ya big ol’ horndog you, then get a front-row seat to the sixth annual off-Broadway show Naked Holidays, where the cast –  wearing scarves and Santa hats (and only those) – perform their own raunchy spins on Yuletide classics, like “Dad Came Out This Christmas,” and “The Big Toy Chest.” After the show, head to Theatre District landmark and holiday-decorated Smith’s Bar for a drink and live music by (clothed) local performers. Show runs nightly until Sun., Dec. 30th at Roy Arias Studios, $57.50. All the details here.

Follow Bonnie on Twitter here.

Perez Hilton Starring as Prince Harry in Off-Broadway ‘NEWSical’

First of all, I apologize for what I’m about to do to your eyeballs. Second of all, there’s an off-Brodway musical revue called NEWSical the Musical, which is a musical send-up of timely gossip items, the title of which features handy caps-locking in case you can’t decipher subtle puns like "newsical" when they’re all correctly capitalized. And who better to step into the role of recent famous nudist Prince Harry than gossip blogger / talented musical theater actor Perez Hilton? 

Did I mention nudity? Because Perez Hilton is nude in this show. I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. No one has apologized to me, and I certainly didn’t make this casting decision, but I feel really bad about paying this forward and ruining your afternoon. Here are some images below, courtesy of Broadway World. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pour bleach on my face to make these images go away.

Contact the author of this post at tcoates@bbook.com and follow him on Twitter.