DEATHTRAP at Everyman Theatre - HO HO HO...A Whodunit for the Holidays!
Finally, the Everyman Theatre has a curtain!!! It has taken many years but at last, the audience arrives at the theater and does not get a peak at the stage. Instead, there is this beautiful blood red curtain (how appropriate) across the proscenium. When the opening night crowd saw the curtain open and took a view of the marvelous set by Baltimore's own Timothy R. Mackabee, they actually applauded. And for good reason.
I remember Mackabee as a student at the Carver School for Arts and Technology in Towson, MD. I recall meeting him at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven when he was a student there after a performance of E. Faye Butler in TROUBLE IN MIND. This is his third time designing for Everyman. He previously did 50 WORDS and GOD OF CARNAGE. This year he did a wonderful job at Center Stage designing AMADEUS and his work can now be seen on Broadway in THE ELEPHANT MAN with Bradley Cooper. (There's a nice article about him by Rebecca Ritzel in the December 9 Washington Post.) This talented young man has quite a future ahead of him.
The set is filled with a plethora of pistols, rifles, a giant ax, a crossbow, handcuffs, a garrote (to strangle people), battle axes, daggers, swords, maces, and machetes which playwright Sidney Bruhl (the incomparable Bruce Randolph Nelson) has used in his previous plays. There are also posters of Bruhl's previous work. Ira Levin gave very specific stage directions regarding these weapons and Mackabee follows these impeccably.
I had the pleasure of seeing this work on Broadway in 1978 which starred John Wood, Victor Garber and the late Marian Seldes (who just passed away), who was known for never missing a performance throughout its long run of almost five years. She played Myra Bruhl. In 1982, it was made into a film which starred Michael Caine, Christopher Reeve, and Dyan Cannon directed by Sidney Lumet. Lumet even used the original Broadway set at the Music Box Theatre in his film.
Levin is best known for his creepy films like "Rosemary's Baby", "The Boys from Brazil", and "The Stepford Wives". I still get goose bumps watching these films.
DEATHTRAP is a play with great humor, shocks at every moment, with thrills, chills, and filled with surprises. Nothing is as it seems. What it certainly requires is a great cast of five and thankfully Everyman's Artistic Director Vince Lancisi did not have to go far for the actors. Acting as Director, he just turned to his Resident Acting Company and plucked out Nelson, Danny Gavigan, Deborah Hazlett, Beth Hylton, and Wil Love.
One of the joys of having a cadre of actors you see often, is seeing them play such different characters. Gavigan plays Clifford Anderson, an up and coming playwright, with just the right amount of naiveté (at first) and later turns into something quite different. What a great addition to the Everyman he has become.
Hylton shines as Myra Bruhl and lets out the biggest scream since Janet Leigh in the shower scene from "Pyscho".
Hazlett has the time of her life playing Helga Ten Dorp, a psychic who lives next door to playwright Bruhl who can just smell that "something is rotten in Denmark". (By the way, Ten Dorp is an anagram for "portend" ...someone who can foretell the future.)
Wil Love plays Porter Milgrim, Bruhl's attorney, with great aplomb.
What can you say about Mr. Nelson as the playwright Bruhl who has not had a hit play for so many years. He gets this unsolicited play in the mail from a former student (Gavigan) who took a seminar by Bruhl and knows instantly, that this play called DEATHTRAP, can be a huge hit. He convinces the young promising playwright to visit his residence ("and don't forget to bring all your copies") so they can work on it together. This is the era of typewriters and carbon copies not the computer age. What happens next? You will not find out from me! Nelson just shines each and every time he takes the stage whether he's playing "Salieri" in AMADEUS or "Groucho Marx" in ANIMAL CRACKERS.
Thanks to the entire production team. Stowe Nelson for the superb sound (you will swear that the thunder and lightning is outside the theater), Lewis Shaw for his yeoman work doing fight choreography/ weapons/ and special effects, Anne Nesmith for her wigs, Kathleen Geldard (costumes), and finally Jesse Belsky for the great lighting.
DEATHTRAP is one of the best shows of the year.
Do not miss it.
On Saturday, Dec. 20, there will be a "World of the Play Panel Discussion: The Rise and Fall of the Thriller "at 5 p.m. (between the matinee and evening performances. Tickets are $15.
DEATHTRAP runs until January 11, 2015. For tickets, call 410-752-2208 or visit www.everymantheatre.org .
THIS AND THAT
Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m., WMAR ABC2 in Baltimore will rebroadcast the wonderful one hour making of the animated film "Frozen" which according to last week's ABC "Backstage at Disney" will certainly be made into a Broadway musical.
Also on ABC2 at 7 p.m. will be the "Sing-a-long" SOUND OF MUSIC. Interesting way of counter-programming football on a Sunday afternoon.
Coming to PBS on Friday night, January 2 at 9 p.m. is "Billy Joel: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize". It will feature a dance from Twyla Tharpe's Broadway production of MOVIN' OUT based on Joel's music
Good news. Both FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (at Arena Stage) and THE LITTLE MERMAID (at Olney Theatre Center) have been extended to January 11, 2015. Two wonderful productions.
I cannot review MARY POPPINS at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia (running until Feb. 1, 2015), since I saw a preview performance, but I can say it is wonderful. I attended a matinee taking my three-year old grandson for his first Broadway theatrical production and he loved it. I can't review it but can say "Don't Miss it". I am prohibited to review it but the production numbers are just amazing. I can't review it but the voices are outstanding. That's all I'll say. For tickets, call 410-730-8311.
I read the book "MOOSE" by Robert B. Sherman, the lyricist of POPPINS and brother of Richard M. Sherman who wrote the music. It's a fascinating book about a fascinating man. It follows his life growing up and his time during World War II. But the parts about Disney and the making of MARY POPPINS are worth the read. When Julie Andrews lost her part in the film MY FAIR LADY, she leaped at Disney's offer to do the film. But she needed a song for a hook. The Sherman brothers were having a problem writing a song for her until Robert Sherman's five year old son Jody told of a story about taking the Salk vaccine to combat polio. When he was asked if it hurt, he replied, "No. They just put it on a cube of sugar and we swallowed it down." Yes, that was the hook Andrews needed...the song "A Spoonful of Sugar". They had their Mary Poppins. There's great stuff on Dick Van Dyke and how they wrote "Chim Chim Cher-ee". You will also learn that Walt Disney's favorite song was "Feed the Birds". Almost every Friday afternoon around 4 p.m. he would ask Richard M. Sherman to play the song. According to Robert Sherman it was Disney's own "gentle anthem". Sherman added, "One time, after Dick finished playing it, I heard Walt say, under his breath..."Yup, that's what it's all about." Sherman added that Disney was a simple, wonderful man "...who understood that the greatest gift life bestows upon a person is the chance to share with others." And that's why I'm doing this. I highly recommend the book.
I recently saw Hugh Jackman on Broadway in THE RIVER. Following the performance, after giving a score of the New York Giants' victory, he spoke about raising money for "Broadway Cares, Equity Fights Aids".
He offered to autograph the shirt off his back, a back stage tour and photograph. The bidding started at $1,000 and soon there were two bids for $6,000. So Jackman in five minutes raised $12,000. He was amazing!
Jason Robert Brown
I had the privilege of attending a Jason Robert Brown concert at the small venue in New York's Village, "Subculture". What a show it was featuring Kelli O'Hara, Steve Pasquale, Carolee Carmello, Jessica Molaskey, Lauren Kennedy, Betsy Wolfe, Graham Phillips, Allie Trim and Aaron Gross. It was a concert of a life-time.
JRB will continue at Subculture with a whole line-up of concerts as a 2015 Artist-in-Resident.
The concerts will be Monday, January 26, Friday March 13, Monday April 20, Friday, May 15, Monday, June 8, Monday, July 6, Saturday, August 15, Friday, September 11, Thursday, October 1, and Monday, Nov. 2. Visit www.subculturenewyork.com. The concerts are only $40.
Brown will also be conducting the New York City Chamber Orchestra, a full Broadway cast (including Laura Benanti) and a chorus of over 200 in a concert version of his Tony-winning musical PARADE on Feb. 16, 2015 at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. For tickets, call 212-721-6500.
His HONEYMOON IN VEGAS is in previews on Broadway and opens in February, 2015.
Finally, Brown's THE LAST FIVE YEARS on film opens Feb. 13, 2015. Check out the trailer. Looks wonderful.
Just heard that the new musical DINER has been completely sold out at Signature Theatre. Looking forward to it.