WBEZ | Jessie Mueller http://www.wbez.org/tags/jessie-mueller Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Daily Rehearsal: Sh** Lana Del Rey Says, a meme by Chicago comics http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-23/daily-rehearsal-sh-lana-del-rey-says-meme-chicago-comics-95750 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-23/shitlanadelrey.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>1. The <a href="https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe/9551335">Young Playwrights Festival</a></strong></span></span>, run by the Pegasus Players, moved to the Hull House Center this year, but as the <a href="http://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2012/01/22/the-young-playwrights-festival-gets-a-new-home-for-now"><em>Reader</em>'s Asher Klein points out</a>, "&nbsp;the timing couldn't be worse." Why? Because Hull House is closing, so where will Pegasus go? In any case, the 25th annual Festival closes this weekend; get in while you can.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>2. Did you miss</strong></span></span> WBEZ blogger Claire Zulkey's <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/claire-zulkey/2012-01-20/gregory-maguire-interview-95680">interview </a>with the author of the book of <em>Wicked</em>, Gregory Maguire? Catch it now.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>3. <em>TimeOut </em>has a new feature</strong></span></span> where they highlight a&nbsp;"Performer of the week." The profile is online only, which means you should basically just cancel your subscription to the hard copy. It "spotlights a standout performance—and performer—from the past week of theater openings." <a href="http://timeoutchicago.com/arts-culture/unscripted-blog/15090007/clancy-mccartney-performer-of-the-week">This week it's&nbsp;Clancy McCartney</a>, who is now not only famous in my book for his very awesome name, but for his very awesome performance in<em>&nbsp;dark play or stories for boys</em> at Collaboraction.</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>4. Jessie Mueller was <a href="http://www.playbill.com/celebritybuzz/article/158847-DIVA-TALK-Chatting-With-On-a-Clear-Day-Star-Jessie-Mueller/pg3">interviewed </a></strong></span></span>by Playbill for their column Celebrity Buzz: Diva Talk. Stuff we learned: Everyone in her family acts (though she's the first to make it to Broadway) and&nbsp;she feels lucky that she "got to grow up watching the great Chicago actors performing around town, so that was a huge inspiration."</p><p><span style="font-size:14px;"><span style="font-family:georgia,serif;"><strong>5. The meme</strong></span></span> that jumped the shark a thousand sharks ago has been out-memed: Chicago comedy duo Seth and Kellen have done&nbsp;"Sh** Lana Del Rey Says." It's sort of disgusting, as in, I had a hard time watching it merely because it was so memey.&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sethandkellen.com/post/16322036650/shit-lana-del-rey-says-i-took-the-two-most">They say</a> that they "took the two most maligned internet memes of the moment and smashed them together to create a desperate attempt to go viral."</p><p style="text-align: center; "><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/nl083qV7u9I" width="480"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: left; ">Questions? Tips? Email&nbsp;<a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Mon, 23 Jan 2012 16:52:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-23/daily-rehearsal-sh-lana-del-rey-says-meme-chicago-comics-95750 A Chicagoan's report on Broadway's latest shows http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-03/chicagoans-report-broadways-latest-shows-95227 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-03/Private-Lives-Playbill-10-11.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Five days in New York, four shows. Here with my thoughts:</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-03/Hugh-Jackman-Back-on-Broadway-Playbill-10-11_0.jpg" style="margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: right; width: 225px; height: 350px;" title="">I don't know quite what to make of <strong><em>Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway</em></strong>. It's a one-person show, but it's not a comic one-person show like the one Alan Cumming tours with, nor a multi-character one-person show like the ones Anna Deavere Smith creates.</p><p>Instead, it's a charming one-person&nbsp; show, meaning that it depends on some preexisting agreement that the person in question is the most charming man on earth. Jackman is charming, and handsome, and he works hard to please, but he's working with nothing: no theme, no plot, no comic patter beyond what you'd hear at an ordinary dinner party. So if it's going to be anything, it has to be a display of the consummate song-and-dance man, whereas the night I saw it his voice sounded reedy and his diction mushy, as if all these years singing in an accent not his own had left him unsure how to pronounce ordinary words.</p><p>His dancing was good and you have to admire a performer so secure in his straight masculinity that he doesn't hesitate to put on pedal-pushers and a skin-tight shirt and camp it up with a tambourine. But there were only a few moments that gave evidence of what he can do when he's not exhausted or under the weather or carrying a show by himself, just a few notes that blew me back in my seat with awe at his talent.</p><p>I had a perfectly nice time but no one need shed a tear over having missed it---unless you're the sort of person who would pay $700 at a charity auction for his sweaty t-shirt. And if you are, you're on your own.&nbsp;</p><p>Despite uniformly poor reviews, I went to see <em><strong>On A Clear Day</strong> </em>because I wanted to see Chicagoan Jessie Mueller make her Broadway debut. It was worth every dime and every minute I spent on it. Mueller was terrific, and there was something more. You know how when the Bears win (whenever that is), a fan will say, "We won!" even though s/he had nothing to do with it? That's how I felt about Mueller's star-is-born, blow-the-doors-off performance as the woman Harry Connick Jr. loves trapped in the body of the man who loves Harry Connick Jr. (Don't bother trying to figure it out: If the book made sense, the reviews wouldn't have been so terrible.) Her performance didn't just thrill me as an audience member---it also made me proud in some obscure native-daughter way.</p><p>As for the show itself: either Connick was unwell the night we saw him--from the second row you could see him lapsing into that thousand-yard stare characteristic of feverish children--or he was phoning it in. But even at the top of their respective games, nobody on that stage is a match for Mueller's energy, musicality, warmth or wit. May her next show be worthy of her.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-03/Private-Lives-Playbill-10-11.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 225px; height: 350px;" title="">Just as normal people went to see <em>On A Clear Day</em> for Connick, they went to see <strong><em>Private Lives</em> </strong>for Kim Cattrell. But having never seen <em>Sex and the City</em> she meant nothing to me; I was there for Paul Gross, previously irresistable as the lead in <em>Slings and Arrows</em>, the CBC's roman-a-clef about the Stratford Festival. He likewise did not disappoint: An accomplished comic actor, he managed to get everything possible out of the tenuous balance between love and fury that activates every moment of the play.</p><p>But just as most rock-and-roll songs weren't designed to be played for 40 years, and just as Chicago's sewers weren't built to last 100 years, Noel Coward's play is ripe for retirement. It's unfair, in fact, to expect a piece of boulevard comedy organized around obsolete sex roles to continue to please decade after decade, and sure enough, it doesn't. If I never see it again it will be too soon. You may throw brickbats at your convenience.&nbsp;</p><p>Finally, I saw Theresa Rebeck's <strong><em>Seminar</em></strong>, with Alan Rickman and Lily Rabe. The cast was first-rate but nonetheless I'm glad I didn't take Jonathan up on his offer to get me backstage to meet his old family friend Hamish Linklater. What if he'd asked what I thought of the play?</p><p>Rebeck is probably better known right now for her legitimate public complaint about sexism in theaters' choice of plays than she is for playwriting itself, but I would have expected at least a feminist sensibility in her work. Instead she gave us a play which dismissed the two female writers in the eponymous fiction workshop and offered the hoary old tale of the dying lion anointing one of the (male) cubs. Rabe's character Kate starts off as the focus of attention, and indeed her growth as a writer is the only action in the play that doesn't involve a condom; but by the end she's been relegated to a job as a ghostwriter while her ex-lover becomes teacher Rickman's pet project.</p><p>Meanwhile the other female character is an Asian woman whose entire shtick is being sexy; but instead of satirizing or commenting on the sexualization of Asian women by white men, Rebeck and director Sam Gold participate in it by having the character pull off her shirt so as to display and discuss her nipples for a full three minutes. (Kate also gets a moment of gratuitous nudity, while the worst that happens to the men is that they're seen in their boxer shorts.)</p><p>Having introduced a whole series of relationships and plot points, the play fails to resolve any of them: was Rickman really a plagiarist? Does the game of musical beds represent competition or cooperation among the students? Is Kate's writing so weak that she should be satisfied to be a ghostwriter while the men are out there speaking in their own voices? The more I think about the play, the more pissed-off I get, but at least it engaged me---which is more than I can say for the other three.</p><p>A long-winded way of saying: if you want great theater, stay right where you are.&nbsp; I'm planning to.</p></p> Tue, 03 Jan 2012 15:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2012-01-03/chicagoans-report-broadways-latest-shows-95227 Jessie Mueller scores in B'way debut; local troupes move north http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-13/jessie-mueller-scores-bway-debut-local-troupes-move-north-94858 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-13/AP111211064956.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-13/AP111211064956.jpg" style="margin-right: 10px; margin-top: 10px; margin-bottom: 10px; float: left; width: 266px; height: 400px; " title="Mueller on opening night. (AP/Charles Sykes)">“It’s an ill wind that blows no one good,” goes the old proverb. While the breezes were rather chilly concerning the Broadway revival of <em>On A Clear Day You Can See Forever</em>, they shifted to southerly and warm for Jessie Mueller, the Chicagoan making her Broadway debut in the show. That’s another way of saying the critics generally panned the show, but had only praise for Mueller, in what appears to be a star-making role for her.</p><p>The odd 1965 musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane—about past-life regression, hypnosis and reincarnation—opened Sunday (December 11) at the St. James Theatre on the Great White Way to mixed-to-negative reviews for the total show and definitely negative notices for star Harry Connick, Jr. (stiff, wooden and uncomfortable, they said). However, Mueller was singled out as a ray of sunshine in the leading female role, a 1940’s singer named Melinda.</p><p>“Mueller combines period vocal technique with natural, uninflected charisma and an on-stage relaxation not often seen outside of Chi-town,” <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2011/12/theater-review-on-a-clear-day.html">said <em>New York Magazine</em>&nbsp;reviwer Scott Brown</a>. “Her voice contains notes of Garland, but she’s no diva—this is a star of supreme self-possession, one who doesn’t need to blind us to impress us.”</p><p>In <a href="http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117946735?refcatid=33&amp;printerfriendly=true"><em>Variety</em>, Steve Suskin wrote</a>, “The main items of interest in this misguided affair are the performances of the split-in-two heroine. Jessie Mueller, as the glamorous Melinda, is a find; the character has been transformed into a 1943 jazz singer, and Mueller handles this extremely well when given a chance . . . .”</p><p>In the influential <a href="http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/theater/on-a-clear-day-reincarnated-nicely-1.3382599"><em>Newsday</em>, Linda Winer said</a>, “It helps credibility that Jessie Mueller . . . happens to be pretty irresistible, too. Mueller, a Chicago talent in her Broadway debut, has a forthright, confident rhythm that suggests a young Liza Minelli but a delicate, deliciously precise sound all her own.”</p><p>Even Ben Brantley, in the all-powerful<em> <a href="http://theater.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/theater/reviews/on-a-clear-day-you-can-see-forever-at-st-james-review.html?hpw">New York Times</a></em><a href="http://theater.nytimes.com/2011/12/12/theater/reviews/on-a-clear-day-you-can-see-forever-at-st-james-review.html?hpw">, said that</a> “Ms. Mueller, who has a fetching affinity for swing-era song stylings, comes off better. (Her version of ‘Ev’ry Night at Seven’ . . . is the show’s high point.)”</p><p>If the show runs for even a few months, perhaps limping into the spring on the strength of Harry Connick, Jr.’s drawing power and a few mixed-to-positive reviews, Jessie Mueller might find herself with a Tony Award nomination in her Broadway debut; but the shorter the run the less likely that will be. Whatever the fate of the show, however, Mueller comes out smelling like a rose in what the industry likes to call “a break-out performance.” The big and bright future for Ms. Mueller, predicted long-ago here in Chicago, certainly is upon her.</p><p><strong>I can’t name names just yet</strong>, but look for an announcement early in the new year about a major move by a stalwart Off-Loop theater company. The North Side troupe has had landlord problems for a long time, despite nearly 20 years of residency in its current location. Fortunately, the company has identified a larger, better venue in the same extended neighborhood and will be making the move official shortly after January 1. The troupe expects to open a show in the new space in mid-winter.</p><p>Teatro Luna, the 10-year old collective of Latina writers and performers, also is making a North Side move. The company has been without a permanent home since giving up its Pilsen storefront at least five years ago. As an itinerant company, they’ve played venues in Little Village and The Loop as well as several on the North Side. Now the company has signed a five-year lease for the Live Bait space at 3912 N. Clark Street, previously occupied by The Artistic Home (and, of course, Live Bait before that). The double storefront space has two theaters, which will give Teatro Luna opportunities to sublet one or both theaters when they aren’t producing themselves. The current Teatro Luna show, <em>Crossed</em>, is playing at The Viaduct through Dec. 18. The</p></p> Tue, 13 Dec 2011 16:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-12-13/jessie-mueller-scores-bway-debut-local-troupes-move-north-94858 Nussbaum and Mueller land juicy out-of-town roles http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-30/nussbaum-and-mueller-land-juicy-out-town-roles-91241 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-August/2011-08-30/AP041220014645.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" ap="" at="" class="caption" glen="" glengarry="" goodman="" ross="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-30/AP041220014645.jpg" style="margin-right: 15px; width: 500px; height: 341px;" the="" theatre.="" title="Mike Nussbaum, left, in 1984 in a scene from the play &quot;Glengarry Glen Ross&quot; at the Goodman Theatre. (AP/File)"></p><p>Iconic Chicago actor Mike Nussbaum has put on his traveling shoes for a rare trip out-of-town. He's playing Solomon Galkin in <em>Imagining Madoff</em>, a controversial play by Deborah Margolin presented at Theater J in Washington, DC, where former-Chicagoan Ari Roth is artistic director. As the title suggests, convicted financier Bernard Madoff is the antagonist of the play, which is a fictional account of Madoff being confronted by a man he's nearly ruined, Solomon Galkin. In the play, Galkin is a Holocaust survivor, important literary figure and noted philanthropist whose foundation is decimated by Madoff's collapse.</p><p>If Galkin sounds suspiciously like Elie Wiesel, that's because he originally WAS Wiesel as Margolin wrote the play. One of several high-profile Madoff victims, Wiesel made extremely nasty public comments when he heard about the play (before its 2010 world premiere) and threatened legal action if he wasn't removed from it. Margolin probably would have won any lawsuit--Wiesel is a public figure, after all, and he was not defamed in the play--but lawsuits are long and expensive so she chose instead to substitute the thinly fictionalized character of Galkin. The controversy was such that Theater J postponed production of <em>Imagining Madoff</em> for a year, thereby losing the chance to stage the world premiere (which was done at Stageworks/Hudson Stage in upstate New York). <em>Imaging Madoff</em> runs Aug. 31-Sept. 25 and is directed by Alexandra Aron.</p><p>Popular Chicago actor and singer Jessie Mueller has landed a plum co-starring role for her Broadway debut, playing the romantic lead opposite Harry Connick, Jr. in a big revival of the 1965 musical, <em>On a Clear Day You Can See Forever</em>. Mueller spent July in New York as part of a workshop for a new version of the show, after which she was signed for the real deal, to be directed by Tony Award winner Michael Mayer with a heavily reworked book by playwright Peter Parnell. The show's original authors, Burton Lane (music) and Alan Jay Lerner (book and lyrics), long since went to the Great White Way in the Sky.</p><p>In the original show (also made into a 1970 movie starring Barbra Streisand and Yves Montand), the heroine is drab Daisy Gamble who seeks hypnotherapy to stop smoking at the request of her boyfriend. Under hypnosis, she reveals to her psycho-therapist details of colorful past life as Melinda Wells in Regency-era London, and her doc falls for Melinda. In the 2011 version, the hero is David Gamble, a gay man who wants to stop smoking for his boyfriend. During hypnotherapy, David reveals details of his past life as 1940's jazz singer Melinda Wells, and the doc falls for Melinda. Connick is the doc and Jessie Mueller has the juicy role of Melinda.</p><p>A Jefferson Award winning performer, Mueller is the daughter of highly-regarded acting couple Roger Mueller and Jill Shellabarger, all four of whose kids have followed Ma and Pa into show biz. Mueller has worked at most of the big Chicago theaters such as Chicago Shakespeare, Goodman and Marriott. <em>On a Clear Day You Can See Forever</em> is scheduled to begin previews Nov. 12 at Broadway's St. James Theatre, with a Dec. 11 opening night.</p><p>A Broadway casting notice for David Henry Hwang's <em>Chinglish</em> appeared in a recent edition of Back Stage, the national trade paper for actors, and it made clear that many roles from the June hit Goodman Theatre world premiere of the play may be up for grabs. Indeed, every role in the play was listed in the audition notice except that of Peter, the Australian character of European extraction who speaks fluent Mandarin, and who was played in Chicago by Stephen Pucci. As for the other roles--six actors playing eight characters, five of them Chinese and all of them needing to be fluent in Mandarin as well as English--all of them were described in detail. There was, however, one important caveat in the Aug. 11 posting: "Most positions in the Broadway production have been offered, but have not yet been accepted; they are therefore considered available." Of course, it can't hurt to audition if you have the acting chops and the language chops: the Broadway production also seeks understudies, and there could be a touring company in the future. By the way, Broadway minimum is $1,653 a week (trust me, these actors will earn more), rehearsals begin Sept. 12 under director Leigh Silverman (who directed Chinglish here), with previews beginning in October.</p></p> Tue, 30 Aug 2011 15:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-30/nussbaum-and-mueller-land-juicy-out-town-roles-91241 Daily Rehearsal: Marc Maron takes over Chicago (and The Interview Show) http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-05/daily-rehearsal-marc-maron-takes-over-chicago-and-interview-show-90 <p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-May/2011-05-31/mzi.cedtdihh_medium.png" style="width: 300px; height: 300px; margin: 10px; float: right;" title=""><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>1. <a href="http://www.wtfpod.com/">Comedian Marc Maron</a> was <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-08-05/wtf-comedian-marc-maron-90172">on <em>Eight-Forty-Eight</em></a></strong></span></span> this morning talking about his new album and the podcast that's burning up everyones feeds, <em>WTF with Marc Maron</em>. He'll be at <a href="http://www.maynestage.com/Marc-Maron.aspx">the Mayne Stage</a> tonight and Saturday night this weekend.</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>2. Marc Maron is also at Mark Bazer's The Interview Show</strong></span></span> tonight at <a href="http://www.hideoutchicago.com/event/53079/">The Hideout</a>, with several other esteemed guests. Watch Bazer interview people, like he does. That is all.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>3. And speaking of The Interview Show and Mark Bazer</strong></span></span>, Bazer&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/mark-bazer/2011-08-05/i-hate-la-or-three-chicago-comics-leave-town-90168">celebrates three Chicago comics</a> who are have left/will leave for Los Angeles to make it big and never again grace us with their presence. "It's inevitable. Comics come here (or are from here), hone their skills and then head west in hopes of landing a part on the next&nbsp;<em>According to Jim</em>," says Bazer. He's speaking of&nbsp;Prescott Tolk, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-15/paper-machete-saying-goodbye-ken-barnard-89210">Ken Barnard</a> and Beth Stelling. Say your goodbyes, ladies and gentlemen.&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>4.&nbsp;Chicago actress Jessie Mueller <a href="http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/04/for-chicago-actress-a-broadway-debut-opposite-connick-in-on-a-clear-day/">has also made it to the big leagues</a></strong></span></span>, never to return again. You've seen her <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-07-08/dueling-critics-shout-about-marriott-theatres-new-production-88875">recently in <em>Shout!</em></a>, <em>Merrily We Roll Along</em> and <em>Guys and Dolls</em>. and she will now be the lead in <em>On a Clear Day You Can See Forever </em>with Harry Connick Jr. on Broadway. Of her role in Shout!, Kelly Kleiman said, "And Jessie Mueller extends her streak...of outstanding work, continuing to show herself as&nbsp;<u>the</u>&nbsp;up-and-coming musical comedy star in these parts." Guess she was right!&nbsp;<em>On a Clear Day</em> opens in December.</p><p><img alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-August/2011-08-05/radio goggles.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 139px; margin: 10px; float: left;" title=""><span style="font-size: 14px;"><span style="font-family: georgia,serif;"><strong>5. <em>Radio Goggles</em> is closing this weekend at Oracle Theatre</strong></span></span>. In my best cut and paste job: "Come to Oracle and gather around the old RCA tube set for an evening of entertainment unlike any other one-act play cycle going on in Chicago. Strap on a pair of genuine RADIO GOGGLES, and watch 3 vintage radio shows come to life. In Oracle’s performance style, the actual recordings are played over the sound system while the actors lip-sync, pantomime, and shadow-play to the recording. It’s a fun, irreverent style that builds on the expertise of those old time voice actors."</p><p>Questions? Tips? Email <a href="mailto:kdries@wbez.org">kdries@wbez.org</a>.</p></p> Fri, 05 Aug 2011 18:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-08-05/daily-rehearsal-marc-maron-takes-over-chicago-and-interview-show-90