Broadway San Jose announces inaugural season

From the ashes of the American Musical Theatre of San Jose rises a whole new series bringing Broadway tours to the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts, and it’s called Broadway San Jose.

A Nederlander Presentation, part of the national Nederlander Organization, is the producing agency that will bring in the shows starting in September in association with Team San Jose.

Here’s the inaugural season lineup:

Spamalot, Sept. 15-20
Spring Awakening, Oct. 28-Nov. 1
Riverdance (in its farewell tour), Dec. 29-Jan. 3
Avenue Q, Jan. 12-17
Legally Blonde the Musical, March 16-21

Season subscription packages are available from $108-$429. Call 866-395-2929 or visit for information.

And from the Web site comes information for former AMTSJ subscribers who had tickets for two shows that were canceled: “Broadway San Jose will be offering former 2008-2009 AMTSJ Season Ticket Holders a substantial discount to become a new ‘Priority ‘season ticket holder for the 2009-2010 Season. Former 2008-2009 AMTSJ season ticket holders will have a window of opportunity to utilize your season ticket discount, as well as to purchase priority season ticket seat locations online before the general public.”

Read Karen D’Souza’s story about it in the San Jose Mercury News here.

Reviving Muppet mania: Next stop Broadway?

I’m always surprised when theater pops up in pop culture, more specifically, in popcorn movies.

Sitting at home, I was thoroughly enjoying Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a comedy written by and starring Jason Segel (of TV’s “How I Met Your Mother” – an admirable sitcom set in New York but none of the 20somethings ever goes to the theater!). Segel has something of a Jack Lemmon sad sack vibe that lends itself to poignant comedy. He’s also part of the Judd Apatow stable of actors, so his comedy is often taken in the vulgar, gross-out direction, and he’s good at that, too.

The surprising thing in Forgetting Sarah Marshall is that Segel’s character, the composer of tense music for a hit TV crime show, has been working for years on a “Dracula” musical. We hear bits and pieces of it throughout the show [SPOILER ALERT – stop reading because I’m going to discuss events at the end of the movie now] and at the end, Segel bursts out of his post-break-up depression by producing his Dracula musical…WITH PUPPETS!

Not only puppets, but puppets created by the Jim Henson Company, which technically makes them Muppets, which technically makes them awesome.

Real life and movie life intertwined here because it seems Segel actually had been working for years on a Dracula musical, and he also happened to be a huge Muppet fan in real life.

Though logic is in short supply in Hollywood, the folks at Disney took a meeting with Segel and figured out that he and Nick Stoller, the director of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, were the right guys to reinvigorate the Muppet franchise, so they’re working on the next Muppet movie.

That’s all well and good, but what about a Muppet Broadway musical?

Avenue Q proved that audiences will happily watch humans interact with puppets while singing songs, and though the Muppets themselves created a Broadway show in the 1984 movie The Muppets Take Manhattan, we’ve never had the real thing. Those Disney people are supposed to be so savvy when it comes to marketing, but why haven’t the Muppets been on Broadway?

OK, so we’re one step closer to that with the development of the ultra-charming 1977 made-for-TV Muppet special “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” as a stage musical utilizing actors and puppets. The show has its world premiere Dec. 4 at Goodspeed Musicals in Connecticut.

If the show is wonderful (and how could it not be with songs by Paul Williams, who’s beefing up the already terrific score), perhaps that will be the necessary step toward bringing the big Muppet stars – Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie, etc. – to the stage at long last.

For those in need of a fresh Muppet fix, we’ll have to wait until Dec. 17 when NBC airs “A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa,” a special starring Broadway stage veterans Nathan Lane, Jane Krakowski, Jesse L. Martin, Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Griffiths. Williams is contributing songs.

Here’s a clip from the Broadway spectacular “Manhattan Melodies” at the Biltmore Theatre, the finale from “The Muppets Take Manhattan.”

K-K-K-Katie Holmes on Broadway, `Tales’ in tune

Yes, Katie Holmes, late of Dawson’s Creek, she of the couch-jumping husband, the ever-changing cute hairdos and the impossibly adorable Suri parentage, is being rumored to be heading to Broadway for a revival of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons starring John Lithgow and Dianne Weist. Ms. Holmes must have had a conversation with Jennifer Garner, who had such a winning run on Broadway recently in Cyrano. And Holmes’ husband, Tom Cruise, must have had a man-to-man chat with Garner’s husband, Ben Affleck, about what it’s like to be a stay-at-home dad in paparazzi-infested New York.

Variety says the 29-year-old Holmes is in negotiation for the 1947 show, which would mark her Broadway debut. The stage run would also give Ms. Holmes a little much-needed acting cred. Her most recent big-screen turn, opposite Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah in Mad Money didn’t exactly generate Oscar buzz.

In other news of the Great White Way (via Barbaray Lane in San Francisco), the long-rumored musical version of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City looks like it’s finally rolling toward completion. It was long rumored that pop wunderkind Rufus Wainwright was going to turn Maupin’s beloved Baghdad by the Bay book into a musical, but now he’s off writing an opera for the MET.

So now it’s up to Jeff Whitty (Tony Award-winning book writerfor Avenue Q) and Scissor Sisters members Jason Sellards (aka Jake Shears, composer/lyricist) and John Garden (composer) to bring characters Michael “Mouse” Tolliver, Anna Madrigal, Mary Anne Singleton to the Broadway stage.

Jason Moore, who helmed Avenue Q and the upcoming Shrek musical, is slated to direct.

Seems a natural that a Tales musical would have its pre-Broadway run in — where else? — San Francisco. No word yet on such practical things as production dates.

2007 theater Top 10

I can always tell whether a theater year has been good or not so good when I sit down to hammer out my Top 10 list. If I can summon five or more shows simply from memory, it’s a good year. This year’s entire list came almost entirely from memory (which is a feat in itself as the old noggin’ ain’t what it used to be), so it was a good year indeed.

Here’s the countdown leading to my No. 1 pick of the year.

10. Anna Bella Eema, Crowded Fire Theatre Company — Three fantastic actresses, Cassie Beck, Danielle Levin and Julie Kurtz, brought Lisa D’Amour’s tone poem of a play to thrilling life.

9. First Person Shooter, SF Playhouse and Playground — What a good year for SF Playhouse. This original play by local writer Aaron Loeb brought some powerhouse drama to its examination of violent video games and school violence.

8. Bulrusher, Shotgun Players — Berkeley’s own Eisa Davis’ eloquent play, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama, turned the Northern California dialect of Boontling into poetic drama as it told the story of an outcast young woman finding her place in the world.

7. Avenue Q, Best of Broadway/SHN — Hilarious and irreverent, this puppet-filled musical by Jeff Marx, Robert Lopez and Jeff Whitty made you believe in friendship, life after college and the joys of puppet sex.

6. Jesus Hopped the `A’ Train, SF Playhouse — It took a while for Stephen Adly Guirgis’ intense drama to make it to the Bay Area, but the wait was worth it, if only for Berkeley resident Carl Lumbly in the central role of a murderer who may have seen the error of his ways. And note: This is the second SF Playhouse show on the list.

5. Emma, TheatreWorks _ Paul Gordon’s sumptuous, funny and, of course, romantic adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel came marvelously to life as a musical, with a star-making performance by Pleasanton native Lianne Marie Dobbs.

4. Argonautika, Berkeley Repertory Theatre _ Mary Zimmerman’s athletic retelling of the Jason and the Argonauts myth fused beauty and muscle and impeccable storytelling into a grand evening of theater.

3. Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People, Word for Word — Actually, the second half of Strangers We Know, this stage adaptation of Lorrie Moore’s short story was brilliantly directed by Joel Mullenix and performed by Patricia Silver and Sheila Balter.

2. Man and Superman, California Shakespeare Theater _ This unbelievably vivid version of George Bernard Shaw’s massive existentialist comedy benefited from superior direction by Jonathan Moscone and an impeccable cast headed by Elijah Alexander and Susannah Livingston.

1. The Crowd You’re in With, Magic Theatre _ The team of playwright Rebecca Gilman and director Amy Glazer fused into brilliance with this slice-of-life meditation on why we make the choices we make in our lives. Local luminaries Lorri Holt and Charles Shaw Robinson brought incredible humor and tenderness to their roles, and T. Edward Webster in the lead managed to make ambivalence compelling.

Now it’s your turn. Please post your favorite theater moments of 2007 — no geographical limitations, just good theater.

Make `ShowBusiness’ your business

One of the most interesting documentaries of the year had nothing to do with health care or Iraq.

ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway sort of slipped in and out of theaters without a whole lot of fanfare, which is really too bad because director Dori Berinstein has created a fascinating glimpses behind the scenes of four major musicals opening in New York during the 2003-2004 season.

Luckily, the movie came out on DVD this week (Liberation Entertainment, $28.95).

For her movie, Berinstein picked four musicals to follow, and boy did she pick good ones: Wicked, Avenue Q, Caroline, or Change and Taboo.

Bay Area audiences, of course, got the first look at Wicked during its pre-Broadway tryout. We had the great fortune to see Caroline, and Avenue Q made its overdue local debut last August. The only real mystery in this bunch is Taboo, the Rosie O’Donnell-produced ’80s flashback revolving around Boy George: his life, his music and himself (he was in the cast).

Of the four, Wicked and Avenue Q were monster hits and are still running. Caroline is an esteemed flop by Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner and composer Jeanine Tesori. And Taboo is known as one of Broadway’s great disasters.

The movie follows each of the shows from the summer of 2003 up to the Tony Awards in 2004 when Avenue Q upset favorite Wicked for the Best Musical award.

Along the way, we get fascinating glimpses of the creative process, the marketing machine and the economics of Broadway. One of the juiciest threads involves tension between Jeff Marx, the co-composer of Avenue Q and Jeff Whitty, the book writer who was brought on board relatively late in the creative process.

It all ends happily, with Tony Awards for everyone, but the two did not get along, and it’s not pretty. Marx’s parents, by the way, turn out to be a highlight of the movie.

Director Berinstein includes several round-table discussions with New York theater critics, and this, to me, is a horror show. These nattering fools (save Charles Isherwood from the New York Times, who salvages a shred of dignity) make critics look like the lowest possible bottom feeders in the show business pool. Ouch.

Covering such a diverse assortment of shows, Berinstein ended up with more than 250 hours of video that had to be whittled down to 104 minutes.

“The season was a roller coaster with highly anticipated shows closing early and little shows coming out of nowhere to take Broadway by storm,” Berinstein says. “There was no way to predict where the Season was heading. Consequently, it was necessary to capture everything. Editing, as a result, was a massive and extremely difficult process. Narrowing down our primary storytelling to four musicals was excruciating. So many extraordinary moments are on the cutting room so to speak. I can’t wait until we assemble the DVD.”

Visit the movie’s official site at

Here’s the trailer from ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway, followed by a clip featuring Idina Menzel of Wicked.

`Q’ BLOGGERS: Nicky & Rod

As our week of Avenue Q guest blogging comes to a close, we get not one but TWO bloggers today. Again, many thanks to the touring Q company for playing along and to the kind folks at SHN/Best of Broadway for setting the guest bloggers in motion.

First up is Nicky, an easy-going, well-intentioned dude who is perfectly OK about his roommate, Rod, being a formerly closeted gay Republican.

“Hey there, Nicky here. I’m having a nice time here in San Francisco. I’m crashing in Rod’s hotel room. We’re staying in this cool place that has a murphy bed, so that’s a nice change from the couch that I’m used to. I’m on a budget so I’ve taken to going shopping with Rod. I carry his shopping bags for a small fee, namely room and board. After spending almost all our time in the Castro, I’m beginning to wonder if San Francisco has anything else to offer other than leather and rainbow flags. Say, if I reach the end of a rainbow flag, do I find a pot of gold? Does it belong to a gay leprechaun? Just curious.

Anyway, I think Rod’s getting a little frustrated with me hanging around him all the time, all the guys he tries to cruise seem to think that we’re together so he’s coming up empty handed, so to speak. I give him another day, then maybe he’ll send me off with an allowance and I can check some stuff out. I could always go to the Haight and ask for change. I want to see the herd of buffalo in Golden Gate Park and check out the Penny Arcade near where the seals hang out on the rocks. I also want to ride one of the famous Cable Cars here. So much to do and so little time.

Peace and Love, Nicky”

Puppeteer extraordinaire Christian Anderson brings Nicky to life on the Avenue Q tour.

Now here’s a missive from Nicky’s roommate, Rod, who once claimed he had a girlfriend in Canada (“Her name is Alberta, she lives in Vancouver, she cooks like my mother and sucks like a …”)

“When I first found out that we were going to San Francisco, I was so thrilled! I signed up for the “John Stamos Full House Tour,” in which Uncle Jesse himself leads a walking tour through the entire opening credit sequence of “Full House.” It was absolutely beautiful, although Mr. Stamos was walking right in front of me…in jeans…so I missed a lot of the sights…because I was…nevermind.”

The delightful Robert McClure is the voice and animating force behind Rod (not to mention leading man Princeton) on the Avenue Q tour.

For information about Avenue Q, visit

`Q’ BLOGGERS: Kate Monster

This week is going by too quickly as Theater Dogs welcomes guest bloggers from the touring production of Avenue Q at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre.

Today we hear from Kate Monster, the well-coiffed bundle of fur who has a thing for her neighbor, Princeton, and whose dream is to open a school for young monsters. If you’ve seen Avenue Q, you know Kate has quite a nasty side (whoa!) and, in her job as a kindergarten teacher’s assistant, she does not get along with her primary teacher (and you’ll pardon me for using her name), Mrs. Thistletwat.

“Hello, San Francisco! I am SOOOO excited to be here. While in town, I’m planning on finding a location for the Bay Area Monsterssori School (a school where monsters can learn and grow in a loving, supportive environment). This past week, I had time to visit several neighborhoods around town with my friend Christmas Eve. We have learned SO much about this colorful city! Originally, we looked in Tenderloin. We found it quite interesting. When Christmas Eve’s purse got snatched, I thought we were really on the wrong track, but after further investigation, I realized that I was just being negative. I think that our young, impressionable monster pupils could learn a great deal about achieving their dreams when faced with so much adversity. (I also think that some of the folks down there could stand a little bit more exposure to monsters in general — you should have seen the way they looked at me — it was downright offensive). Our second stop was Haight Ashbury. How colorful! I found the spirit of the ’60’s quite welcoming toward a monster school! I did, however, become slightly concerned by the vast number of homeless kids and their clever signs harassing tourists for money…I’m not sure I want my young monsters seeing that as a viable alternative to a good education. Finally, the Marina District. Oh! There were some fancy-pants in this neighborhood. I immediately ducked into a boutique to buy a pair of fancy heels — but they didn’t have any in my size since my fur apparently makes my feet wider than most human feet. I found that the folks here were not so interested in a school for monsters…I think their focus is much less philanthropic. To each his own, right? So far, I’m not sure we’ve found the perfect spot yet…but I intend to keep looking; our next stop is Chinatown. So far, I’ve found San Francisco to be very open to the idea of a school for monsters — even more so than New York (if you can believe that!) But I did notice some discrimination toward monsters on certain occasions and I’m hoping that my campaign to educate the Bay Area on the integration of people-of-fur will make those instances fewer and farther between!”

(Kate Monster is played in the Avenue Q tour by the spirited Kelli Sawyer)

For information about Avenue Q visit

`Q’ Bloggers: Christmas Eve

While the fleshy and fuzzy folks who live on Avenue Q are in town, they’re dropping by Theater Dogs this week to blog a little about being in the Bay Area.

Today we hear from Christmas Eve, who, with her fiance Brian, is one of three humans who live with fuzzy men, strippers and monsters on Avenue Q. In the song “It Sucks to Be Me,” Christmas Eve says: “I coming to this country for opportunities. Tly to work in Korean deli, but I am Japanese. But with hard work I earn two masters degrees in social work and now I a therapist but I have no crients and I have an unemproyed fiance and we have rots of bills to pay! It suck to be me. It suck to be me. I say it sukka-sukka-sukka-sukka-sukka-sukka-sukka-sukka-sukka-sukka-sukka-sukka-suck, it suck to be me!”

“Me and Brian go to Cobb’s Comedy Club with friends on Avenue Q today. Those comedian people not very nice. They make fun of Trekkie Monster because he so much hairy. So Trekkie Monster go home — I hope he go home clean house — but he more likely go home and double click his mouse.

Brian get very mad because Kate Monster embarrass because she hairy too. So Brian say, “I way funnier than you people.” So, they ask Brian to come to the up stage. So, Brian go and he try to tell octopus joke but he get nervous and he screws up just the same as always. That joke no funny anyway. I have better joke:

There is a mama bird and a baby bird and mama bird say to baby bird, “Eat worms and you will grow to big size like mama bird and fly to the sky.” So then baby bird eat the worms and grow everyday but the baby bird like to eat too many worms and so he become fat and lazy. And then, one day, mama bird say to baby bird, “Time to fly to the sky.” And then the baby bird say, “Okay dokay.” And he try to fly. But he too fat and lazy so he fall to the ground. And then he die.

That joke funny. Maybe next time I go to Cobb’s, I tell this joke.

On the Avenue Q tour, Christmas Eve is played by Angela Ai with a twinkle in her eye.

For information about Avenue Q, which continues through Sept. 2 at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre, visit

`Q’ BLOGGERS: Trekkie Monster

This week on Theater Dogs, we’re joined by guest bloggers from the puppet and human cast of Avenue Q at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre.

Please welcome today’s blogger, Trekkie Monster, a resident of Avenue Q who spends a great deal of time surfing the Internet (for porn) and enjoying all (the porn) it has to offer. Mr. Monster is also a noted philanthropist. (And if you’ve never heard his voice, think Cookie Monster from “Sesame Street.”)

“Hello there, Trekkie Monster here. Me here in San Francisco with me show Avenue Q. The first thing me like about San Francisco is me walk to work. Me find me favorite kind of clubs lining Market St. Me think it called ‘Market St.’ because there seem to be plenty of juicy meat for me to buy on Market St. There is Man Meat, Lady Meat (me favorite) and ever fascinating Lady/Man Meat, though me not so sure how me feel about that kind. Anyway, me also happy to see lot of massage parlors. You know, in every massage parlor there is different story, but one thing they all have in common is Happy Ending. It always brings tear of joy to me eye. Me have a few other things me want to do while me here. Me understand that there is Hustler cub in North Beach and that Lucy the Slut is moonlighting there so me want to catch her act. Also me curious about these ‘Twin Peaks’ me keep hearing about. Me a breast monster and these things sound HUGE!! But most of all me think me just stay in me hotel room and check out local porn sights. Ok, me have to do me wrist exercises now. Bye, Bye.”

(In the Avenue Q tour, Trekkie Monster is enlivened in hilarious ways by puppeteer Christian Anderson.)

To see Trekkie Monster in person, you’ll find Avenue Q information here.