Posts Tagged ‘Larry Murray’

Three of Playbill’s Top 10 Broadway Shows Began in the Berkshires [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015


By Larry Murray

Just as our resident theater companies look to New York City for top talent – from Olympia Dukakis at Shakespeare & Company to director John Rando, who has led productions at Pittsfield’s Barrington Stage, the historic Berkshire Theatre Group and the fabulously star-struck Williamstown Theatre Festival, Broadway seems to have feasted on Berkshire productions in 2014.

In the popular annual readers’ poll conducted by Playbill, its readers chose On the Town as one of their Top 10 shows, plus two from the Williamstown Theatre Festival: Here Lies Love (performed at MASS MoCA) and Bridges of Madison County. WTF’s most recent entry The Elephant Man with Bradley Cooper was edged out by the longer running Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. To WTF’s bold Jenny Gersten – who has left WTF for other challenges – goes our rare standing “O” and raucous applause, sharing the spotlight with that Barrington Stage phenomenon, Julianne Boyd.

The Elephant Man production on Broadway has once again broken the Booth Theatre’s box office record grossing $1,058,547.08 for the week ending December 28, becoming the first show ever to play that venue and gross over $1 million in a single week. Directed by 6-time Tony Award nominee Scott Ellis, The Elephant Man is now playing a limited engagement through Sunday, February 22.

The background of these shows and their ultiimate transitions to fodder for Broadway is fascinating. Here is some background of how each came about:

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.


Ten Indelible Moments of Theater Magic in the Berkshires in 2014 [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

The curtain falls on 2014

By Larry Murray and Gail M. Burns

End of the year, time to reminisce. Gail Burns and I considered the state of health and energy of theater in this earlier article.

But the beginning of a new year is always a good time to look inward, too.

One of the reasons many of us love theater so much is the impact it can have on our minds and emotions. I love theater because it lets us see and consider things we don’t usually have a lot of time to think about in our daily life. Like the provocative scene below, one of ten memorable moments I had going to theater – lots of theater – this past year.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage

Richard Brody’s Top 11 Concerts
Michael Eck’s Top 10 Albums
Fred Rudofsky’s Top 21 Live Music Events
Albert Brooks’ Top 11 Albums
Gene Sennes’ Top Concerts & Albums
J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part II
The Capital Land Crate Digger’s Cultural Top 10
J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part I
Stanley Johnson’s Favorite Things
Rudy Lu’s Top 10 Concerts
J Hunter’s Top 10 Concerts (And More)
Tim Livingston’s Top 10 Albums

Stephen Hawking – As His Wife Saw Him – Illuminates “The Theory of Everything” [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, January 5th, 2015
Felicity Jones, Stephen Hawking & Eddie Redmayne.

Felicity Jones, Stephen Hawking & Eddie Redmayne.

Film Review by Larry Murray

Stephen William Hawking was born on January 8, 1942 (300 years after the death of Galileo) in Oxford, England. His father wanted him to be a doctor, but instead he became the world’s most famous cosmologist, trying to figure out the basic laws the govern the universe. He sees creation as beginning in a big bang and ending in black holes. Along the way he has earned honors and awards for his genius and a dozen honorary degrees.

But the movie The Theory of Everything knows the average person is not particularly interested in the intracies of a unified field theory, or reconciling Einstein’s laws of the very big with the quantum world of the very small. I am fascinated by the details of Hawking’s discoveries, but in Hollywood’s world of make believe, it is not the scientific element that is going to bring folks into the local multiplex. So what we have is a nevertheless interesting film that is more about Hawking’s romance with his first wife, Jane, the family they raised, and his battle with ALS, a form of Motor Neurone Disease, which was diagnosed shortly after his 21st birthday.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

“Unbroken” Is a Horrific Hero’s Story from World War II, Directed by Angelina Jolie [Berkshire on Stage]

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014
A beaten but unbowed Jack O’Connell as Zamperini.

A beaten but unbowed Jack O’Connell as Zamperini.

Film review by Larry Murray

The World War II drama Unbroken opened on Christmas Day and marks Angelina Jolie’s second directorial effort. The film is solid in an old fashioned way, and will likely be popular, especially with those who love blood, bashing and brave heroes who speak in slogans and sound bites. To me, while based on a true story, it is a formula film that seems more in the spirit of the other film it most resembles, The Passion of the Christ. We love to see our heroes beaten up on the screen, especially if they are suffering for a good cause.

Louis Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) was a Los Angeles high school track star who raced in the 1936 Berlin Olympics on the U.S. team that included Jesse Owens. In 1943, his Air Force plane crashed in the Pacific. He survived without food and water for 47 days, enduring shark attacks, aerial attacks and hunger before washing ashore on a Japanese island behind enemy lines, where he was held as a prisoner of war for two years and tortured by his captors.

In the film, Zamperini the prisoner is seen enduring excruciating pain as he holds a wooden crossbar aloft for what seems like hours. He is also beaten mercilessly by the other prisoners who are ordered to shower punch after punch on him “in order to teach him respect” by the prison camp commander. But he was far from a saint. As a child he was constantly getting into trouble, stealing, running from the police and enduring the bullying of his classmates.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” – About as Good as a Filmed Musical Gets [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, December 29th, 2014
Meryl Streep as The Witch

Meryl Streep as The Witch

By Larry Murray

Already nominated for awards and the most anticipated musical of the year for theater lovers – Into the Woods has been nominated in several categories, featuring Best Picture – Comedy Or Musical, Best Actress (Emily Blunt) – Comedy Or Musical and Best Supporting Actress – Comedy Or Musical (Meryl Streep).

Sadly on Christmas Day as fans of this musical headed for their local cinemas, it was being screening only at the Beacon in Pittsfield. One of the most anticipated films of the year is not at the Berkshire Mall, the Triplex or the North Adams Multiplex. The good films get passed by too often around here.

Because Disney is great at both musicals and fairy tales – and Meryl Streep at everything she does – I am willing to bet that the new film of Into the Woods which opened Christmas Day will surely be in the running for an Academy Award as the best picture of 2014.

Top Film “The Imitation Game” vs. “Breaking the Code,” the Best Play, Are About Alan Turing [Berkshire on Stage]

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014
Part of the team at Bletchley Park that solved the Enigma Code.

Part of the team at Bletchley Park that solved the Enigma Code

Film Review and Commentary by Larry Murray

The Imitation Game opens this week on Christmas Day across the nation, but in the Berkshires, it will only be seen at the Triplex in Great Barrington. Apparently we will continue to have little reason to venture to the North Adams Multiplex, the Berkshire Mall or the Beacon in Pittsfield. I suspect that once again, films with gay content are being shunned. I hope I am wrong, but the continued drought in films with LGBT content is all too obvious at the big cinema operations. In Williamstown, Images sometimes fills in the gap, and in Pittsfield, the Little Cinema at the Berkshire Museum often screens films with intellectual, political and social depth. The Imitation Game has all three.

This is one of the top films of the year, with Benedict Cumberbatch taking on the role of Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician, logician, cryptologist and computer scientist who led the charge to crack the German Enigma Code that helped the Allies win WWII. Turing went on to assist with the development of computers at the University of Manchester after the war, but was prosecuted by the UK government in 1952 for homosexual acts which the country deemed illegal since the days of Queen Victoria. In fact, some 40,000 Brits underwent chemical castration for being gay in the 20th Century. Turing committed suicide shortly thereafter, the effects of the drugs having also destroyed his intellect, which provided him his reason for living.

Those of us were fortunate enough to see the Barrington Stage Company production of Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore this past summer on its Pittsfield mainstage know his tragic story well. Under the direction of Joe Calarco, and with Mark H. Dold playing Turing, we not only learned of the life of Turing, but, unlike in The Imitation Game, got some deeper insights into his sexual identity. On stage we saw two men embrace and more, in the film we see two schoolboys challenge each other with codes and forbidden messages.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Now Sony Says It Will Stream “The Interview” or Release on DVD [Berkshire on Stage]

Monday, December 22nd, 2014
Photo found on Facebook.

Photo found on Facebook.

Wait a day and Sony will change its stance on The Interview. As of Sunday (December 21), it seems the picture will get out, only not to theaters. Speaking to “Meet the Press” Sunday, Sony lawyer David Boies said The Interview is only being “delayed,” a major turnaround from their previous statement that they have “no further release plans” for the North Korea-baiting film. “Sony only delayed this,” Boies said, adding that the company is the victim of a “state-sponsored criminal act.” “Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed. How it’s going to be distributed, I don’t think anyone knows quite yet.”

Based on Sony’s earlier statements, we reported that The Interview had been scrapped thanks to the hackers from North Korea, and how everyone was expecting that the Sony film will be streamed free or for a modest fee instead. After all, the logic goes, they can’t pull a 9/11 on a million homes around the world, can they?

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

Jacob’s Pillow Announces 2015 Schedule with 200 Free Events [Berkshire on Stage]

Thursday, December 18th, 2014
Céline Cassone & Daniil Simkin (photo: Ken Browar & Deborah Ory of NYC Dance Project)

Céline Cassone & Daniil Simkin (photo: Ken Browar & Deborah Ory of NYC Dance Project)

Highlights of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2015 include Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host, a special dance and radio stage production starring public radio’s Ira Glass; the return of Nederlands Dans Theater 2; the U.S. debut of Gauthier Dance//Dance Company Theaterhaus Stuttgart from Germany; the world premiere of American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Daniil Simkin’s INTENSIO; Cuban contemporary ensemble Malpaso Dance Company, performing with Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra; and the launch of Martha Graham Dance Company’s 90th anniversary, including a world premiere by eminent choreographer Mats Ek.

Live music is prevalent throughout the season and will be featured in performances by Jessica Lang Dance, Dorrance Dance, Daniel Ulbricht and Stars of American Ballet, Daniil Simkin’s INTENSIO, La Otra Orilla and Malpaso Dance Company. Jacob’s Pillow is committed to presenting and commissioning new work; Festival 2015 features many world premiere engagements including Daniil Simkin’s INTENSIO and Martha Graham Dance Company in VED by Mats Ek, plus premiere works by La Otra Orilla and Ricardo Graziano of the Sarasota Ballet. Many Festival 2015 artists have developed work during Creative Development Residencies at Jacob’s Pillow, including Jessica Lang, Michelle Dorrance, Annie-B Parson and Jonathan Campbell and Austin Diaz of MADboots Dance.

Click to read the rest at Berkshire on Stage.

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