Come on I wanna Leia: Fisher lands on Broadway

Another week, another Berkeley Repertory Theatre show going to Broadway.

Carrie Fisher’s autobiographical solo show Wishful Drinking, directed by Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone, will open in October at — where else? — Studio 54, where it runs through Jan. 3. The show is produced by Roundabout Theatre Company in association with Jonathan Reinis, Jamie Cesa, Eva Price, and Berkeley Rep.

This is the fourth show to head from Berkeley to Broadway in the last four years: Sarah Jones’ Bridge & Tunnel (2006), Stew’s Passing Strange (2008), and Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) (2009). It’s also the 12th show in as many years to make the West to East transition. The list includes Danny Hoch’s Taking Over (2008), Ruhl’s Eurydice (2007), Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak’s Brundibar (2006), Naomi Iizuka’s 36 Views (2002), Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses (2001), Hoch’s Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop (1998), Anne Galjour’s Alligator Tales (1997), and Philip Kan Gotanda’s Ballad of Yachiyo (1997).

“This is the culmination of a long process,” Taccone said in a statement. “Berkeley Rep has a history of developing new work and, with our commissioning program, continues its commitment to bring fresh ideas and alternative viewpoints to the stage. I am pleased with the success of this project, and honored to collaborate with all of the people involved to bring this show to Broadway. It has been truly gratifying in recent years to see our shows reach a wider audience in New York, Los Angeles, London, and other cities.”

Visit for Wishful Drinking ticket information.

Domingo’s `Boy’ growing up off-Broadway


Thick Description artistic director Tony Kelly reports the good news that former San Franciscan Colman Domingo’s stellar one-man show, A Boy and His Soul, will be part of the 2009-2010 season at off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre.

Kelly will direct, as he did in the show’s original Thick D run in 2005 and in its revival in the fall of last year.

The autobiographical show conjures up Domingo’s childhood in Philadelphia in the 1970s complete with a fantastic soul music soundtrack and one of the most exuberant performances you’re likely to find on a solo stage.

Read my review of the show from last fallhere and my interview with Domingo on the subject of Broadway fame after his Passing Strange experience and the resurrection of his Soul here.

Here is Domingo, along with his Passing Strange co-star Stew, performing the composer’s “Gary’s Song” from “Spongebob Squarepants” at Joe’s Pub last fall.

Here’s the Vineyard’s official season announcement.

Colman Domingo moves from`Strange’ to `Soul’

You know you’ve achieved a certain level of success when you’re on line, waiting to get into an exclusive magazine party, and Spike Lee sticks his head out the door, sees you waiting and immediately says, “Get him in here.”

That’s what life is like these days for Colman Domingo, one of those Bay Area success stories: young actor moves here, starts working like crazy, emerges as a major talent and then heads off to New York and stardom.

For Domingo, who moved from San Francisco to New York in 2001, the turning point came with Passing Strange, the Tony Award-winning musical that had its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre before heading to the Public Theater in New York and an eventual transfer to Broadway.

“The Passing Strange experience led to a lot of things career-wise,” Domingo says. “Creatively and spiritually, that was the most dynamic theater experience I’ve had in 15 years of being in this business.”

Domingo is back in the Bay Area, his old stomping grounds, for a revival of his solo show, A Boy and His Soul, opening Wednesday, Sept. 3, as part of Thick Description’s 20th anniversary season.

The 38-year-old actor returns as a Broadway veteran who now has a management and a publicist. He was just splashed across the pages of Out magazine in a glamorous fashion spread, and he’s a regular on the LOGO network’s Big Gay Sketch Show.

“For me, being in this business 15 years, the idea that it’s all happening now, at 38, is great,” Domingo says. “I’ve worked toward this. I don’t know if I’d have appreciated this at 23.”

Though the Broadway experience had its dazzle – rubbing shoulders with Edward Albee and Marian Seldes during awards season, breakfast with Spike Lee, etc. – it also had its rigors. To maintain his health and stamina, Domingo says he “lived life as a nun.” He saw a chiropractor for the first time in his life.

“The work day began at 3 p.m.: eat, work out, nap,” Domingo explains. “On your day off you really had to do nothing. And then there all the events you need to attend, the press stuff. A friend got upset with me because I hadn’t called her or seen her. `No one can be that busy,’ she said. With a show on Broadway, actually you can be that busy. I had no idea.”

Domingo insists the success hasn’t gone to his head and that his friends keep him grounded.

“This has been a high time, a nice time,” he says. “I understand it and appreciate it. I’m enjoying the ride of it all. I still have my closest friends around me. I still have my apartment in Harlem. It’s nothing fancy. I just have better furniture now. For the first time I have furniture I actually bought and wasn’t handed down. I always realize that I could be back bartending like I was two years ago. This is a great time, but I’m very lucky – no different from any other actor.”

During Domingo’s decade in the Bay Area – “I tell people it’s where I became an artist” – Domingo hatched A Boy and His Soul – he connected with Thick Description on Oliver Mayer’s Blade to the Heat in 1997, and the seeds for A Boy and His Soul, the story of Domingo’s childhood in Philadelphia in the 1970s, began to sprout.

Thick D artistic director Tony Kelly eventually directed the premiere of Boy in 2005 and began talking to Domingo about bringing it back for the anniversary season even before Passing Strange took off.

“I was happy with the San Francisco version,” Domingo says, “but it needed more work, more focus.”

In addition to work done at the New York Theatre Workshop and recent re-writes with Kelly in New York, Domingo says the piece has deepened with the loss of his parents in the last two years.

Passing Strange helped me heal, especially after losing my mom,” Domingo says. “I had my first audition on a Monday with the callback on Wednesday. My mom passed away on Tuesday. They held the callback for me two weeks later and sang an a cappella gospel song. It’s so interesting, with all that, and Broadway, I’ve been through something and life has changed so much. It’s good to get back to A Boy and His Soul.”

Domingo was recently back in Philadelphia visiting his sister and visiting old haunts. “It feels so different but inherently the same,” he says. “I feel like I’m always in a dream state when I’m here.”

In the less dreamy real world, Domingo’s career is still burbling. He has a bit part in Spike Lee’s new movie Miracle at St. Anna, a World War II drama in which he plays a West Indian postal customer. Of course he’ll also be in Lee’s filmed version of Passing Strange, which took place during the show’s final days on Broadway in July. And he plays a ’70s disc jockey in An Englishman in New York starring John Hurt.

As for a return to Broadway after his brief San Francisco sojourn, he says it could happen.

“I’m sniffing around a production or two,” he says. “Right now I’m in a place of what’s next? A lot of meetings. A lot of possibilities.”

A Boy and His Soul runs Sept. 3 through 14 at the Thick House, 1695 18th St., San Francisco. Tickets are $15-$30 on a sliding scale. Call 415-401-8081 or visit

Here’s Domingo as a gay grandson visiting his grandmother on “The Big Gay Sketch Show” (the language is ROUGH, so don’t watch this at work…at least not with the sound on):

Helping Broadway musicals go (sh-k-) Boom!

Kurt Deutsch didn’t mean to get into the record business.

The self-described “total theater guy” grew up in St. Louis going to theater whenever possible (usually at The Muny) and then studied directing and acting in college. His big break came when Evan Handler had to leave the Broadway production of Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound for health reasons (he was diagnosed with leukemia, survived, wrote a fantastic book about it, Time on Fire, and went on to star in, among other things, Sex and the City, so there’s a happy ending here).

Deutsch replaced Handler and did the show for a year and half, and then went on to Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men.

After he moved to Los Angeles, Deutsch met the woman who would become his wife, actress Sherie Rene Scott, while working on Randy Newman’s musical Faust. The show didn’t go anywhere, but the relationship did.

When Scott was getting ready to do Disney’s Aida on Broadway, she was offered a record contract – every performer’s dream, right? – and Deutsch looked it over.

“I thought it was ridiculous,” he says during a phone interview. “I thought we should just do it ourselves, and one thing led to another. I had no intention of doing cast albums or any of the stuff we ended up doing. I was just going to do a record with my wife.”

That was eight years ago, and Sh-K-Boom records, co-founded by Scott (the Sh) and Deutsch (the K), has become a major force in the realm of Broadway music. Originally the label started as an outlet for Broadway performers to show their musical colors outside of cast albums. Scott, along with the likes of Adam Pascal of Rent and Alice Ripley of Side Show, released pop-rock, singer-songwriter albums.

Then original cast albums began to creep into the picture as Deutsch began to learn more about the music industry, recording contracts and business models.

“The usual recording contracts are awful,” Deutsch says. “The record company pays for the record, but then the artist never makes any money off the record. The same kind of contract is given to shows. The royalty deal is horrible because you have to sell so many records to see any money off of it. I thought it was so unfair. I couldn’t believe producers would sign these things. I realized cast albums could be an asset and make money, theoretically. Producers spend all this money creating the shows, why wouldn’t they want to create their own cast album? So we created a different model for producers to share in the revenue from cast albums in an equitable way.”

The music industry is an industry in turmoil. Technology has wreaked havoc with traditional means of recording and distribution – thank you, iTunes. Deutsch has had to be creative and to develop a mission.

“When I go see the shows, there are two aspects I’m considering: preservation and money making,” Deutsch explains. “I know certain shows will probably never make back their investments. I’m very honest with the producer or the not-for-profit that is producing it. We then find angels to support the cast album, which is probably the most important tool if the show is going to have a life beyond this production. If a recording exists, productions will happen.”

Deutsch, of course, is not running a not-for-profit organization. He has to make money to stay in business. But he has gotten good at helping shows find money, whether he taps a moneyed believer in the show, the music publisher or other sponsors.

For releasing cast albums, Deutsch created a separate label called Ghostlight Records (named for the single bulb lamp left on stages after a performance), and among the cast albums he has released are this year’s Tony-winner for best musical, In the Heights, Legally Blonde, The Drowsy Chaperone, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and another recent Tony-winner, Passing Strange, which was recorded live and has the distinction of being the first original Broadway cast recording released in a digital format before it was released to brick-and-mortar stores.

“There will always be something physical people will buy, especially collectors of recordings,” Deutsch says. “Some people will always want to read the lyrics, see photos to get a sense of the show or just have a souvenir of the show, a tangible thing.”

But there’s no denying the fact that the digital revolution has made things easier for distributors: there’s no manufacturing cost, no shipping and customers around the world can acquire the product with the click of a mouse.

With this summer’s airing of MTV’s reality show search for a new lead in Legally Blonde, Deutsch says that Blonde music sales, already one of the label’s strong sellers, increased, with about 50 percent of sales going out digitally.

There was one potentially major gaffe associated with the conclusion of the MTV show, which revealed the winner and new Blonde star to be Bailey Hanks. Deutsch and his crew had already recorded Hanks singing the show’s “So Much Better,” which was scheduled for release the day after she was crowned the winner. But someone at didn’t get the memo and posted a 30-second clip of Hanks’ song days before they were supposed to. There was no name on the clip, but anyone watching the show would recognize Hanks as the singer.

“I was on vacation in Italy and got this frantic e-mail from the executive producer of the Legally Blonde show,” Deutsch recalls. “We had had to sign a confidentiality agreement with the show, and a mistake like that one could have cost us $500,000. They eventually took the clip down. Hopefully someone was fired.”

Part of Deutsch’s creative mission with these recordings is to make original cast albums vital again. He gave away a copy of the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels disc with every ticket sold during the show’s Broadway run. For “In the Heights” he created radio-friendly three-minute versions of some of the show’s songs. And Passing Strange went digital in time for its award-season appearances.

He also takes risks, like he did with the musical bare (which will have its San Francisco premiere next year). The small-scale musical about teens in Catholic school, was generating buzz off-Broadway. After meeting with producers, Deutsch recorded a 12-track disc that was essentially given away, mostly to youth groups and summer camps.

“We spent $50,000 to make the record and market it,” Deutsch says. “The idea was to create buzz to get the show to Broadway. Then the money fell apart, and it never opened on Broadway.”

Upcoming releases for Sh-K-Boom and Ghostlight include an archival recording of Patti LuPone’s legendary concerts at Les Mouches (Nov. 11), Michael John LaChiusa’s
Little Fish (Sept. 9) and Orfeh’s What Do You Want from Me (Sept. 30). Recent releases include Kelli O’Hara’s Wonder in the World, the cast album for the first Broadway musical of the season, [title of show],
and Lea Delaria’s The Live Smoke Sessions.

“The whole point of this is that we’re part of the community,” Deutsch says. “Sheri is part of the Broadway community. We have a lot of friends in the Broadway community. We’re performers and producers on Broadway, not some big, bad record label guys. We want to help grow Broadway and off-Broadway. This is a great time in history with a lot of great people, and we can help make something to remember them by.”

For information visit or

Spike Lee to film `Passing Strange’ reports that filmmaker Spike Lee is so taken with Stew’s Broadway musical Passing Strange that he has raised money to film the show concert style. Here’s the short news item:

Spike Lee is going to Broadway. The Oscar-nominated writer/director will be spending part of his July filming the Tony-winning production Passing Strange. Lee will film the musical by singer/songwriter Stew over the course of a weekend, shooting two shows with audiences and then a third one without. (He did a similar thing with his 2000 concert film The Original Kings of Comedy.) Passing Strange’s producers are financing the production, and while no distribution deal has been set, sources believe it will air on cable television upon completion. The musical centers on a young black musician who sets off on a journey to find “the real” after being raised in a church-going middle-class Los Angeles neighborhood. It was originally developed at the Sundance Institute Theatre Lab.

Of course, Bay Area audiences know that isn’t the whole story. The musical had its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Ocotober, 2006 (a co-production with New York’s Public Theater), and we’ve been Stew fans ever since.

When Lee fell for the show, he fell hard. Here’s a letter he wrote on the Passing Strange MySpace page:

Dear Theatergoer,

Can you deal with the real?

At The Public Theater last spring, I saw a musical called Passing Strange. I was so moved and inspired I went back a second time with the quickness. Now due to popular and critical demand, Passing Strange is moving uptown.

I’m writing to urge you to go see it, as this fresh musical is an unstoppable force of energy, music and mayhem, just what Broadway needs.

The creation of a visionary artist named Stew, a phenomenal singer-songwriter from South Central LA by way of Amsterdam and Berlin, it’s the story of a young black man on a journey of self-discovery. But the pure rock energy, Soul, profound humanity and brilliant cast are the elements that make Passing Strange unforgettable.

The New Yorker called it “a finely-crafted American musical.” And New York Magazine hailed it as “a new musical that amazing! actually feels relevant.” Sometimes the critics get it right.

Not the first groundbreaking Broadway hit to get its start at The Public Theater (Hair, A Chorus Line, Noise…Funk), but you can be among the first to see this next big thing. So check out the discount offer. Then go see Passing Strange and tell them Spike sent you.

Yours truly,
Spike Lee

For more information, visit

Great American musical roundup


We have a tradition here at Theater Dogs, and that is to commemorate the Fourth of July by celebrating the greatest American art form: the musical.

It was an interesting year on Broadway for new musicals. Below are reviews of cast albums for three of them (I passed on Little Mermaid because I love the movie soundtrack from Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman so much that I don’t really want to hear how Ashman’s brilliance was diluted by someone else attempting to fill his shoes; and I had previously reviewed, and hated, Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein and Xanadu). There’s also a classic American musical revival below and a pop album by current Broadway star, Kelli O’Hara.

Passing Strange: The Stew Musical ($18.97, Ghostlight Records)

Recorded live from the Belasco Theatre, this original cast recording captures everything the Bay Area fell in love with when the show had its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Stew’s rock score is alternately rousing and mesmerizing. Brilliantly performed by the cast, this album has the distinction of being the first Broadway cast album to be released online first (you can find it at iTunes). It won’t be released in three dimensions until July 15. Recording live was a stroke of brilliance because the audience reaction fuels the experience of the music, especially during the more humorous songs.

My one complaint is that some of the songs ramble. The repetition grows wearisome on some tracks. But that’s a minor quibble. This is a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience with a you-are-there feel that pulses with energy.

In the Heights ($21.98, Ghostlight Records)

I haven’t seen the show, but one listen to this double-album set convinced me that it would go on to win the Tony Award for best score (for Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also stars) and for best musical. This is joyous music that incorporates rap, hip-hop, salsa, pop and more traditional Broadway sounds for a highly pleasing patchwork of songs. Miranda’s rapping is intelligent and humorous, which will go a long way toward not alienating Broadway audience members who might not care for rap while pleasing those who do.

Favorite tracks include the boffo opening number (“In the Heights”), the catchy “Piragua”, Mandy Gonzalez’s “Breathe” and the beautiful “Champagne” (by Gonzalez and Miranda). The recording quality is superb, and though there are hints of Rent here and there, In the Heights comes across on record as a true original.

A Catered Affair ($19.98, PS Classics)

A fan of composer John Bucchino’s, I was eagerly awaiting the cast album for this modest musical about a Bronx family that works itself into a frenzy over the daughter’s impending wedding (the daughter wants to elope, the mother, perhaps attempting to make up for her less-than-wonderful wedding, wants a blow-out).

The first impression from the album is that Faith Prince is amazing as Aggie, the mother. Her solos, “Our Only Daughter” and “Coney Island,” are superb, as is her duet with Leslie Kritzer as daughter Janey. Kritzer and Matt Cavenaugh as Ralph, the fiancé, shine on the duet “Don’t Ever Stop Saying `I Love You,'” which is the score’s standout song. Jonathan Tunick’s delicate orchestrations are gorgeous, and Bucchino’s songs are more about heart and storytelling than about big Broadway moments.

The jarring element of the album is Harvey Fierstein, who adapted the book from previous scripts by Paddy Chayefsky and Gore Vidal. Fierstein wrote himself a role as Aggie’s brother, Winston, and if you know the cast album of Hairspray, you know that Fierstein is more personality than vocal star. In a big splashy musical comedy, Fierstein is just fine. Here, he sticks out and causes little flinches here and there.

South Pacific: The New Broadway Cast Recording ($18.98, Sony Classical)

Gorgeous, wonderful, inspiring – there’s not much left to say about this fantastic cast recording of the Tony-winning Lincoln Center hit – the first Broadway revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1949 classic.

Kelli O’Hara is a vibrant, honey-voiced Nellie Forbush, and Paulo Szot, with his gorgeous bass baritone, imbues songs such as “Some Enchanted Evening” and “This Is How It Feels” (cut from the original, now a duet with O’Hara) with commanding, sexy power. Matthew Morrison provides a touching “Younger Than Springtime” and a forthright “You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.”

Robert Russell Bennett’s original orchestrations are brilliantly realized by musical director Ted Sperling. I’ll always love the original Mary Martin-Ezio Pinza recording, but this revival disc is a welcome addition to the library.

Wonder in the World, Kelli O’Hara ($16.98, Ghostlight Records)

Speaking of Kelli O’Hara, in addition to starring in a hit show, she has a new solo CD arranged and orchestrated by her Pajama Game co-star Harry Connick Jr. (and produced by longtime Connick collaborator Tracey Freeman). There are a couple show tunes – “Fable” from Light in the Piazza, which O’Hara was in, but she didn’t sing this song, “I Have Dreamed” from The King and I and “Make Someone Happy” from Do Re Mi – but this is mostly a sweet pop album. There are three Connick tunes, including the duet title song, which is fantastic, and some James Taylor (“Fire and Rain”), Don McLean (“And I Love You So”) and Billy Joel (“And So It Goes”). There are also some O’Hara originals: “Here Now” and “I Love You the World.” There’s even a song from O’Hara’s husband, Greg Naughton (“The Sun Went Out”). It’s all pretty great because O’Hara is such a solid singer – effortless and compassionate. She may not be belting about being in love with a wonderful guy here, but she impresses with her skill, charm and warmth.

And can we just give a shout out to Ghostlight Records and PS Classics? If it weren’t for them, we’d be well short of the show tunes we love. Please keep up the good work. Please.

Missing the Tonys

For the last four days I’ve been in Ashland, Ore., reviewing shows at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for the San Francisco Chronicle (more on that later), and while the Tonys were on Sunday night, I was at the opening of a new musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. Of course I’ll watch the whole awards show on TiVo when I get home, but I was able to catch glimpses here and there (thanks to the spotty online coverage), and of course I couldn’t wait to find out the winners.

I must say I’m disappointed that Passing Strange only one award (for best book of a musical). I guess I’m feeling territorial because the show had its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Still, it’s better than nothing. Here’s what co-creator and star Stew had to say about his win:

“Music is something that comes easy to me, and I’ve received numerous accolades for my songs – but to be honored for my writing means a whole hell of a lot, especially when it comes from theatre people for whom words really mean something. Those words took shape at Berkeley Rep, a place that makes space for people like me to take risks and try out things that theatre isn’t used to seeing. We loved working there, and we miss that Berkeley scene.”

More on the Tonys later. In the meantime, here’s a complete list of winners:

Play (and playwrights): “August: Osage County” (Tracy Letts).

Musical: “In the Heights.”

Book-Musical: “Passing Strange” (Stew).

Original Score (music and/or lyrics): “In the Heights” (Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda).

Revival-Play: “Boeing-Boeing.”

Revival-Musical: “South Pacific.”

Actor-Play: Mark Rylance, “Boeing-Boeing.”

Actress-Play: Deanna Dunagan, “August: Osage County.”

Actor-Musical: Paulo Szot, “South Pacific.”

Actress-Musical: Patti LuPone, “Gypsy.”

Featured Actor-Play: Jim Norton, “The Seafarer.”

Featured Actress-Play: Rondi Reed, “August: Osage County.”

Featured Actor-Musical: Boyd Gaines, “Gypsy.”

Featured Actress-Musical: Laura Benanti, “Gypsy.”

Direction-Play: Anna D. Shapiro, “August: Osage County.”

Direction-Musical: Bartlett Sher, “South Pacific.”

Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler, “In the Heights.”

Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, “In the Heights.”

Scenic Design-Play: Todd Rosenthal, “August: Osage County.”

Scenic Design-Musical: Michael Yeargen, “South Pacific.”

Costume Design-Play: Katrina Lindsay, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses.”

Costume Design-Musical: Catherine Zuber, “South Pacific.”

Lighting Design-Play: Kevin Adams, “The 39 Steps.”

Lighting Design-Musical: Donald Holder, “South Pacific.”

Sound Design-Play: Mic Pool, “The 39 Steps.”

Sound Design-Musical: Scott Lehrer, “South Pacific.”

Previously announced:

Regional Theater Tony Award: Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Special Tony Award: Robert Russell Bennett.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Stephen Sondheim.

Ramping up to the Tony Awards

This Sunday, the Tony Awards will be handed out.
Here’s what you need to know (and get busy organizing your Tony party — we’ve got to get those dismal ratings out of the basement so CBS will continue broadcasting the darn things).

For the first time, there will be pre-ceremony Tony Concert chock full of juicy musical numbers from all the nominated shows. In the Bay Area the concert will be at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 15 on KPIX-TV. Mario Lopez (currently playing Zach in A Chorus Line) hosts, and we’ll see numbers from 10 musicals: A Catered Affair, Cry-Baby, Grease, Gypsy, In The Heights, Passing Strange, South Pacific, Sunday in the Park with George, The Little Mermaid and Xanadu—on stage at the Allen Room at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, with its spectacular, floor-to-ceiling views of Central Park South visible to viewers of the telecast.

Nominees who perform on the program include Laura Benanti (Gypsy), Daniel Breaker and Stew (Passing Strange), Kerry Butler (Xanadu), Daniel Evans (Sunday in the Park with George), Faith Prince (A Catered Affair) and Loretta Ables Sayre (South Pacific).

“We’ve tried very hard not to cannibalize anything that will be on the actual Tony telecast, but just to whet people’s appetites for June 15,” says The Broadway League’s Jan Friedlander Svendsen, who is an executive producer of the special. “We purposely didn’t want this in costume, we didn’t want big production numbers. We wanted it to feel very intimate. And we wanted to have those up-close-and-personal profiles.”

Actor nominees who are interviewed during the pre-Tony telecast include Laurence Fishburne, who talks about his role as a Supreme Court justice in Thurgood, and Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood, who reveal a touching story from the casting of their revival of Macbeth. Steppenwolf Theatre Company members Laurie Metcalf (November) and Deanna Dunagan, Amy Morton and Rondi Reed from the Best Play nominee August: Osage County celebrate the success of Steppenwolf-ers on Broadway this season—the roster also includes Martha Plimpton and Kevin Anderson—who all told represent six different Broadway shows.

“One of the issues with the Tonys is, often times, not all of our nominees are as well known as, say, Oscar nominees,” says Svendsen. “It’s great to let audiences be exposed to some of those who aren’t as well known. It’s kind of like the Olympics. Many of those athletes aren’t as famous, and one of my favorite parts of watching the Games is getting to know those athletes from a human interest side. Then I have an emotional connection with them and a more rooting interest in who’s going to win.”

The Awards, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg (thank God someone on “The View” cares about theater since Rosie O’Donnell’s departure) begin at 8 p.m. on TV, but watching the tape delay is so retro. Why not tune into the live Webcast? Past Tony winners Michael Cerveris and Julie White host. Log on to for all the details.

On the broadcast, we’ll get musical numbers from all four of the Best Musical nominees (Cry-Baby, In The Heights, Passing Strange and Xanadu) and the four Best Musical Revival nominees (Grease, Gypsy, Sunday in the Park with George and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific).

Also represented will be three other new Broadway musicals: A Catered Affair, The Little Mermaid and The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein. And just for good measure, Rent and The Lion King will also make appearances.

Video memories from past Tony winners, clips from nominated shows and a whole lot more await you at, your one-stop shop for Tony Award information.

To whet your appetite, here’s Passing Strange on “The View.”

It’s good to be…Colman and Francis

Two wonderful actors, formerly of the Bay Area, are having some good days in the New York theater world. We’re sorry they’re not having good theater days in the Bay Area, but we wish them well. Here’s the scoop:

Colman Domingo is starring in the Tony-nominated Passing Strange, which, incidentally, just won three Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, two Obie Awards including Best New American Theatre Piece, two Theatre World Awards, and the top prize from the New York Drama Critics’ Circle (whew). If that weren’t cause enough to celebrate, Colman will direct New Professional Theatre’s production of Lisa B. Thompson’s Single Black Female, a comedy about “single black women and their search for love, dignity and clothes.” The production will star Soara-Joy Ross and Riddick Marie, at The Duke on 42nd St. in Manhattan. The show will run June 10-29.
Colman first directed the play in March of ’99 at San Francisco’s Theatre Rhinoceros.

Francis Jue, San Francisco native and a favorite at TheatreWorks in Mountain View (though that’s hardly the only local stage he has graced), won an Obie Award for his featured performance in David Henry Hwang’s Yellow Face.
Here’s a nice story on Francis from No word on whether Francis will be in the production of Yellow Face closing Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s 2008-09 season. Here’s hoping…

Bay Area Tony connections

It’s all about us, right?

Sure the Tony Awards celebrate NEW YORK theater and Broadway and all that jazz, but what about US?

Not a problem. We can even make the Tonys Bay Area-centric. It’s a little harder this year because we’re not getting as many pre-Broadway tryouts as we have in past years, and our local geniuses are content with being local, so their output is expressly for us and not those NYC theater aesthetes.

So here’s how we factor into the Tonys:

First off, Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, a nominee for best play, will be part of the American Conservatory Theater season later this year. It’ll be a different production but the same play. So root for that one to win (it won’t –it’s all August: Osage County this year, but stay tuned — there’s buzz that one way or another, Bay Area audiences will be seeing that next season as well).

The big Bay Area tie comes courtesy of Berkeley Repertory Theatre, which co-produced the world premiere of Stew and Heidi Rodewald’s rock musical Passing Strange, which then went on to the Public Theater in New York and then BroadWAY. Passing Strange, as you’ll recall, earned seven Tony Award nominations on Tuesday.

Here’s Stew on the Berkeley Rep connection:

Passing Strange is all about pilgrimages to the Real, and my first real-life pilgrimage was to Berkeley when I was a teenager. This is why it was so moving and important to me that the play premiered at Berkeley Rep. Berkeley embodies many of the ideals that are celebrated in the play – a place where people live as if their thoughts have meaning and consequence. Berkeley Rep was the perfect place for a crazy rock band with no idea what theatre was to make a play. I can’t think of a better environment to have given birth to Passing Strange. Probably because there is none.

Finally, fine folks at TheatreWorks are always right on top of this stuff and provide the following list of their Tony connections:

Danny Burstein, South Pacific – at TWorks in Everything’s Ducky (World Premiere from Bill Russell and Henry Krieger)
Laura Benanti, Gypsy – at TWorks in Caraboo (written by Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning author Marsha Norman) at New Works Festival reading
Andy Blankenbuehler, In the Heights – at TWorks for Kept and A Little Princess (world Premiere from Andrew Lippa and Brian Crawley)
Dan Knechtges, Xanadu – at TWorks for Vanities (world premiere from David Kirshenbaum and Jack Heifner)
Catherine Zuber, South Pacific – at TWorks for A Little Princess

For all your Tony Award needs, visit