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Bronx Opera returns with HANSEL & GRETEL
Written by Scott Katz   
Wednesday, 16 May 2012 12:44

The Bronx Opera returns for its Spring performances with something of a departure from its norm.  To be sure, it adheres to its customary template of presenting a well-known opera in the Spring, yet by choosing Hansel and Gretel as its focus, the Bronx Opera makes an inspired decision to perform a piece that could serve to introduce the world of opera to the younger generation.

One of the best known and most beloved fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel was published by the Grimm Brothers in 1812 in a volume containing scores of other legendary short stories such as Snow White and Cinderella.  By 1893, Engelbert Humperdinck – no, not the Las Vegas schmaltz-meister, the original German composer – turned the beloved story into a full-blown three-act opera to largely rave reviews.  It is this version that the Bronx Opera adapts for its May session.

The Bronx Opera's rendition of Humperdink's Hansel and Gretel is brilliantly brought to life by the Bronx Opera's founder, Michael Spierman who draws lush, room-filling sound from his full orchestra of almost three dozen extremely talented musicians.  Spierman's son Benjamin serves as Stage Director and translated the opera so that it could be fully performed in English while maintaining the integrity and wit of the original.

As is usual for a Bronx Opera production, there are standout and noteworthy performances aplenty.  In the cast we saw, Allison Pohl was charming and charismatic as Gretel and Bronx Opera vet Hannah Rosenbaum makes a memorable impression in a brief but pivotal role as the Sandman.  It should be noted that this rendition of the opera continues the tradition of the original in that the role of Hansel is performed by a female – a so-called "pants" role – and Jennifer Caruana does a fine job as the mischievous Hansel.  On the technical side, the many projections used to suggest the forest, the witches flying across the sky, and the gingerbread house are clever, colorful, and inventive and were quite effective tools in the school of doing more with less.


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Image credit: The Bronx Opera Company


If we have one critique of Hansel and Gretel, it is with the third act, which follows the intermission.  At this point, the children are awakened by the Dew Fairy and soon find themselves at the mercy of the evil Gingerbread Witch.  This is where the story should kick into high gear and the action should rise toward a satisfying climax, but in spite of the fact that the children are captured and Hansel is being fattened in preparation for his eventual fate as a tasty morsel, no sense of underlying tension is ever achieved.  Therefore, when the children find the courage and resourcefulness to outsmart the witch and push her into her own oven, the thrill of giddy catharsis that shoud be felt by the audience is somewhat diminished.

Much of the problem is with the underlying source material.  Humperdinck, in trying to lift Hansel and Gretel from its childhood folk tale origins to an opera worthy of serious consideration by adults may have succeeded all too well.  The composer's Wagnerian influences are apparent, but are structurally too rigid, serving to deflate much of the playfulness and imaginative spark inherent in the concept.  In the past, we've seen fantastic results where the Bronx Opera stayed extremely close to the source material they adapted and did not take too many liberties, but in this case with such kid-friendly material, why not?

The staging of this production was perhaps too well-mannered where a little cutting loose would have worked wonders.  The production design was fun and colorful, and we would have liked to have seen things taken even further.  Having the witch's entrance moved off-stage and directly into the audience where she could pop up unexpectedly, for example, might have provoked shrieks of laughter from the many children that were in attendance.  Or use the many video screens adorning the stage to have the witch's ugly mug projected in large size on four screens simultaneously as she sings her entrance number.  On a similar note, the witch's performance could have been made more broadly campy as her presence comprises the money shots of this oft-told tale and therefore needed to make much more of an impact than they do here.  Everything about the witch, from the costume to the entrance to the performance should have been bigger, grander, and just plain more fun. 


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Image credit: The Bronx Opera Company


While remaining faithful to the original, it might have been a canny idea for Spierman to have another story in the back of his mind that uses much the same template: lost child trying to get back home, but running afoul of an evil witch and singing songs along the way – The Wizard of Oz – to try to attain the same larger-than-life tone particularly in the witch's performance.

Humperdinck's opera ends up being a creation that is neither fish nor fowl – not weighty enough to engage a fully adult audience, yet not cartoonishly preposterous enough to have the kids leaping out of their seats in excitement.  Still, the Bronx Opera does a commendable job in bringing this flawed gem to the stage and it is a largely effective gateway to the world of opera for the little ones – a nice night out for the entire family.

There are still two more performances left to the Bronx Opera's Hansel and Gretel, and tickets should still be available for their Long Island shows at Hofstra University.  Please visit the Bronx Opera's website for more information and to keep up with future projects and their ongoing mission to make classical opera affordable and accessible to everyone.

To listen to our previous interviews with the Bronx Opera Company's Ben Spierman, click here.


SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK officially opens on Broadway
Written by Scott Katz   
Sunday, 19 June 2011 11:16

Well, it finally happened.

Officially opening to the public on Tuesday, June 14 – almost a year-and-a-half after its originally scheduled date of February, 2010 – Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark swings onto the Broadway stage at last.

Much has been written about this troubled and expensive production.  The $65 million budget that was reported in November 2010 has now grown to $75 million (and slyly referenced in the musical itself).  No less than five people have been injured due to the intricate stunt and wire work involved, and the initial reviews have been less than kind to say the least.

Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark

Opens: Tuesday, June 14, 2011

• Foxwoods Theater, West 42nd St., Times Square

• Tues-Thurs 7:30pm; Fri-Sat 8:00pm

• Matinee: Wed 1:30pm, Sat 2:00pm, Sun 3:00pm

• Length: 2 hours, 45 minutes; 1 intermission

• Ticket prices: Balcony: $69.50-$97.00;

                 Flying Circle, Orchestra: $142.00

                 Premium: $302.00

Ticket processing fees an add'l $22.03-$60.40 extra

It is quite unusual for critics to review a production while it is still in preview performances.  In fact, critics are not actually invited to the previews, so if they show up, they have to buy their own tickets.  However, Spider-Man has been such a huge topic of conversation among theatregoers that many critics felt they had to review it given that it seemed as though the preview period would never end.  Turn off the Dark had a record 183 preview performances from November 2010 through March 2011 and resuming May 2011 through early June.

During the hiatus, original director Julie Taymor left the production and co-director Philip William McKinley stepped in to redirect portions of the show.  Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, a playwright who has also written some Spider-Man comic books in the past, was called in to revise the book.  Major changes include the elimination of the so-called "Geek Chorus" who narrated the story in the original version.  Further, the confrontation between Spider-Man and Green Goblin that ended Act I has been moved to the end of the musical to serve as the climax to Act II.  Spider-Man's conflict with the villainous Arachne that formerly took up much of Act II has been removed altogether and the character has been reimagined as a benevolent guiding spirit to young Peter Parker as he learns to cope with his spider powers.

So, after all the delays, changes, injuries, and cost overruns what's the verdict on the final product?  The changes have, for the most part, been for the better, but Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is still somewhat of a mixed bag.


(l-r) Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano in a scene

from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark © Jacob Cohl

Make no mistake – there is a lot to like here, and we think most people will be won over. The roles are generally well-cast, and the actors do quite well bringing the material to life. The story centers around three characters all of whom wish they could be something other than what they are and through the course of the story get their wish – for better or worse. Reeve Carney stars as perpetual nerd Peter Parker who wishes he could get the girl – in this case, his next door neighbor, Mary Jane Watson. Upon being bitten by a radioactive, genetically-altered spider, he is bestowed with superhuman powers and a newfound sense of confidence and girl-getting abilities. Carney proves to be likeable and charismatic and serves as a strong anchor for the show.

Jennifer Damiano plays Mary Jane Watson, the object of Parker's desire, with a flighty and flirtatious exterior that masks a dysfunctional home life with an alcoholic father.  MJ has the social life and popularity that Peter wants, while she longs for the stable and loving home life that Peter has.

Patrick Page rounds out the trio of intersecting lives as Norman Osborn, an overzealous scientist who also wants to be more than he is and so subjects himself to his own super-soldier process and transforms into the psychotic Green Goblin.  Page delivers a gleefully unhinged performance and gets all the best scenes in the show (as the villains often do in these things).  Page's slow burn as Green Goblin grapples with an automated phone menu is just one comedic highlight.  Page and Michael Mulhern, as newspaperman J. Jonah Jameson, steal the show with their uproarious takes on these classic comic book characters and remain the best reasons to see Turn off the Dark. Comic book fans, however, may wince at the overall campy tone of the Goblin and his malevolent scheme to "flatten Manhattan."  Others in the cast worth noting are TV Carpio as Arachne, Matt Caplan as Flash Thompson, Isabel Keating as Aunt May, Ken Marks as Uncle Ben, and Laura Beth Wells as Green Goblin's ill-fated wife, Emily.

Besides the cast, other bright notes are the impressive technical elements of the production. There are a lot of constantly moving and shifting pieces in Turn off the Dark as sets (and characters) descend from above or they spring forth from below like a giant pop up book. Audience members with a secret macabre wish to see some extravagant mishap that seemed to be commonplace during the preview sessions – perhaps an actor falling from a harness or a piece of scenery toppling over – will walk away with disappointment as all of the mechanical elements of the show have been precisely nailed down and everything went off without a hitch. In fact, Christopher Tierney, who was injured and hospitalized after the highly-publicized preview show on December 20 when his harness cord snapped and he fell into the orchestra pit below stage, has returned to the show seemingly none the worse for wear.

So, with a solid cast, impressive set and costume designs, and technical proficiency, are there any areas where Turn off the Dark falls short? Unfortunately, yes. Besides a muddled story, one of the main criticisms of the show during its preview run was the music by Bono and The Edge from the rock band U2. The story has now been whipped into somewhat decent shape, but the music still falls flat. It's not that the songs are bad; it's that they're thuddingly unmemorable and indistinct. That's a shame because TV Carpio and Jennifer Damiano have quite nice voices, and we would have loved to have seen what they could have done with stronger material. There is no question that U2 has written some of the best rock songs of the last thirty years, but the simple fact is that writing a striking Broadway score is seemingly beyond the scope of their talents. They have brand name recognition with the public, but their lackluster input will likely prove to be an insurmountable detraction to hardcore Broadway theatergoers.


(l-r) Patrick Page and Reeve Carney in a scene from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark 

© Jacob Cohl

Further, the overall tone of the show is something that will likely polarize the audience. As already alluded to, much of it plays like an episode of the campy 1960s Batman series writ large with the Green Goblin all but cackling maniacally like Cesar Romero's Joker, music stings punctuating the fisticuffs, and the inclusion of the dreaded visual sound effects like "Thwack!" and "Splatt!" Note to the producers: comic book fans have been trying to live the Batman series down for the last forty years and the sound effects are their Kryptonite. Their presence here will likely be seen as a reason to stay far away and hope for a quick death for this production. As for Spider-Man himself, there are some scenes where Reeve Carney dons the costume and plays the role, but for the most part Spider-Man is portrayed by a cadre of silent stuntmen led by Tierney. When the show doesn't remind one of Batman, faint memories of the "Spidey Super Stories" segments on The Electric Company might spring to mind. 

Another thing that will bother true Spider-Man fans is the liberties taken with the origin story.  In the original comic book, Peter Parker was indirectly responsible for his uncle's death when he failed to stop the killer when he had a chance.  In the musical, that crucial element of underlying guilt has been oddly watered down and all but eliminated.

So, the show will likely not win any awards and may not fully please the most devout Spider-Man fans, but criticisms aside, is Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark a crowd-pleaser for the mass audience?  Of that, we can answer an unequivocal "Yes!"  The audience applauded wildly after each song, laughed heartily at the antics of the Green Goblin, and smiled from ear to ear as both Spider-Man and Goblin flew off the stage and over the audience to engage each other in aerial combat.  The kids loved it, but the adults were right there with them.  The audience was packed with people from 8 to 80.

Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is a flawed gem – the classic case of the whole not quite adding up to the sum of its parts – but for those looking for a summer movie blockbuster to be played out live before their eyes, this pop whirlwind is the best bet on Broadway.


Click here to watch some scenes from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark (coming soon!)
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Reeve Carney in a scene from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark © Jacob Cohl Patrick Page in a scene from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark © Jacob Cohl Jennifer Damiano in a scene from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark © Jacob Cohl T.V. Carpio in a scene from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark © Jacob Cohl
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(l-r)Reeve Carney and Jennifer Damiano in a scene from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark © Jacob Cohl (l-r) Jennifer Damiano, Reeve Carney and Patrick Page in a scene from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark © Jacob Cohl A scene from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark © Jacob Cohl T.V. Carpio and ensemble members in a scene from Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark © Jacob Cohl



Post your comments on the musical SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK...
USTownhall RealStories presents the cast of BRIDGEBOY
Written by Scott Katz   
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 12:04

On Sunday, February 27, 2011, we sat down with the cast, the playwright, and the director of Bridgeboy, a new play running for a limited engagement at Manhattan's Workshop Theater.  This off-off-Broadway production, staged by The Active Theater and written by playwright Matthew Keuter, is a darkly comedic take on  typical yet not-so-typical members of a working class family – and extended family – who, as the play opens, are facing pivotal turning points in their lives both individually and collectively.

An offer made to the de facto family patriarch Uncle Sal to buy the family bar triggers a night of soul searching, confessions, reunions, revelations, hookups, breakups, and makeups among the group as each, in his or her own dysfunctional way, makes a journey through the course of the play finishing off old business and arriving at a new beginning by the story's end.


The cast, playwright, & director of BRIDGEBOY [Image © Aquarius Enterprises, 2011]
(l-r) DAVID OJALA as Trevor, LISA ALTOMARE as Troll [Image © The Active Theater, 2011. Used by Permission.]
(l-r) CATHERINE CURTIN as Candy, MICHAEL ANDREW DALY as Jimmy [Image © The Active Theater, 2011. Used by Permission.]
(l-r) MARY JO MECCA as Lynn, ANTHONY INNÉO as James [Image © The Active Theater, 2011. Used by Permission.]
(l-r)ANTHONY INNÉO as James, DAVID OJALA as Trevor [Image © The Active Theater, 2011. Used by Permission.]
(l-r) DAVID OJALA as Trevor, JAMES JUDY as Sal [Image © The Active Theater, 2011. Used by Permission.]
(l-r) MARY JO MECCA as Lynn, RHYN McLEMORE as Bell [Image © The Active Theater, 2011. Used by Permission.
The cast, playwright, & director of BRIDGEBOY [Image © Aquarius Enterprises, 2011]
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Keuter's script – a living room drama set in a bar – gives each of the cast of eight players a chance to shine with multi-layered characters whose true hopes, fears, and dreams are revealed incrementally throughout the play. David Ojala and Michael Andrew Daly star as two brothers who appear to be so different on the outside – Ojala's Trevor is a sensitive artist type, which contrasts nicely with the more brash and physically imposing Jimmy, played by Daly – yet they are very similar underneath as both are driven by their impulses and often act before they think. Daly's talent allows him to find many shades to play, and, with each scene, he brings a new facet of his character to light. Ojala portrays Trevor as guileless and dopey-eyed – someone who isn't afraid to keep his emotions close to the surface. It's a tricky part that could easily become one-dimensional, but the script allows Trevor's optimism to be tested so we get to see the potential downside of a life lived without emotional defenses. Trevor's free spirit causes conflict between him and his girlfriend, Bell, played with both sensitivity and strength by Rhyn McLemore, who is level headed and pragmatic on the surface, but that only serves to hide her feelings of unease and vulnerability about the secret she's carrying.

Looking at the older generation, we have another pair of star-crossed lovers, Sal and Lynn, played by James Judy and Mary Jo Mecca. These are probably the least flashy roles in the play, but the solidly intelligent performances by these two fine actors make them the most intriguing to watch and give the story its weight while providing the axis around which the action revolves. Lynn has her own secret, and the return of her long-lost husband, played with cool deliberation by Anthony Innéo, brings it bubbling to the surface and threatens to upend everyone's fragile reality. Innéo's James comes back to town wanting to settle old scores with his wife and his brother and seems to take a quiet delight in pushing everyone's buttons and setting off volatile reactions. He's not without volatile reactions of his own as Lynn's truth telling proves to be something he hadn't bargained for.

On the comedic side, Catherine Curtin (Candy) and Lisa Altomore (Troll) get the juiciest bits in the story and both revel in it and play their parts for all they're worth. Candy is all inebriated bravado and desperate sexuality with a history of looking for love in all the wrong places, while Troll (who indeed lives under a bridge), a confidant of Trevor (whom she refers to as "Bridgeboy" for more than one reason), serves as a sort of derelict fairy godmother and, by some unknown quasi-mystical means, manages to nudge and guide each character to the place where he or she should be in life and sets them on their true paths. The script is very well balanced and provides a good showcase for actors younger, older, male, and female. This company of actors creates a believable chemistry among them – we accept that they've loved each other and fought with each other for decades. Each of the characters is likely his or her own worst enemy, but still hasn't lost his or her ability to hope and dream.

What sets this play apart from many others of this type is that Keuter wisely avoids many of the clichés that are often associated with the blue collar comedic drama. The actors all play their parts with intelligence and dignity, but the story never devolves into poor-but-proud chest beating – this is meaty family drama rather than banal social commentary. The characters are wise, but never artificially so – they are not used by the author as vehicles to engage in self-indulgent pontification of the author's own views. Secrets are revealed in this play as they are in life – like a bolt from the blue with no soap opera knowing glances or over-deliberate foreshadowing. Credit, too, must be given to director Nathaniel Shaw who makes imaginative use of the very limited stage space and successfully keeps the heart of the story and the bipolar family emotions and baggage front and center. Shaw keeps the action moving briskly throughout Bridgeboy's 1 hour 45 minute running time, which contains no intermission to derail the forward momentum of the plot. The smaller venues of the off-off-Broadway productions, when used correctly as it was with Bridgeboy, have the advantage of providing intimacy and immediacy to the action that draw the audience in more effectively than the larger theatres can.

We are always supportive of worthy theatre productions, like Bridgeboy, that may not get the publicity that the big budget Broadway shows do. The Active Theater has had an ambitious schedule since its creation in 2009, and we encourage theatre lovers from all over who visit the New York area to keep up to date on their continuing schedule at www.theactivetheater.com.  







Bronx Opera returns with Daniel Auber's FRA DIAVOLO
Written by Scott Katz   
Friday, 21 January 2011 05:28

Fra-Diavolo-advert_crThe Bronx Opera Company kicks off its 44th Season by performing a rarely seen opera production for its January engagements.  Once again mining the catalog of early-1800s European comic operas, this time we find the company performing Daniel Auber's 1830 opéra comique, Fra Diavolo, under the stage direction of Ben Spierman, the Associate Artistic Director for the Bronx Opera Company.  As usual, the Bronx Opera's adaptation features a full English translation of both dialogue and song.

If the title makes you say, "Fra who?," allow us to elucidate.  Fra Diavolo, ou L'hôtellerie de Terracine (Brother Devil, or The Inn of Terracina) is, as stated, a three-act comic opera by French composer Daniel Auber from a libretto by Eugène Scribe.  The title character is based on an actual bandit, Michele Pezza, who indeed operated in Naples, Italy under the name Fra Diavolo during the years 1800 to 1806.  Auber's opera was first performed in Paris in 1830 before a version, translated into Italian, was done for the London stage in 1857.  Fra Diavolo was Auber's greatest success and one of the most popular operas of the 1800s, but rarely performed in America.  In fact, the Bronx Opera's own 1977 version was likely the last time it was done for stage in the New York area.  However, in an interesting bit of trivia, the opera was adapted domestically as an early feature film vehicle for the comedy team Laurel and Hardy under the title, The Devil's Brother, in 1933.

The plot of Fra Diavolo contains many of the familiar ingredients of comic opera of the era: a woman pledged by her father to marry an unappealing suitor rather than the man she truly loves, con men and thieves, disguised identity, and some light commentary on the mores of the times.

Lorenzo, a solider in the Italian army, finds himself frustrated in his two goals: winning the hand of truelove Zerline and capturing the notorious bandit, Fra Diavolo.  Zerline, whose father owns the inn at which much of the action takes place, has promised his daughter's hand to a richer gentleman approximately 187 years Zerline's senior.

It is said that an author is allowed one coincidence in his work in order to advance the plot, and when Fra Diavolo, in disguise as an English Marquis, soon arrives at the very inn run by Zerline and her father, which already plays host to a French couple, Pierre and Pamela, that has just been robbed by Diavolo's gang, the quota is more than fulfilled.

With all of the players in place, fortune seems to smile on Lorenzo as he is able to retrieve some of the jewels that were stolen from Comtesse Pamela and receives enough reward money to make a suitable dowry to Zerline and they are then scheduled to be married.  As this is still Act 1, this smattering of good luck proves to be short-lived, as, in Act 2, Diavolo and his two bumbling henchmen, Giacomo and Beppo, successfully steal said dowry from Zerline's bedroom while she and the French couple are distracted with singing their numbers.  Lorenzo appears and mistakes Diavolo for someone who has stolen Zerline's affections, causing a rift between them. 

In the closing act, Zerline, sans dowry, is once again pledged to marry the elder gentleman, Francesco.  After a drunken confession by Diavolo's two inept cohorts, the truth begins to emerge, and Lorenzo formulates a plan to capture Fra Diavolo once and for all and marry the fair Zerline.

Fra Diavolo is being performed by the Bronx Opera in a limited engagement of four performances on January 15 and 16 at the Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College in the Bronx, and on January 22 and 23 at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in Manhattan.

As is tradition for the Bronx Opera, all the roles are double cast with each troupe performing one Saturday and one Sunday.  The performance we saw, on Sunday, January 16, featured Kirk Dougherty as charming bandit, Fra Diavolo, Rogelio Peñaverde, Jr. as Lorenzo, and Sharon Eisert as Zerline. 

All are fine in their roles, and Dougherty, who must carry the bulk of Acts 1 and 2 on his shoulders does so with seeming ease and brings his role to life with his colorful tenor and a dash of unapologetic, smarmy charm.  Diavolo, who steals from the rich and gives to himself, is a dark mirror image of such gentleman thieves as Robin Hood – seeing life as one big caper, and, in his narcissistic one-dimensionality, likely steals more for the fun of it than anything else.  No act of self-enrichment is beneath Diavolo – from larceny to fraud to attempted murder – and Dougherty, under Spierman's wise direction, breezes through it all with gusto.  The sheer amorality and ambivalence to his own actions keeps Fra Diavolo, both the character and the opera, bounding along at a light pace through its two-and-a-half hour running time.  This is pure, screwball comedy, and nothing in the happenings – up to and including Diavolo and his two henchmen standing over the sleeping Zerline's bed with knives ready to pounce – is to be overly analyzed or taken seriously.

Amplifying the lilting tone are scene-stealing performances by not one, but two, comedic couples: our performance featured Joseph Flaxman and Natalie Megules as the French Count and Countess (an English Lord and Lady in Auber's original) Pierre and Pamela, a middle-aged married couple who have settled comfortably into a routine of squabbling and mutual dislike.  The other couple, Diavolo's cartoonishly incapable assistants, played, as we saw, by Jack Anderson White and Albert Neal, successfully inhabit the roles played by Laurel and Hardy in the feature film and stammer, stagger, and slapstick their way through the plot with inebriated aplomb.  Megules' mezzo, Flaxman's baritone, and White's bass offer rich counterpoints to Dougherty's, Peñaverde's, and Neal's tenors and Eisert's soprano.

We applaud the Bronx Opera for its continued commitment to bringing the arts to the general public in an accessible and affordable manner as well as its work in reaching out to the surrounding community and introducing opera and live theatre to school children at a time when so many educational institutions are cutting back on their arts and music programs.  Supporting local theatre is essential because it provides a much-needed variety of material beyond the greatest hits catalog of operas and plays that get produced on Broadway or at Lincoln Center.  The Bronx Opera performs a rescue mission of sorts by bringing back neglected material that still has potential and life left in it and introduces it to a whole new generation of opera fans.

For ticket buying information and to keep up with the Bronx Opera's past, present, and future productions, visit www.bronxopera.org


(l-r) Sharon Eisert (Zerline), Juan José Ibarra (Matteo, Zerline's father), Kirk Dougherty (Fra Diavolo), Joseph Flaxman (Count Pierre), Natalie Megules (Countess Pamela)
(l-r) Albert Neal (Beppo), Sharon Eisert (Zerline), Jack Anderson White (Giacomo)
(l-r) Kirk Dougherty (Fra Diavolo), Albert Neal (Beppo), Jack Anderson White (Giacomo), Rogelio Peñaverde, Jr. (Lorenzo)
(l-r) Rogelio Peñaverde, Jr. (Lorenzo), Sharon Eisert (Zerline), Natalie Megules (Countess Pamela), Joseph Flaxman (Count Pierre)


SPIDER-MAN News: Musical Delayed Again & First Movie Pic
Written by Scott Katz   
Friday, 14 January 2011 01:40

spiderman_new_resizeSpider-Man_musical-resizeThe Amazing Spider-Man was in the news twice recently as yet another delay was announced for the mammoth Broadway musical production, and the first picture of Andrew Garfield, the actor chosen to play Peter Parker/Spider-Man in the reboot of the movie franchise, was released.

The Spider-Man film series was set to have a fourth entry debuting in 2011, but when director Sam Raimi withdrew from the project, it was decided by Columbia Pictures, the movie studio holding the film rights to the famous wallcrawler, to reboot the series instead.  The first entry in the new series, once again titled Spider-Man will swing into theaters in 3D on July 3, 2012, a scant ten years after the first film in the original series.

Besides Garfield, 27, who was seen last year in David Fincher's critcially-acclaimed The Social Network, the cast includes Emma Stone, 22, as Gwen Stacy (Peter Parker's girlfriend in the comics before he met Mary Jane), Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben Parker, Sally Field as Aunt May Parker, Denis Leary as Captain George Stacy, and Rhys Ifans as Dr. Curt Connors/The Lizard, who will be the villain of the piece along with Nels Van Adder (known in comics as the "Proto-Goblin"), who will be played by Irrfan Khan.  The new film will once again have Peter Parker develop his spider-powers while still a high school student as it happened in the original 1962 comic book. 

It has been widely speculated that the storyline for the new Spider-Man series of movies will use the comic book series, Ultimate Spider-Man – itself a rebooted take on the classic Spider-Man – launched by Marvel Comics in 2000, as source material.  Mark Webb, a former music video director, with only one feature film credit to his name – 2009's (500) Days of Summer, has been slated to direct from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt and Alvin Sargent.  Vanderbilt had co-written the screenplay for last summer's The Losers, while Sargent has written or co-written the screenplays for all three previous Spider-Man movies.

3000 miles away from the Hollywood production of the new Spider-Man film, the Broadway version of the wall-crawling arachnid is having yet more problems.  It has just been announced that the musical production – the most expensive in Broadway history at $65 million – will once again be delayed.  Opening night for Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark has been pushed back from February 7 to March 15.  Preview performances for Tuesday January 18 and 25 have also been canceled, although it does remain in previews at Manhattan's Foxwoods Theatre otherwise.

Beyond the ever-escalating cost of the production, the show has been plagued by numerous accidents and delays.  No less than four cast members have been injured in the show including, most recently, Spider-Man stunt double, Christopher Tierney, after he fell 20 to 30 feet from the stage into the orchestra pit and suffered numerous breaks and fractures on December 20, 2010.  Prior to that, actress Natalie Mendoza, cast as Arachne, suffered a concussion during the first preview performance on November 28.  She returned on December 15, but after Tierney's accident, and citing her own injuries, announced she was leaving the show permanently.  During rehearsals, two stunt doubles were injured during the flying sequences.

Turn off the Dark was actually scheduled to open on Broadway about a year ago on February 18, 2010, but had to be delayed in order to complete fundraising for this somewhat daunting production.  Since then, four additional premiere dates have been announced: December 2010, January 2011, February 2011, and now March 2011.  In addition to the initial $65 million budget, running costs for the show have been reported to be as high as $1 million per week.  However, all of the disasters, delays, and accidents have proven to be a lightning rod for audiences as last week, it was the number one show on Broadway.

The show is described as a rock musical, and it has music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge from the group U2.  Book is by Julie Taymor, who also directs, and Glen Berger.  Taymor has a long history in theatre, and won a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – the first woman to do so – for the Broadway version of The Lion King.  This ambitious stage production of Spider-Man features more than two dozen aerial flying sequences, moving set pieces, giant screen projections, and almost twenty musical numbers.

In the comics, Peter Parker has always been characterized as being the unluckiest of all the Marvel Comics characters – the Charlie Brown of the superhero set.  Will Spider-Man and Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark prove to be hits or will the dreaded "Parker luck" strike again?


Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark is now set to open on Broadway on March 15, 2010.  Spider-Man opens on movie screens on July 3, 2012 in 3D.

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cast of The Apprentice 10


Sherri Shepherd

Vanessa Minnillo

All My Children creator AGNES NIXON

Bronx Opera's BEN SPIERMAN

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part 1: Guiding Light

part 2: Days of Our Lives

soapcentral.com founder DAN KROLL DAN PARENT of Archie Comics DAVID LYONS of The Cape DEBBIE GIBSON & TIFFANY Author DEDE EMERSON of A Different Kind of Streetwalker
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BOB DOWLING of the 3D Entertainment Summit Indie filmmaker ELIANA UJUETA of Beneath the Rock comic book artist JAMAL IGLE Genesis Repertory's JAY MICHAELS, MARY MiCARI, & actors Oscar-winning actor JEREMY IRONS

Animation historian JERRY BECK

1st interview

2nd interview

singer-songwriter JOSH GROBAN

web series producer KAI SOREMEKUN of Chick

1st interview

2nd interview

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Terrence Howard, René Balcer

Dick Wolf, Alfred Molina, Alana de la Garza

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JEFF HAYNE of Mill Creek Entertainment

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2nd interview

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Ian Anthony Dale, Nick Wauters

Jason Ritter, Sarah Roemer, Blair Underwood, Željko Ivanek

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THORE SCHÖLERMANN & JO WEIL of Verbotene Liebe Peabody & Emmy award winning journalist TOM BROKAW Emmy award winning actor TOM PELPHREY of Guiding Light actors from The Apothecary Theatre Company TORI SPELLING & DEAN McDERMOTT of sTORIbook Weddings





Reviews & Previews:

Summer 2011 Movie Preview

Fall 2010 Television season

Fra Diavolo

Die Drei Pintos

Romeo and Juliet in Brooklyn

MPI Home Video

Timless Media Group

Boris Karloff's Thriller

Hunter: The Complete Series

Polly and Her Pals

Icons: The DC Comics and Wildstorm Art of Jim Lee

Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman

Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern

Spider-Man musical delayed again


Dead Space: Aftermath






New York Comic Con

Apprentice 10 kickoff

Farewell to Guiding Light

Farewell to As the World Turns

The Broadway Directory


Award Show winners:

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American Country Awards



Television blogs:

American Idol 10

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Big Brother 12

Big Brother 11

ABC Cancels Both All My Children and One Life to Live

Guiding Light: A Look Back


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Scam Alert: Have You Received This E-Mail Job Offer?

Meet the 112th Congress

Brooklyn politicians Kevin Peter Carroll vs. Ralph Perfetto

Before Rosa Parks There Was Lizzie Jennings

Understanding New York State Government

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