Acting Is A Horrible Business: Stewart & McKellen’s ‘Waiting For Godot’

Quitting acting ranks among the best decisions I have ever made. This point was forcefully driven home by watching Sir Ian McKellen, one of the most decorated and celebrated men to ever tread the boards, gnawing on a chicken bone that had been dropped on the stage at the Cort Theatre in the latest popular production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting For Godot. Here was a 74-year-old man, a knight, for god’s sake, eating food off the floor. For laughs. For a living! How much dignity is there in a job that calls for you to shed all dignity? Somehow, quite a lot.

McKellen and his co-star, 73-year-old Patrick Stewart, are not the men I picture when I read Beckett’s play. For whatever reason, I see Estragon and Vladimir as young or middle-aged drones, with something of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about them, suspended in that gray purgatory between nameless birth and anonymous death. To position them closer to the end, as any staging with older men does, is to further bleaken an already dark, stark, elemental work. In 1955, Beckett himself mocked the need to impose a particular reading on his masterpiece, saying, “Why people have to complicate a thing so simple I can’t make out.” But whether they like it or not, the people framing his infamous lines are forced to make practical choices.

Take, for example, Shuler Hensley and Billy Cudrup, who played the supporting parts of Pozzo and Lucky. The characters are, quite evidently, a cruel slave-owner and broken slave, and, perhaps because Hensley is a native of Georgia, the subjugation is of a Deep Southern, antebellum flavor. Though with a text that’s so stripped-down, you don’t exactly need a villain out of Django Unchained to get your point across: the language, the setting, and the hopelessness of the lead performers communicate the wasteland—all that’s left is to break up the monotony, as Beckett remarked. Will stereotypes get the job done? Maybe, with the right audience.

Cudrup has just one long speech, a modernist show-stopper, where he has to walk the line between intelligible rambling and highbrow bullshit, all the while suggesting that human intelligence is basically a parlor trick. That would be difficult enough were he not also tasked with idly dancing around at the end of a noose and carrying two suitcases (or lying comatose) for the entirety of his periods onstage. To Beckett, the actor truly was a prop, and his need for complex or allegorical motivation a baffling problem of vanity. People lack the integrity of words.

Lately, with the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, the most admired character actor of his age, we’ve begun to ask once more how much we expect from dramatic performers, and how much they ought to be admired—or pitied—for their sacrifice. I don’t think we ought to worship them for their artistry, per se, but we might respect and acknowledge how thankless the most prestigious gigs in the business really are, whether it’s an underfunded indie film or a brutal Broadway run. Having only ever done student musicals and amateur improv, I can tell you that I wouldn’t want to be the one up there in the spotlight. Would you?

Sara Bareilles Is Writing A Musical Based On Indie Film ‘Waitress’

She’s "not gonna write you a love song," but she’ll definitely write you a musical. Sara Bareilles, the singer/songwriter who’s sold over four million singles in the U.S. alone, is bringing her sincere, driving, and sob-inducing songs to the new musical adaptation of the tender indie movie Waitress

The 2007 shocker-hit starring Keri Russell is about a pregnant, unhappily-married waitress who starts whipping up tasty, inventive pies to escape her own life. When she meets the charming doctor who moves to town, the pies slowly become inspired by the events that follow…

Aboard the Waitress musical team are Pippin‘s producers and director, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Paula Vogel, who’s writing the script. 

Need a Waitress refresher or simply craving pie? Watch the film’s trailer.

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Broadway Gets Kinky: Tony Award Nominations Announced

Well, well, well, the truth comes out. The Great White Way’s kinky, laced-up, leathered side has officially slinked its way into the public eye with the announcement of this year’s Tony Award nominations – specifically the 13 nominations for Kinky Boots – the musical about a failing shoe factory’s success when it starts producing fetish footwear. With music by Cyndi Lauper, the musical adaptation of the 2005 British film garners the greatest number of nominations of any show this season. Couple that with the over-$1 million it makes a week, and it’s clear the people want kink with their song and dance, and Broadway knows how to deliver.

But beyond the sex, rock and roll, and more sex, the nominations also reveal that movie musicals are the only musicals worth producing on Broadway. Best musical nominees include: Bring It On, The Musical, A Christmas Story, The Musical, Kinky Boots, and Matilda The Musical, thereby proving that if you once paid $12 to see this story in cinemas, then it’s worth paying $125 to see it live and with song, percussion accompaniment, and revolving, wooden sets.

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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.

This Week’s Miami Happenings: Cecconi’s, Brothers Beckett, Serafina Brunch

NOW:  Cecconi’s Adopts Mixology Pairings
If coupling lamb chops with Shiraz feels too old school, head on down to Ceccioni’s at the Soho Beach House Miami for some mind-boggling mixology pairings on executive chef Sergio Sigala’s new, customizable spring menu. You’ll find yourself sipping on reposado tequila with Aperol and grapefruit peel served with hamachi crudo and a gingery gin concoction that tastes nothing like it sounds when paired with bufala mozzarella. Best part: the face time with the mixologists, who are as generous with shoptalk as they are with alcohol.

Mixology parings are now available at Cecconi’s Miami Beach (4385 Collins Ave., South Beach). For details, check out the listing in BlackBook Guides.

WEDNESDAY: Sibling Satire At The Arsht Center
Supporting the performing arts is belly-hurting hilarious thanks to Brothers Beckett, a cheeky play penned by a local playwright about friendship, family, and slacker siblings, laced with sharp banter and dark humor.

Brothers Beckett is playing at The Adrienne Arsht Center (1300 Biscayne Blvd., Downtown) through Sunday, March 24. For ticket information, visit the official website.

EVERY WEEKEND: Brunch Debuts At Serafina
The latest NYC culinary transport is rolling out its brunch menu. Serafina’s chef Marco Zuccala will be serving up Italian dishes, such as egg white frittatas and lemon ricotta pancakes, which will go deliciously with those bottomless Bellinis.

Serafina is open now (1111 Collins Ave., South Beach). For details, check out the listing in BlackBook Guides.

Be the first to know about the latest openings & events in Miami by signing up for the weekly BlackBook Happenings email.

What You Need To Know About Broadway’s New ‘Pippin’ Revival

We all want to live an extraordinary life. It’s challenging when things like taxes, delayed subway trains, and burnt coffee exist, but we try. Starting March 23rd, Broadway’s 31st longest-running show Pippin is returning to Broadway since its 1977 close, and bringing with it a whole new surge of inspiration to live an extraordinary life – which means you’re totally not off the hook this year. Having just returned from the open press rehearsal, here are a couple of things to  know about the show ahead of time.

1. Since Stephen Schwartz (composer/lyricist of Wicked) is the man behind Pippin’s music, please do expect to walk in already knowing the show’s ‘70s pop anthem “Corner Of The Sky,” and/or singing it on your way out.

2. Pippin, played by Matthew James Thomas (former Spider-Man in Turn Off the Dark), resembles a bit of a 20-something, very attractive Peter Pan, which is slightly disconcerting, but somehow condoned when he sings and takes his shirt off.

3. The dance moves choreographed by the show’s original director/legend Bob Fosse are well-preserved and impeccably performed by the animated Patina Miller (starred in Sister Act), who’s the show’s "Leading Player" character.

4. Since the title character’s quest for an extraordinary life is told by a performance troupe, you will see lots of the following: dancers doing flips through hula hoops, human pyramids, Patina swaying across the stage mid-hula hooping, and impossibly-toned abs.

Previews begin March 23rd at the Music Box Theatre. Pippin opens April 25th.

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Monday Funday: Tonight’s Top Events

So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. I get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And I am here to honor them. Here are tonight’s top events.

See a play about crime, threesomes, and wild animals:
The last Monday of its run, the acclaimed Grimly Handsome delivers a bewitching dose of theatre that’s part crime drama, dark comedy, and whimsy. Expect a cast full of sinister Christmas tree salesmen, detectives, and wild animals running loose in the streets. But no one is who they say they are, so go in there believing nothing but this: there will be threesomes. Play by Julia Jarcho. Running through Sunday, Jan. 20th   at St. Mark’s Church, 131 E. 10th St. 6pm, $18. All the details here.

Celebrate your favorite nightclub stars:
The Nightlife Awards are tonight, but what makes it a completely different breed from last night’s Golden Globes is that it’s the only all-performance award show in the world. Yes, there are no acceptance speeches. The cabaret winners (such as Marilyn Maye, Faith Prince, James Barbour) have to perform to prove why they were chosen, making it New York’s most showy and eccentric awards show. But what else do you expect from nightlife? And when you’re done, 7pm. $25+. The Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St. All the details here.

Watch an 18-year-old with a #1 debut album in the U.K. perform:
British, 18-year-old singer/songwriter Jake Bugg, who’s been coined “the new Dylan,” hits the America’s Lower East Side at Bowery Ballroom with his usual cigarettes, hipster clothes, and don’t-care-what-you-say swagger. Yep, he’s a teenager. And whether you’ve never heard of him, or just want to see what all the fuss is about, this intimate concert will tell all. It’s sold out but… you can find a way. 9pm. $15. Bowery Ballroom. All the details here

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MONDAY FUNDAY: Tonight’s Top NYC Events

So it’s the first day of the work week and there are four more days to go. We get it. But why ruminate when you can start to make Mondays the best night of the week? This weekly column is devoted to finding the best events across NYC hosted by individuals and places that are doing amazing, crazy, wild, sexy things on Monday nights. And we’re here to honor them. Here are tonight’s top events.

Eat something fried & delicious:
Celebrate the third night of Hanukkah by honoring that beautiful fried potato pancake at the Fourth Annual Latke Festival at BAM. Chefs from favorite Brooklyn and New York restaurants – like Blue Ribbon, The Vanderbilt, Balaboosta, Veselka, and A Voce – will fry up and compete for the coveted top latke award. For a $55 ticket, you get to eat the winning latkes and jelly doughnuts from Dough, and drink beer, wine, coffee from Brooklyn Roasting Company, and kombucha from Kombucha Brooklyn.  It’s Brooklyn, b%#%@. 6:30pm, $55 at BAM. For tickets, call BAM at 718-636-4100.

Hear something deep & brooding:
Get existential and transported to communist Russia at East Village red-swathed literary den KGB, where their longtime poetry night debuts aspiring and surprisingly prolific and lauded authors. Tonight marks the season finale of readings by Mark Strand, former Poet Laureate of the US, and published author Malachi Black. Damn. Grab one of KGB’s famous $7, big bottles of Baltika beer – that beloved Eastern European brand that’s hard to find anywhere but in this second-floor, Russian dive – and get ready for some brooding and wordy seduction. Poetry night starts at 7pm, every Monday. All the details here.

Watch something disturbing and sexual:
We all love a good confession, especially when it involves a half-naked, excessively good-looking human being confessing from the get-go that he’s, since the age of six, “enjoyed a rather delightful sexual relationship” with his father. Which brings us to tonight’s event: an autobiographical play by Cuban writer-director-producer Michelangelo Alasa called Confessions of a Cuban Sex Addict. But since tickets are free – and this show is riddled with actors, smoke, smoking-hot actors, and incest – reservations are highly required and tickets are scarce. Show runs tonight and next Monday, 8pm, at the Duo Multicultural Arts Center. All the details here.

Be on the radio & meet sexpert Dr. Ruth:
NPR’S most puzzling show Ask Me Another” comes to Brooklyn’s beloved and intimate events space The Bell House, where the show will be live-taped – and you can be too. Get quizzed by the trivia-and-brainteasers-centric show’s host Ophira Eisenberg, meet tonight’s special guest & sexpert Dr. Ruth , and maybe even end up in the contestant’s chair, facing trivia games customized specifically for you. This show is so intimate, it’ll trick you into thinking you’re at a game night in your friend’s cramped and messy living room – until your buddy tells you the next day, “Hey! I heard you mess up on the radio!” Show starts at 7:30pm, $10, at The Bell House. All the details here.

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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.