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SOUND OFF: The 2012 Tony AwardsSOUND OFF: The 2012 Tony Awards
by Pat Cerasaro - June 11, 2012

Overflowing with enthusiasm and energy, the true star of the 2012 Tony Awards was unquestionably three-time host and affable Broadway spokesman extraordinaire Neil Patrick Harris, doing what he does best - namely, being the host with the most. Whether web-slinging behind Angela Lansbury and Ted Chapin or leading a spectacular production number with Patti LuPone and a lawnmower, Harris proved yet again why is he is the best in the biz at this sort of thing - well, right up there along with Hugh Jackman, at least. Speaking of whom, in addition to a goosebump-inducing trailer for the forthcoming Tom Hooper-directed film adaptation of the Broadway sensation LES MISERABLES, Hugh Jackman was featured on the Tony Awards telecast and personally on hand to receive a well-earned special Tony Award for his many fundraising successes over the course of his three-show Broadway career, as was crossover superstar Bernadette Peters who took home a special Tony Award for her BC/EFA and Broadway Barks efforts. Adding to the star quotient of the night was Broadway/Hollywood super direct Mike Nichols, giving one of the classiest (despite the CBS-sanction bleep; on the same word as during Danny Burstein's FOLLIES turn, "godammit", incidentlly) and most profound acceptance speeches on the Tony Awards in recent memory - breaking the current record with, now, six Best Director statuettes, by the way. As far as musical performances go, in addition to Harris's triptych of showstoppers throughout the show - without even mentioning the many biting and sassy remarks, jokes and offhand commets; staged and otherwise - there were some seriously strong showings from almost all new musicals and revivals currently running, and even one or two terrific turns from productions already shuttered. The musical highlights of the night were Josh Young and the cast of JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR in a spirited and divine take on the title song from the celebrated Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera, as well as good showings from new musical head-to-head, nail-bite-worthy competitors, ONCE and NEWSIES, plus one or two other swoon-worthy moments, too. The 2011-2012 Broadway season may not have been a record-breaker insofar as outstanding content and memorable modern classics - while NEWSIES is certainly a smash, last year's THE BOOK OF MORMON is the type of hit we only see once a decade or so, and, therefore, is a bit eclipsed; and, ONCE won Best Musical, anyway - but Harris and the team of this year's show made it an unusually entertaining and unique Tony telecast, even when compared to the finest shows on the past - particularly those from the rightly lauded Cohen era. ONCE may have dominated the wins, but the many musical numbers showed that there is a lot of room for enjoyment whether or not your personal favorite show took home the prizes. Most of all, Neil Patrick Harris proved he was once, twice, three times a Tony triumph. (more...)
SOUND OFF Special Interview: Adam Shankman Talks ROCK OF AGES, HAIRSPRAY & MoreSOUND OFF Special Interview: Adam Shankman Talks ROCK OF AGES, HAIRSPRAY & More
by Pat Cerasaro - June 7, 2012

Today we are talking to the noted director of one of the most successful stage-to-screen adaptations of the new century, HAIRSPRAY, about his brand new feature film adaptation of Broadway's currently running 80s stadium rock smash hit ROCK OF AGES - the eminently talented Adam Shankman. Discussing the starry cast of ROCK OF AGES - Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and Mary J. Blige included - as well as the expanded songstack of the reconceived film version - which now includes Joan Jett's "I Love Rock N Roll" and Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On me", among others - Shankman imparts his infectious enthusiasm for the movie musical format and expresses his relishing of the exciting possibilities afforded by the heavy metal jukebox property. Additionally, Shankman reminisces on his experiences filming HAIRSPRAY and confirms his future re-teaming with HAIRSPRAY and HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL superstar Zac Efron on an upcoming film comedy which begins shooting next month, titled THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU, co-starring Jason Bateman and Goldie Hawn. Plus, memories of choreographing Paul Thomas Anderson's BOOGIE NIGHTS, directing two episodes of GLEE, working with Carrie Ann Inaba on ROCKULA more than twenty years ago (his film debut), anecdotes about SMASH - and much, much more! (more...)
SOUND OFF: LES MISERABLES Movie Trailer - One Dream MoreSOUND OFF: LES MISERABLES Movie Trailer - One Dream More
by Pat Cerasaro - May 30, 2012

The moment Broadway babies have been waiting for has at long, long last finally arrived - the LES MIZ movie trailer just hit the internet in the wee hours of Wednesday morning. As many suspected - and as the leaked, low-quality work print teaser indicated a few weeks back - the song selection showcased was, indeed, Anne Hathaway's impassioned and plaintive "I Dreamed A Dream", and, just as suspected, the trailer absolutely delivered in giving us the decadence, drama, epic imagery and all-consuming emotion we expected. (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE's Graduates Say GoodbyeSOUND OFF: GLEE's Graduates Say Goodbye
by Pat Cerasaro - May 23, 2012

The Boss to the Beatles to Madonna to Rod Stewart, GLEE's emotional and invigorating season finale was pretty much everything a gleek could have asked for in a grand send-off to the original crew of McKinley High's New Directions - at least insofar as we have seen them thus far - as the musical dramedy series ends its third season and heads into uncertain new terrain with Season Four and the purportedly revolutionary new dual-show concept GLEE mastermind Ryan Murphy and company plan to incorporate while bringing in guest stars Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson and THE GLEE PROJECT winners. As seen in "Goodbye", the future looks quite uncertain for many of the McKinley graduates - Rachel (Lea Michele) may have gotten into NYADA at the eleventh hour and arrived on Broadway to fulfill her theatre dreams, but Finn (Cory Monteith) and Kurt did not get into their performing arts academies of their choice. So, what now? So, too, will Quinn (Dianna Agron) assumedly head for the East Coast and Princeton, while Santana (Naya Rivera) will apparently be joining Rachel in New York - but, to do what? The future is evidently more promising for some than for others, but what we will see play out is infuriatingly indeterminable at this stage of the game. Anticipation is building, in any event - and GLEE continues to entice. What's next for the rest of the glee club we will have to wait until next season to witness, but we can rest assured that Blaine (Darren Criss), Sam (Chord Overstreet), Joe (Samuel Larsen), Sugar (Vanessa Lengies) and Artie (Kevin McHale) will be around, with the fates of some of the original glee clubbers who graduated a little less cut and dry as far as their character's trajectories are concerned - particularly Puck (Mark Salling), Mike (Harry Shum, Jr.), Tina (Jenna Ushkowitz) and Mercedes (Amber Riley). And, as for Mr. Shu (Matt Morrison), Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), Coach Beiste (Dot-Marie Jones) and Emma (Jayma Mays)? We will definitely be seeing much more of them in September. While we can always rely on GLEE to provide us with outrageous jokes, outlandish characterizations, unexpected dramatic and thematic twists and turns, shockingly touching domestic drama and many incredibly heartwarming moments and socially progressive messages, the music - more importantly, the musical numbers - is what makes GLEE stand out from every other serial television series before or since and why the show will unquestionably be remembered as something revolutionary and indisputably idiosyncratic in the scheme of TV history. (more...)
SOUND OFF: A Double-Dose Of GLEE (With Lindsay Lohan)SOUND OFF: A Double-Dose Of GLEE (With Lindsay Lohan)
by Pat Cerasaro - May 16, 2012

On the edge of glory, GLEE momentarily brought back the ecstatic excitement and indescribably infectious joy which made the musical dramedy series a huge hit in its first and second seasons, then commanding upwards of twelve million viewers a week. Now sixty-plus episodes into the series, in a two-hour episode helmed by co-creator Ian Brennan, last night's two-episode gorge-worthy and gorgeous feast - "Props" and "Nationals", by the hour - was a reminder of everything that cynics have cited as lacking from episodes in Season Three, as flagging ratings and a general media lull plagues the once seemingly indomitable mega-show despite its continued inventiveness and dramatic daringness. It was fresh and sassy and outrageous, but touching and heartfelt - attributes ascribed to the best episodes of the show. Yet, it was so much more, too - and then there's the music! Both hours were a totally over-the-top tribute to all things big and wow-worthy, coming at just the right moment to pump some energizing lifeblood into the audience base - passing references to Stephen Sondheim, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Marvin Hamlisch and Elton John as well as multiple winks at DANCE OF THE VAMPIRES songwriter and BAT OUT OF HELL mastermind Jim Steinman collectively pushing the theatre insider reference quotient into the stratosphere; and appreciably so. Yes, indeed, last night's double-dose of GLEE was an OD-worthy escapade worthy of returning to time and time again - Lea Michele's solo spots of Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up" and Celine Dion's Grammy-winning "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" alone were standouts of not only this or any season, but the series itself. With more than fifteen songs performed - everything from Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and The Who to STARLIGHT EXPRESS, TOMMY, FLASHDANCE and KISS ME, KATE - there was something for everyone in the two-hour GLEE extravaganza overflowing with the witty one-liners, out-of-this-world twists, outlandish characterizations, as well as the idiosyncratic theatrical reality that only GLEE can create. It was a true return to form to prove any and all naysayers wrong, and, this, coming after last week's Ryan Murphy-penned "Prom-asaurus" season highlight, no less. (more...)
SOUND OFF: SMASH Bares Its Big, Beautiful BombshellSOUND OFF: SMASH Bares Its Big, Beautiful Bombshell
by Pat Cerasaro - May 15, 2012

The words we've all been breathlessly waiting to hear - "You're going on as Marilyn tonight," - were finally uttered by the director of the show-within-the-show, Derek (Jack Davenport), on SMASH's "Bombshell" season finale last night: Karen Cartwright (Katharine McPhee) nabbed the coveted role. Despite seemingly all of the bets being placed early in the season against Karen by viewers and critics alike insofar as her likelihood in donning the peroxide wig and beautymark - she seemed a Norma Jean but rarely an expected choice for Marilyn; certainly no match in the classic idea of the screen siren as far as the vivacious and curvaceous Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) was concerned. While many were quick in giving Ivy Lynn the upper hand - or upper skirt, as the case may be - it was evident from the first moment of the series that Karen, the underdog, is who we were largely meant to be rooting for above all others; the naive Iowa girl singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" on a stage of glitterring stars, so close and yet so far away. Ivy surely made a fast and furious impression soon thereafter with "The National Pastime" in SMASH's pilot, but Karen had already been quite clearly established as our most central protagonist - perhaps with Julia (Debra Messing) equally as prominent. As the fourteen subsequent episodes have progressed, SMASH has revealed itself to be a true ensemble piece with the emphasis on the collective journey of all of the characters and how that has had an effect on the burgeoning Broadway musical at the show's core, but Karen and Julia still have remained the two given the most screen-time and exposure. Megan Hilty has nonetheless emerged as a force to be reckoned with and her performance in the role is the finest of all on the series, outshining all in her songs and scenes. The various highways, byways and alleyways by which we have journeyed on the road of SMASH from the beginning to last night has unquestionably been leading to the BOMBSHELL first preview performances and the reveal of who would ultimately win the part of a lifetime in the show-within-the-show - and, on that count, the SMASH season finale bared all. And, as if all of that were not enough - cameos from Broadway heavyweights Bernadette Peters and Nick Jonas, too! (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE's New Directions Do One DirectionSOUND OFF: GLEE's New Directions Do One Direction
by Pat Cerasaro - May 9, 2012

"Prom-asaurus" proved that GLEE can still pack a powerful pop culture punch when required to do so; and when it wants to - and spike it with some effervescence and make it pop, too. Even those among us who don't partake in drinking the GLEE Kool-Aid, all must agree that there was more than one episode's fair share of fun, frivolity, twists and tunes, with some very fitting dramatic and musicals moments that we have by now come to anticipate from the genre-hopping musical dramedy enterprise - all of it integrated effectively into the stream-lined storyline, as well. Prom. It's all about prom this time of year and GLEE always makes a point to pay tribute to the month of May in this way. It is in pop culture melding mega-moments like last night's One Direction cover by way of GLEE - "What You Makes You Beautiful" - that we are again reminded of the special place GLEE holds in the American pop pantheon of the 21st century - using real, of-the-moment pop songs and utilizing them to comment on current events while musicalizing and dramatizing the lives of high school students. The classic cuts that come along are a bonus, really, when one considers GLEE from this viewpoint, though the contemporary covers have become the bread and butter of song sales for the mega-music-selling series - "Teenage Dream" by Blaine & The Warblers, as well as the Troubletones's Adele "Someone Like You/Rumor Has It" mash-up sold nearly as many copies as their predecessors - the originals - as far as iTunes sales go. Though FOX channel-mate Simon Cowell of course discovered and shepherds the international pop smash super group One Direction, their musical appearance on GLEE this season marks the continued exposure of the of-the-moment boy band phenomena we have not seen the likes of in over a decade - not since the days of N*SYNC and the Backstreet Boys - after the New Directions success with The Wanted's "Glad You Came" a few episodes back and their upcoming continued presence, no doubt, in addition. What makes GLEE must-see-TV week after week is more often than not the try-anything approach of the creators and cast - some sequences shockingly come off brilliantly and hit all-too-squarely their intended targets, while others fall far short and flop completely, even embarrassingly so. To crib a phrase from One Direction's hit single, what makes GLEE beautiful is that GLEE does not always know what makes it beautiful - experiencing drama coming to us delivered from that rocky, risky-to-mount precipice is sometimes frustrating, sometimes rewarding, but almost always somehow more than merely satisfying. (more...)
by Pat Cerasaro - May 8, 2012

"It's always gorgeous when you sing," and so the same goes for NBC's musical drama series SMASH. This week's penultimate episode of the first season order of fifteen gave us a long-awaited real look at the actual production of the musical-within-the-show live onstage in the form of the first Boston preview in the out-of-town tryout of BOMBSHELL. Up until this point, we have only been provided with sporadic glimpses into the mind's eye of the director of the show as he stages and rehearses the various song sequences. With last night's "Previews" episode we got our third major iteration of "Let Me Be Your Star" - following the full-out song at the conclusion of the pilot episode and the subsequent ballad opening number version shown in Episode 2 - with Rebecca Duvall (guest star Uma Thurman) belting it out to mixed results. Mixed results is the kindest way to say that the volatile and kooky movie star character simply does not work in any way as Marilyn Monroe in the bio-musical about her life being created - not physically, tonally and certainly not musically. Croaking out the sumptuous and richly melodic Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman gems that have been specifically created for SMASH's BOMBSHELL - songs dutifully doled out in sparingly small doses of one or two each week - is near-sacrilege when one ponders the talent even on the very same stage; Ivy (Megan Hilty) or Karen (Katharine McPhee) could both kill the role, as wee have seen. So, who will ultimately make it to the stage that now, in the eleventh hour, the star of the show has walked? Of course, the sure-to-be action, drama and music-filled finale to Season One arrives next Monday at the same SMASH place and same SMASH channel - will the Marilyn musical be a bomb or a smash? Will the show even go on at all given the unforeseen obstacles? A lot remains to be answered, but the fever pitch fans and viewers have been yearning for has definitely entered, stage right. Next week we will see who truly sparkles, who really shines - and who ends up exploding. (more...)
SOUND OFF: The Tell-Tale 2012 Tony NominationsSOUND OFF: The Tell-Tale 2012 Tony Nominations
by Pat Cerasaro - May 5, 2012

This Tuesday marked the second most exciting day of any given year for Broadway babies - the Tony Award nominations. The actual awards ceremony on CBS - Broadway's night of nights - is still a few weeks off, but now is certainly an ideal time to size up the competition(s) and see who will most likely walk away with Tony gold come June 10 - and this year's ceremony, more than most before, could very well be as surprising as this season was; or Tuesday's nominations themselves were, for that matter. While the 2011-2012 Broadway season certainly fell far short of the heady promise many ascribed to its prospects way back last Summer, we certainly saw the fulfillment of some big dreams for some notable names if not an all-in-all banner year for Broadway when collectively considered. The highly-praised Off-Broadway critical darling LYSISTRATA JONES landed with a thud early in the season, as did the re-jiggered, gender-bending revival of ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER and its star Harry Connick, Jr., and, even the lauded and relatively successful revival of Stephen Sondheim's peerless masterpiece FOLLIES failed to make any money and closed. GODSPELL did not fare much better, though it is still running. The two highly-anticipated revivals of Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic early successes JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR and EVITA were met with indifferent reviews - with the latter receiving some nasty press for its stars, neither of whom received Tony nominations - but receptive audiences so far. THE GERSHWINS' PORGY & BESS could take Best Revival, after all - but will NICE WORK's Kelli O'Hara edge out four-time Tony recipient Audra McDonald? New plays did not fare much better than the measly crop of musicals, but OTHER DESERT CITIES and VENUS IN FUR seemed to hit their target demographics squarely, but CLYBOURNE PARK looks to be the frontrunner for Best Play despite all that. We shall see. Mike Nichols may take home another Best Director for his sensitive, if workmanlike revival of Arthur Miller's DEATH OF A SALESMAN, as conceivably could Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield. John Lithgow is offering up some fierce competition in THE COLUMNIST, though. The acting races are tight, for sure, in both plays and musicals, with more newcomers and first-time nominees than any season this century. (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE Chokes, But Shakes It OutSOUND OFF: GLEE Chokes, But Shakes It Out
by Pat Cerasaro - May 2, 2012

Rachel doesn't seem likely to be headed to New York and NYADA - nope, not this time. Mucking up her major shot at Broadway glory - at least as far as high school auditions go - by messing up the words to "Don't Rain On My Parade" from FUNNY GIRL, her anthem, no less - the focus on GLEE's appropriately titled "Choke" episode brought to mind a lyric from Stephen Sondheim's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, a musical about the sacrifices we make to get what we thought we wanted - "still with dreams, / just reshaping them. / Growing up…." And that is Season Three of GLEE in a nutshell - the senior members of New Directions learning to let go of childhood and move ahead into the unknown world of maturity; whether the future may bring college, career or pool-cleaning. With more musical theatre references per minute than any episode of the twenty so far in GLEE S3, "Choke" was filled with the stylized storytelling and absurd, although always appreciable surprises along the way that makes GLEE consistently, near-constantly compelling. No, no, no - GLEE has not flagged in the least sixty-odd episodes into the series so far, although the rating may have slightly. Last night's GLEE was a good example of the shifting focus and repeated reinvention that keeps the series fresh - and the comedy is as fearless and biting as ever. (more...)
SOUND OFF: Another Op'nin', Another SMASHSOUND OFF: Another Op'nin', Another SMASH
by Pat Cerasaro - May 1, 2012

Kicking off the plot-packed night, Cole Porter's classic KISS ME, KATE showbiz paean "Another Op'nin', Another Show" was given a full-bodied and exciting rendition by Christian Borle - with a gloriously accentuated arrangement courtesy of SMASH songwriter Marc Shaiman; seemingly channeling Barbra Streisand and Peter Matz - and, with that, the SMASH train left Manhattan and hit Boston for the tryout of the musical-within-the-series, BOMBSHELL. While Rebecca Duvall (Uma Thurman) may play the director of the show, Derek (Jack Davenport), better than she does her actual role in the musical - Marilyn Monroe - she is not the only member of the rich and varied ensemble on SMASH to be playing or being played (or both) - or hitting the occasional wrong note or two. With only two episodes left in Season One, the threads are being wrapped up into what is shaping up to be a pleasingly complex and colorful tapestry. (more...)
SOUND OFF: Somebody Who Loves GLEE (& Whitney)SOUND OFF: Somebody Who Loves GLEE (& Whitney)
by Pat Cerasaro - April 25, 2012

Significantly more right than wrong and much more than merely just OK, last night's GLEE tribute to the song catalogue of pop/R&B icon Whitney Houston was a welcome return to Season Two levels of euphoria and razzle dazzle entertainment value that GLEE has proven time and time again it is the one stop shop for on TV these days, as dazzling in their own way as sequences on SMASH may be as that freshman musical-themed series increases in popularity and GLEE, now nearly finished with Season Three (and almost 60 episodes in as a series so far), is seeing a decline in viewership and a dip in popularity. (more...)
SOUND OFF: SMASH's 1001 Bollywood NightsSOUND OFF: SMASH's 1001 Bollywood Nights
by Pat Cerasaro - April 24, 2012

This week on SMASH the show hit its peak insofar as synergy of story, plot, character and music - especially the music. Karen (Katharine McPhee) offered up a touching Snow Patrol cover, "Light Up", but the big musical moments of the show stand alongside the finest on the series so far - at least. Yes, "1001 Nights" and "Second Hand White Baby Grand" were the most captivating musical sequences on the show since the pilot's "National Pastime" and "Let Me Be Your Star", seamlessly weaving together the disparate elements of the series and amplifying the emotion into a heightened, exuberant expression of the character's deepest feelings, thoughts, hopes and wishes - exactly what the best numbers always do in the finest Broadway musicals, which SMASH is ostensibly about, more or less. The eleven episodes leading up to "Publicity" have prepared us perfectly well for the potential plights and victories about to be experienced by the colorful cast of characters as we enter the final triptych of Season One - with this one being a definite standout. Helmed by pilot director Michael Mayer and written by creator Theresa Rebeck, "Publicity" is surefire proof that SMASH has developed into a rewarding experience for the attentive viewers among us - the "1001 Nights" sequence alone so rife with detail pertaining to the entire arc of the character's journey on the show so far; and so much more - and a consistently compelling viewing experience for those seeking out great song sequences done up in a grand style. While the barebones "Second Hand White Baby Grand" was outfitted with merely rehearsal accoutrement, Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) made her big bid for the role of Marilyn Monroe in the musical-within-the-show and elicited every sentimental, sad, sweet and mournful note of perhaps the finest Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman original ballad yet to appear on the series. Yes, "1001 Nights" was the most extravagant entertainment experience presented thus far on SMASH - as promised by show stars Megan Hilty and Anjelica Huston weeks ago to me themselves - but the heart and soul of the series has always remained in the big ballads - look no further than the pilot's "Beautiful" and aforementioned duet finale coup de tele-theatre - and "Second Hand White Baby Grand" was a stunning moment allowing a soul-barred Marilyn just as the characters begin to find their own new levels of intimacy in their various entanglements - romantic, familial, professional, personal and otherwise. "Publicity" proved SMASH is set to hit high gear for the Boston tryout of BOMBSHELL that will close out the first season over the course of the next three weeks. (more...)
by Pat Cerasaro - April 18, 2012

"How about the soundtrack that defined a generation… wait for it… SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER?!" sayeth Sue Sylvester on last night's glitzy disco-themed GLEE. Sporting seriously choice song selections and with all outfitted in fierce far-out duds, "Saturday Night GLEE-ver" was a slice of soundtrack heaven - and sporadically hotter than, well, a disco inferno. Besides the all-out Bee Gees bonanza, we were also treated to the welcome return of GLEE guest star extraordinaire and Broadway regular Jonathan Groff as fan favorite Jessie St. James, as well as a chance for some secondary players of New Directions to break out in song, dance and - given the theme - strut. Before the tribute-heavy second half of Season Three excels into high gear next week with the Whitney Houston homage, last night's GLEE gone disco struck the right poses, affected the right look and made all the right moves in making a memory for a new generation with the timeless music of another - as GLEE has proven it does best, time and time again. Yes, tribute episodes are where GLEE achieves maximum momentum as not only a TV series, but an entertainment entity itself - as the eight song sequences in "Saturday Night GLEE-ver" surely attest. (more...)
by Pat Cerasaro - April 17, 2012

"Now, there's a movie star!" quoth Eileen (Anjelica Huston) of Rebecca Duvall (special guest star Uma Thurman) following her breathy and spastic performance of a new Julia/Tom musical number for the Marilyn Monroe-based musical-within-the-show on SMASH - BOMBSHELL - titled "Dig Deep". While last night's "The Movie Star" episode of NBC's musical dramedy series SMASH was light on the musical numbers - only Karen (Katharine McPhee) and Rebecca managed a musical moment - the drama was dense and delectable, with the rapport between the motley crew of characters comprising the enterprise improving by the week (and it started strong). Yet, despite the best efforts of Eileen, Tom (Christian Borle), Julia (Debra Messing) and Derek (Jack Davenport) in attempting to create a new version of the Marilyn musical that showcases her best (and limited) abilities. Rebecca is a tentative talent who lacks a lot in the vocal and dance departments - to say the least - yet it is undeniable that she also possesses a certain air of a star - perhaps because she is one; on SMASH (as in real life, given Thurman's A-list status), a big one. Portraying the movie star trying out a Broadway show for the first - and, most likely, last - time, Thurman brings a caustic, nutsy vibe to the seemingly bipolar screen siren - "36-ish", meaning more like 40-ish in actuality - and gives gravitas to the cartoonishly written role. Just as the Marilyn musical has shown its astonishing, chameleon-like adaptability in its iterations starring Karen and Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) - not only in its star, but also in its style, sound, mood, conception and musical arrangements - now BOMBSHELL is being retrofitted for Rebecca. But, at what cost? Stripping the show of its big Broadway leading lady musical potential and showing off the supporting cast to take the focus off of the shaky star at the center, BOMBSHELL's "Dig Deep" yet again gave the simply astounding songwriting duo responsible for the songs of the shows-within-the-shows on SMASH (including all of the BOMBSHELL songstack heard and seen so far, as well as the glimpses at the previous Tom/Julia collaborations, HEAVEN & EARTH and THREE ON A MATCH) "Dig Deep" was a WEST SIDE STORY-esque hot jazz song complete with the syncopation and stylization implicit in the best songs of the Actors Studio era which the 50s-set scene set out to depict (Lee Strasberg and all). (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE's Big BrotherSOUND OFF: GLEE's Big Brother
by Pat Cerasaro - April 11, 2012

The answer to the question we have been waiting eight weeks to be answered finally arrived last night on GLEE: Quinn is still standing - well, more or less. And, she's singing, too! Duetting on Elton John's ear-worm 80s up-tempo classic with similarly wheelchair bound Artie (Kevin McHale), Quinn (Dianna Agron) acted as last night's GLEE's moral figurehead of the hour, while guest star Matt Bomer provided some serious skills in the dramatic and musical fronts in the form of two tremendous duets with brother Blaine (Darren Criss). Besides Blaine's big brother and Quinn's quick recovery from her potentially fatal crash on the mid-season finale back in February, GLEE's "Big Brother" return showed GLEE back in fine form and remaining as outrageous, outlandish, hilarious, spontaneously brilliant and always invigorating as always and how we have come to expect it to be over the course of the uneven three seasons of the series so far. The winning streak continues, and the uniformly strong Season Three barrels on and cements its place as the show's strongest season overall so far. If this episode didn't have enough implicit excitement in evidence already, Bomer and Criss covered one of the biggest songs of 2012 by taking on Australian rising star Gotye's hypnotic pop anthem "Somebody That I Used To Know" in dual-bro mode - instantly becoming an of-the-moment GLEE cultural meta-musical mini-masterpiece to stand proudly with Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff's reinvention of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" and Michele and Menzel's reworking of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" from previous seasons. GLEE tells stories in a wholly unique way, and, in moments like this, we are reminded why it will remain appointment TV for fans of musical storytelling as long as it remains as relevant, pertinent and surprisingly profound as it often is - more often than not, as we have seen throughout this season. While hot button, water cooler entertainment of the freshest and hottest manner it may not always be anymore, GLEE is a well-oiled machine that fans can rely on to deliver what they want - and, given the proposed revolutionary Season Four concept devised by series mastermind Ryan Murphy, GLEE may reclaim its place as the most must-see show on TV once again. As it is, roughly sixty episodes in, it remains consistently surprising and uniformly entertaining, anyway - perhaps not even halfway through what we can predict its eventual total episode tally may be. But, before Season Four in September, let's discuss the first of the back 8 episodes of GLEE Season Three. (more...)
by Pat Cerasaro - April 10, 2012

Ending on a nod to Michael Bennett's heart-stopping coup de theatre Act One Finale to DREAMGIRLS - with the button of Karen (Katharine McPhee)'s exquisitely and evocatively emotional "Never Give All The Heart" giving way to a grand diva entrance for the highly anticipated debut of special SMASH guest star, Uma Thurman, who took the applause (and generated even more awe for the moment, in turn) - last night's "The Understudy" episode of NBC's hit musical dramedy series SMASH was one of the strongest episodes since the first few, with three new outstanding Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman songs as well as Megan Hilty's sensitive cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Breakaway". In addition to the mega-wattage jolt of the final few moments provided by PULP FICTION and KILL BILL movie icon Thurman, we were also treated to another new multi-arc guest star in the guise of Tony Award-winning LES MIZ and CATS lead Terrence Mann. "The Understudy" had a central focus on many of the stronger dramatic, thematic and musical touchstones of the series so far and with even a cursory consideration of cumulative of content to date it is clear to witness that we are seeing major pay-offs for many story arcs and plot elements buried as far back as the stupendous pilot episode. Indeed, with Christian Borle, Megan Hilty and Katharine McPhee all given a big musical moment, the plot and music were drawn together pleasingly and privatively - particularly in the aforementioned crowning achievement of "Never Give All The Heart"; perhaps the finest ballad from BOMBSHELL, the Marilyn Monroe show-within-the-series, yet presented on SMASH. Each week, the elements we enjoy most seem to be amplified while the lesser subject matter is strengthened by new plot developments and enhanced perspective due to the various circumstances concerning the cast of characters. Let's go one by one through the cast and see where we have ended up since the pilot as we had into the final third of SMASH Season One. (more...)
SOUND OFF: SMASH's Boozy BombshellsSOUND OFF: SMASH's Boozy Bombshells
by Pat Cerasaro - April 3, 2012

"What we did together exploded my whole life like a bombshell," a rain-soaked Julia related to former paramour with whom she recently rekindled a romance, Michael (Broadway notable Will Chase; the former Joe DiMaggio of the Marilyn Monroe musical at the core), qualified by saying, "but I'm not letting anyone say it was not my fault." And so goes the trajectory of SMASH so far - trepidatious and unsure as often as rhapsodically exhilarating and exuberantly entertaining, at almost equal turns; falling short more often than not in many of the melodramatic subplots, excelling with the effortless ease of a surefire hit in the musical sequences and rehearsal scenes of the gestating musical central to the series as a whole. Recently revealed in this very column late last month by SMASH stars Megan Hilty and Anjelica Huston, the confirmed title of the show-within-the-show on SMASH is BOMBSHELL, which is all too an apt a title for a musical arising amidst the war-torn landscape of Broadway in the soapy bathtub stew with everything but the kitchen sink itself that is the universe of SMASH, for better and worse - particularly insofar this group of drama queens and kings is concerned. Such is the nature of SMASH itself - in embracing its flaws it may find its ultimate salvation. Amp up the camp and dial down the drama; pump up the music and pull the shade on secondary subplots; and, please, evict Ellis. Sometimes it takes a few shots to hit the target and every at bat cannot be a home run, but Episode 9 gave us some pleasing development to plotlines that could have fallen by the wayside on a lesser series. (more...)
by Pat Cerasaro - March 27, 2012

Sporadically shedding its former skin as a mainly musical endeavor, last night's "The Coup" episode of NBC's musical dramedy series SMASH stepped outside the box and presented a drama-focused show heavy on the plot and light on the musical numbers - with surprisingly strong results, believe it or not. As has become abundantly apparent, in the seven episodes up until this point, SMASH seems to have excelled in its musical sequences which floated high, flying, adored (like Eva Peron in EVITA) above everything else; enlivening the proceedings where the story fell short - usually, with Ivy (Megan Hilty) dominating the Marilyn Monroe show-within-the-show songs and Karen (Katharine McPhee) making the very most of an impressive melange of pop covers - but, as penned by Scott Burkhardt and directed by GLEE veteran Paris Barclay, "The Coup" showed that SMASH has legs and can sustain a character/plot-focused story from time to time, too. And, anyway, it's hard to complain too much about a lack of songs when we were presented with perhaps the most unique and stylized pop musical number to date in the form of the Top 40-ready Ryan Tedder-written potential Marilyn burlesque routine - that is, if Derek (Jack Davenport) takes the show-within-the-show in an entirely new direction and leaves Tom (Christian Borle) and Julia (Debra Messing) by the wayside. That potential prospect seems highly unlikely, though - to say the very, very least. Speaking of high, "The Coup" flew the coop as far as daring to do what many may have thought unlikely or impossible - namely, weaving in almost seamless, fully-integrated musical sequences such as Ivy & company's down and dirty bowling alley cover song set to the funky 60s sounds of Sly & The Family Stone's "Dance To The Music", or, (almost) effortlessly managing to make a contemporary song in a musical theatre milieu actually function (more or less) and come alive in the form of the sexy and titillating 'Touch Me'. Yes, "The Coup" stylistically diverged from what has come before on SMASH, but the more risks taken, the more rewards reaped. Definitely don't count all the eggs in the SMASH basket before they're hatched! (more...)
SOUND OFF: Bernadette Peters, At The Corner Of Broadway & SMASHSOUND OFF: Bernadette Peters, At The Corner Of Broadway & SMASH
by Pat Cerasaro - March 20, 2012

When a big Broadway star like Bernadette Peters makes her way onto a national TV program, Broadway babies await it with abated breath. Yet, when a big Broadway star like Bernadette Peters appears on an actual musical TV series like SMASH, Broadway babies have reason to throw an all-out bacchanal - and, last night, they most certainly had a reason cause celebre. While GLEE has spoiled us with a plethora of guest stars from Broadway and Hollywood over the course of its three seasons - Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Carol Burnett and Patti LuPone among them - the presence of two-time Tony Award-winner Peters - to say nothing of the forthcoming appearances by Norbert Leo Butz and Marc Kudisch - is a gift from the theatrical gods that instantly makes SMASH must-see-TV for the theatrically attuned among us (which, let's be honest, is most of us). Playing Ivy Lynn's blithely selfish and calculating former star of a mother, Leigh, Peters wrought every last ounce of bravado out of her bravura performance recreation of "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from GYPSY - a show she famously starred in under the direction of Sam Mendes earlier this century - and made her thorny scenes with Megan Hilty blossom; her overall star turn giving the entire affair a cold, brusque but all-too-believable bloom - ice in veins all too tangibly real to feel. The tension was certainly thick for the first workshop performance of the show-within-the-show on SMASH, as well, but Hilty still managed to set fire to her scenes and songs - and McPhee shows considerable promise with her burgeoning pop music career (and next week's Ryan Tedder-composed "Touch Me" sequence seems certain to deliver on the sultry, sexy siren of song front as McPhee comes closer to getting the role of Marilyn). And, speaking of songs knocked out of the park for the umpteenth time by this all-star musical team responsible for SMASH, besides the slowed down grand slam ballad version of "Let Me Be Your Star" - given a bluesy Broadway belt only the very best, like Hilty, could possibly provide - we were also treated to a striking and wholly stylistically unique new Marilyn Monroe/Joe DiMaggio song in the form of the arresting "On Lexington & 52nd Street", another homerun to tick off on the perfect scorecard for songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman on SMASH so far; Will Chase's best (and, apparently, last) showcase. Film noir with a pulsating, almost atonal, steely and terse tinge, this is the sort of character number that seamlessly presents plot development and character exposition simultaneously in a purely, thrillingly theatrical manner and the type of dramatic and musical merging of storytelling SMASH excels at most of all, time after time after time after time. While "Everything's Coming Up Roses" was a strong cover of a classic Broadway barn-burner on account of Peters, "On Lexington & 52nd Street" expertly showcased the type of entertainment entity SMASH can ultimately be at its very best, firing on all axels - and how utterly enthralling in its layers of meta-narratives the real-life/showbiz soap saga that make it all come together it can fascinatingly be. Additionally, the workshop musical montage was the best example yet of how excitingly combustible and hot SMASH can really be when the boiler at its core is at full blast as it was sporadically last night in the appropriately titled "The Workshop" episode - almost always fueled by the simply spectacular songs for the show-within-the-show. (more...)
SOUND OFF Special Interview: Linda Eder's SONGBIRDSSOUND OFF Special Interview: Linda Eder's SONGBIRDS
by Pat Cerasaro - March 14, 2012

Today we are talking to a queen of the concert stage famous for her decades touring the country who has also made a mark on the recording industry with her countless remarkable albums and who will be returning to New York with an intimate show dedicated to her favorite leading ladies of song, titled SONGBIRDS - the one and only Linda Eder. (more...)
by Pat Cerasaro - March 13, 2012

As we near the halfway point for Season One, it is evident now more than ever that SMASH has established a pretty clear-cut style, structure and overall dramatic direction - each week we can depend upon most if not all of the following in one form or another: a fabulous Marilyn Monroe-themed musical production number; a soul-baring rehearsal scene or three; a pop cover or two (both a classic and a current one, if possible); some Derek (Jack Davenport) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) diva drama and hand-wringing; cattiness, backstabbing and shade thrown in the direction of, and almost always directly affecting, sweet-as-pie Karen (Katharine McPhee), an all-too sympathetic character who just can't seem to catch a break (bar mitzvah tween audiences excluded); a peek into the lives of the Marilyn musical songwriters, Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christian Borle), currently developing the show-within-the-show before our very eyes and ears; Julia and Tom's subsequent respective romantic relationships and entanglements (showmances and otherwise; though it seems there are many more of the former than the latter with these two); and, of course, Anjelica Huston being both poignant in one way or another in her delicate portrayal of Eileen and also just plain divine as only she can be, kicking ass and taking names as the lead producer of the show-within-the-show. All in all, the show-within-the-show based on Marilyn Monroe acts as the real machine running SMASH and keeping it all connected. And, that about sums it up. Shake, stir and serve - there you have SMASH in a sentence or two. Better still, this formula really works - and also really works wonders, from time to time, too. Each week dishes up its fair share of surprises, as well. I mean, who could foresee that scintillating scene with Julia and Joe DiMaggio (Will Chase) post-rehearsal paralleling the Marilyn/DiMaggio duet just rehearsed? Or, furthermore, Karen positively killing Florence & The Machine at a bar mitzvah like she most certainly did? Best of all, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman provided another tantalizing and terrific new Marilyn song with a fiercely fresh style and sound in the spectacular form of the romantically rapturous, late-50s doo-wop-hued duet "History Is Made At Night", given a particularly playfully seductive performance by Chase and Hilty as the undeniably perfect Monroe and Joe DiMaggio (though Chase's character does not seem like he will be sticking around much longer). Plus, how badass was Eileen (Anjelica Huston) at the very end of the episode and how all around awesome was her delivery of the final line? Shoot to score, indeed - and, on 'Chemistry', there was more focus on the scoring, both in the musical and sexual senses, than on anything else. Above all, last night's SMASH showed that one aspect of show business shall always remain a viable, hot-cross-bun-level-hot commodity: sex. (more...)
SOUND OFF: SMASH Makes Bad Look GoodSOUND OFF: SMASH Makes Bad Look Good
by Pat Cerasaro - March 6, 2012

Packing more music per minute than any episode of the show since the pilot, last night's SMASH showed the ever-developing musical dramedy series finding its footing and delineating the many relationships and interrelationships of the onstage and backstage cast of characters that populate it - and, as always, the music made the night. Will Chase scored yet again with a soulful "Song For You"; McPhee emanated sultriness in her cover of James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's World"; and, in particular, Megan Hilty made the bawdiest and most big Broadway-sounding song from the Marilyn Monroe musical we have yet heard hit like Joe DiMaggio's bat when it met a meatball in the big 20th Century Fox production number we are sure to remember. When it comes to the musical numbers, SMASH is adult musical storytelling done exceptionally well with a precise, professional sheen. The story and characters have exhibited a lot of areas where they could go in future episodes, and, now, by the fifth episode, the style and music/drama formula is being perfected right before our eyes. What has resulted is that we are witnessing SMASH as a show finding its voice with all the world to hear - not an enviable position to be in, but that is the name of the game of a network TV gamble on the level of this. And, anyway, what sights and sounds we have to look forward to in the coming weeks as the Marilyn musical within the show begins to take a more tangible shape - and Bernadette Peters makes her SMASH debut in less than two weeks! (more...)
by Pat Cerasaro - February 28, 2012

SMASH is out for blood - wolf's blood, that is. So, go howl! In the climax of the series so far - at least since that thrilling finale to the pilot episode - the wildly talented cast of characters that inhabit SMASH were joined in purpose and performance for the first time onscreen all together, singing "I Never Met A Wolf That Didn't Like To Howl" - well, at least the current top choices for Marilyn Monroe (Megan Hilty) and Joe DiMaggio (Will Chase) by the songwriting duo (portrayed by Debra Messing and Christian Borle) behind the show-within-the-show; guest appearance by prospective investor portrayed by pop idol and current Broadway star Nick Jonas notwithstanding. Yet, Katharine McPhee shone bright in her secondary storyline, bringing defiant joie de vivre to a karaoke cover of Adele's soulful earworm "Rumor Has It" at the close of the show. Nick Jonas got a moment in the musical spotlight, as well, in a self-played piano accompanied cover of Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet". On the dramatic side of SMASH, the twists and turns of the theatre-centric musical series are beginning to create intriguing complexities for the individuals caught in the tumult - none the least being the budding romances between Derek (Jack Davenport) and Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty), but also the secret liaison rekindled of one half of the songwriting duo (Messing) and Joltin' Joe (Chase) himself. Plus, the other half of the team behind the Marilyn musical, Tom (Christian Borle), finally got his own romantic plotline and sudsy, soap-ish moment. It seems to be a prerequisite that each cast member have a post-coital scene at some point, so, one supposes Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and her ex husband, Jerry (Michael Cristofer), may re-team behind the scenes - or, maybe not. Eileen was given finest material of the night as far as I'm concerned and Huston's delicate portrayal of a woman conflicted was artful in its attentiveness and believability. She imbues the material with a grace and gravitas that few stars can consistently achieve as she has done throughout her career and continues to do so here on SMASH. Episode Four cleanly and clearly displayed the attributes we came to love about the pilot - natural integration of fabulous Marilyn-themed musical numbers into the drama, as in "Howl"; superlative new renditions of modern-day pop hits, such as "Rumor Has It"; and a specialty song or two, too, like Nick Jonas and his Michael Buble party accompaniment. While it did not break new ground as far as where the show is heading as a series like last week's show, this episode gave us an inkling of the entertainment experience coming in the next few weeks as we anticipate the arrival of many new and exciting guest stars, such as Bernadette Peters and Uma Thurman, in addition to the pain, passion, ecstasy and As for the rest of the drama, music and comedy, read on! (more...)
SOUND OFF: Academy Awards 2012SOUND OFF: Academy Awards 2012
by Pat Cerasaro - February 27, 2012

Billy Crystal was nine for nine with his stupendous hosting - particularly thanks to his superlative musical material courtesy of Tony-winning tunesmith Marc Shaiman - yet, the 2012 Oscars were all about the awards, for once, with a heavy helping of superstars and surprises. A glamorous and generally genial broadcast, more than many in recent years this years, last night's top entertainment honors came across as a class act on the elegantly produced and impressively rendered broadcast, from beginning to end - unscripted screenwriters' Angelina impressions aside. Crytal's hilarious opening montage allowed the Oscar host extraordinaire the opportunity to enact his oh-so-idiosyncratic take on the year's top nominated films - including a kiss with George Clooney ala THE DESCENDANTS and a Justin Bieber/Sammy Davis, Jr. skit inspired by Woody Allen's MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, both of which went on to win the Best Screenplay categories - and remind us why he is tops. The portrait of the winner of Best Picture may have been painted long before last night for THE ARTIST, yet the 2012 Academy Awards show was packed with a plethora of surprises in technical and even some major categories, with Martin Scorsese's HUGO also scoring big and Meryl Streep winning her third statuette, this time for her Best Actress turn in THE IRON LADY, uncanny in her portrayal of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Additionally, THE ARTIST's Jean Judarjin took home Best Actor - over Hollywood titan George Clooney, no less - for his superb performance as a Gene Kelly-esque silent film star (save a few words at the very meta finale). The supporting categories showed some love to expected winners Octavia Spencer - for the audience hit, THE HELP - as well as veteran actor Christopher Plummer - for the indie release, BEGINNERS. Cirque Du Soleil afforded us some spectacle in the form of a 3D aerial classic film homage as only they could create and present, but Crystal's inimitable opening sequence - film sequence and crisply amusing song acting as the ideal entree into the awards season's show of shows - were the night's undeniable highlights. So, too, on the performance front did the In Memoriam sequence shine thanks to a soulful rendering of "What A Wonderful World" by Esperanza Spalding. Many of the major categories may have went the way we have all predicted, yet important categories also went to a surprisingly large smattering of the year's other fine filmatic achievements, as well, making it an entertaining and overall quite pleasing broadcast when considering the conservative slate of films nominated this season. (more...)

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