Inhuman Swill : Musicals

To follow up on yesterday's belated review of The Book of Mormon, I wanted to tell you about a funny thing that happened after the show. As at most Broadway productions, we were invited to contribute to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS by depositing cash in the buckets that cast members would be holding various exits. When we reached the main floor from our nosebleed seats, I pulled a twenty out of my wallet and made a beeline for Lewis Cleale, who was still in his Joseph Smith costume.

Now, you have to understand that I came to the show in costume. Laura had dug up my old missionary name tag, which I proudly wore together with a white shirt and tie (much to the amusement and/or chagrin of our theatergoing companions). Imagine the confusion and concern of the poor actor, dressed as the founder of Mormonism, as, after a production lampooning the faith, a stout Mormon missionary marches straight up to him. According to my friend Chris Connolly, the man flinched as if I might attack him.

Imagine his relief when all I did was tell him what a great job he'd done as I dropped money into his bucket. Yeah, that was fun.

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It used to be that when people would find out I'm a former Mormon, they'd ask me whether or not I watch Big Love and how closely it matches my experience of growing up in Utah. (Answers: "Yes" and "Not much.") Over the past year, though, that has changed. Now they ask whether or not I've seen The Book of Mormon.

The answer to that is yes. In fact, as soon as the Broadway production was announced, Laura and I started making plans to visit New York and see it. With my background, how could we not? We put together a group of friends that included my agent and got tickets for April 9th, about two weeks after the show's official opening. I bought our tickets early enough that it wasn't hard to get seats for a group of eight on our preferred date. But by the time we actually saw it, the hype had revved up to such a wild extent that people were asking us how on earth we'd managed to score tickets.

The Book of Mormon—from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q co-creator Robert Lopez—was the most celebrated new musical of the 2011 Broadway season, and it's easy to see why. It has everything an audience in search of some dangerous New York City titillation could ask for—dirty words, blasphemy, violence, Mormons, sexual innuendo, frequently all crammed together into catchy production numbers—all consumable from the relative safety of a plush theater seat. It's been a giant hit with crowds and critics alike, landing nine Tony Awards (including Best Musical), five Drama Desk Awards (including Outstanding Musical), and who knows how many best-stuff-of-the-year lists. It kicks off a national tour this August, and a Chicago production will take up residence in the Bank of America Theatre this December. People are falling all over themselves to tell you how good it is.

Is it really that good? I don't think so. Did I enjoy it? Yes, to an extent. Was it funny? Yes, to an extent. Was it anything like my experience as a missionary? Yes—but to a very small, almost irrelevant extent.

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Strange may not pass by

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As a fan of the band The Negro Problem, I was delighted to pick up the following throwaway tidbit from a New Yorker blog post by John Colapinto:

{Spike] Lee's next excursion into the question of race in America is his filmed version of "Passing Strange," the remarkable musical by [Negro Problem leader] Stew. I watched Lee shooting this production last June, in the Belasco Theatre in New York. The movie will be released, Lee tells me, in late August, at the IFC Center, in Manhattan.  [full post]
I learn from Stew's website that it's also been picked up by PBS for a Great Performances airing in 2010, and possibly will have a theatrical run this fall.

Having missed the run of Passing Strange in New York, I'm glad there are going to be multiple opportunites to see it.

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I busted a gut watching Marc Shaiman's short revue "Prop 8: The Musical." Among the many celebrity cameos herein, my favorite is Jack Black's, who may be my favorite Jesus since Graham Chapman didn't play him.

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For all you sci-fi musical theater fans—and you know you're out there!—I thought I'd share this official press release about The Last Starfighter: The Musical I received from Skip Kennon...

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE                 August 28, 2007

Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper and Broadway veteran Adinah Alexander join cast of THE LAST STARFIGHTER at NYMF



Music and Lyrics by SKIP KENNON.
Choreography by DAVID EGGERS

THE LAST STARFIGHTER is pleased to announce that Tony Award Winner CHUCK COOPER and Broadway veteran ADINAH ALEXANDER have joined the cast of The Last Starfighter at NYMF.

Chuck Cooper won the Tony Award for his performance in The Life, and has been part of many Broadway casts including Caroline, or Change; Chicago; Lennon; Passion; and Getting Away With Murder. Adinah Alexander was part of the original Broadway casts of The Wedding Singer; Wicked; Urban Cowboy; and Parade.

Chuck Cooper will play Otis Wright, a character similar to the Stage Manager in Our Town, genially guiding the musical's audience through the day-to-day activities in an idyllic town, but with an intergalactic twist. Adinah Alexander will play Mrs. Miriam Rogan, the manager of Starlite Starbrite Trailer Park, mother of title character Alex Rogan, holding down more jobs than she can handle while being the confidante for Alex's cherished girlfriend Maggie.

Joining CHUCK COOPER and ADINAH ALEXANDER in The Last Starfighter are previously announced cast members JOSEPH KOLINSKI (Titanic, Les Miserables, Dance A Little Closer, Brigadoon, A Christmas Carol) as Centauri -- the role played by Robert Preston in the 1984 film, DANNY BINSTOCK (High School Musical at NSMT; Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare Theatre Co.; My Fair Lady At Signature Theater) as title character Alex Rogan, JANET CARROLL (Aunt March in Little Women) as Granny, TOM TREADWELL (the 20th anniversary Broadway revival of Annie) as Rylan leader Enduran, MARY ELLEN ASHLEY (whose many credits start with the ORIGINAL Broadway Annie Get Your Gun) as Elaine, MICHAEL CONE (Broadway's La Boheme, Rags, Brigadoon, A Christmas Carol) as Hugh, JESSE J.P. JOHNSON (a standout as Luke in the Altar Boyz tour) as Marty, JONATHAN RICHARD SANDLER (Nat’l Tour of Dr. Dolittle) as Jerry, LAUREN MARCUS (Hello, Dolly at Paper Mill Playhouse; Our Town at Provincetown Playhouse) as Darlene, RYAN JESSE as Blake and the villain Zur, NATALIE HALL as Jenny, SEAN MONTGOMERY as Toby, and JESSICA BLAIR as Lynn.

From JONATHAN BETUEL’s screenplay for the beloved 1980s sci-fi film comes the cosmically entertaining romantic musical fantasy THE LAST STARFIGHTER. It’s Spring 1983 in a Sierra Nevada trailer park. High school senior Alex Rogan’s hardworking, unrewarded life takes an unexpected turn when he breaks a video game record and is spirited away by the game’s inventor, the alien huckster Centauri, to fight for the Star League in a faraway galaxy. Centauri leaves behind Beta, a body double droid of Alex, to cover Alex’s absence with his mother, brother and beloved girlfriend Maggie while Alex is off fighting the evil Zur and the Ko-dan Armada. Beta’s comic mishaps on Earth with Maggie and the neighbors in the trailer park, and shape-shifting alien assassins in pursuit of Alex on his home turf, alternate with Alex’s heroic starfighter achievements. Alex must reach inside himself to discover his true potential – the universe and his life depend on it!

Composer/Lyricist SKIP KENNON wrote the music for the one-man musical HERRINGBONE (June 2007 at Williamstown starring B.D. Wong, Playwrights Horizons, Hartford Stage starring Joel Grey, Edinburgh Festival, Prince Music Theater, St. Nicholas Theater) and for the one-act AFTERNOON TEA (INTAR, August 2007 at 59E59); and the music and lyrics for BLANCO (Goodspeed, National Music Theater Network), FEATHERTOP (WPA Theater, Pennsylvania Stage Co.), and TIME AND AGAIN (Manhattan Theatre Club, Old Globe, O’Neill Center).

Book Writer FRED LANDAU is a member of BMI and an alumnus of the BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop. He wrote the book and score for THE HAPPIEST OF TIMES, which was seen in production at New York’s Triangle Theater and as part of BMI’s Festival of Musicals in Miniature, as well as in workshop presentations at ASCAP and Circle Rep.

Director ELIZABETH LUCAS has previously directed two new musicals for NYMF, CAPTAIN GRAVY'S WAVY NAVY and THE VIEW FROM HERE, and is currently directing two feature films, the rock movie musical CLEAR BLUE TUESDAY and the teen slasher RED HOOK. Her multi-award-winning short musical film ISABELLA RICO has appeared in 33 festivals worldwide.

Choreographer DAVID EGGERS can currently be seen on Broadway in the cast of CURTAINS, and is also the Dance Captain for that show. David was previously Dance Captain for the recent Roundabout revival of THE PAJAMA GAME, and the Broadway show THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE.

The design team includes lighting design by HERRICK GOLDMAN and costume design by MARK RICHARD CASWELL. Technical Director is KEITH TRUAX. Production Manager is JULIE MILLER. Casting is by MICHAEL CASSARA CASTING. JULIE MILLER is the Producer.

"THE LAST STARFIGHTER" is an official selection of the 2007 New York Musical Theatre Festival.

Images, sound clips, and bios can be found at

Visit the show's website and join as a friend:


NYMF Publicity Contact:
Charlie Siedenburg / Sam Rudy Media Relations (212) 221-8466

Now in its 4th year, The New York Musical Theatre Festival is the largest musical theatre event in America. NYMF premiered 99 new musicals during its first three seasons, with more than a dozen of these shows transferring to successful off-Broadway and regional productions. Hailed as "the Sundance of Musical Theatre," NYMF is widely regarded as the premier source for new material and talent discovery.

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