Burt Reynolds Dies at 82; Made Hearts Throb and Audiences Laugh

Mr. Reynolds carried on a long love affair with moviegoers even though his performances were often more memorable than the films that contained them.
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Durban Makes Push to Bring African Docs to Global Audiences

DURBAN —  With a global debate calling for greater diversity and representation onscreen, and growing demand for documentaries across borders and platforms, the organizers of the 9th Durban FilmMart (DFM) made a concerted effort this year to add African voices to the conversation. “For Africa, documentary filmmaking is such an important space, in terms of […]

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Profile: David Sedaris Leaves His Audiences Weeping. And Still Wanting More.

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Katherine Langford Teases 13 Reasons Why Season 2: Audiences Will See a “Different Hannah”

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Michael Moore Tells Broadway Audiences ‘We All Live In Flint Now’

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Five cult films audiences hate to love

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Why Broadway’s ‘Falsettos’ Is A ‘Reality Check’ For LGBTQ Audiences

When “Falsettos” premiered on Broadway in 1992, the William Finn-James Lapine musical struck a fresh chord in its depiction of gay relationships and unconventional families during the HIV/AIDS crisis.

As beloved as the show was in its original incarnation, the LGBTQ community has made significant strides toward equality in the 24 years since then. So when it was announced that “Falsettos” would be returning to Broadway in a Lincoln Center Theater production this fall, Lapine sought a creative team who would approach the musical as a new work altogether.

Enter Emmy-nominated choreographer Spencer Liff, who is best known for eight seasons’ worth of “So You Think You Can Dance” footwork. The 31-year-old Arizona native is no stranger to Broadway, too, with a résumé that includes dancing in the ensembles of “Cry-Baby” and “9 To 5.” Behind the scenes, he’s taught Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells, Darren Criss and others to strut in spike heels for the Tony-winning revival of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” and worked with a cast of hearing-impaired performers for “Spring Awakening,” which was remounted on Broadway to great acclaim last season.

Still, Liff said that when Lapine tapped him to choreograph “Falsettos,” he was initially hesitant. For one thing, he wasn’t familiar at all with the musical, which explores the complicated dynamics between a gay couple, Marvin and Whizzer (Christian Borle and Rannells), as well as Marvin’s ex-wife Trina (Stephanie J. Block) and son Jason (Anthony Rosenthal) in the mid-1980s. He also felt at some remove from the show’s depiction of the HIV/AIDS crisis in its second act.

“I didn’t know ‘Falsettos’ at all when I started working on it. I realize that’s terrible of me because the show’s been around forever, and it’s held in such high esteem,” Liff told The Huffington Post. Ultimately, however, he came to realize that the show “was so incredibly ahead of its time when it was written. So I was interested in being able to give [audiences] a bit of a reality check into what the generation before ours went through.”

Although Liff is best known for his fancy footwork, he opted for a more nuanced approach to “Falsettos,” treating the show, as he puts it, as an “abstract art piece.” Primarily, the staging requires the characters to manipulate a Rubik’s Cube-like contraption resembling a pile of cinder blocks that can morph into a kitchen, a playground and even a bedroom seamlessly. Designed by David Rockwell, the simple set piece represents the characters’ “sense of trying to find their place in the world,” Liff said. 

His work with “Falsettos” has certainly paid off. The revival, which opened Oct. 27 at the Walter Kerr Theatre, garnered raves in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly and Time Out New York, among other publications. The show, which ends its limited run Jan. 8, will be preserved on film for an upcoming “Live From Lincoln Center” special to air on PBS.

Liff is thrilled by the buzz that “Falsettos” has generated, particularly in a busy theater season and in a time when the LGBTQ community and other minority groups are facing an uncertain future. “We live in this new PrEP culture, and the idea of what AIDS and HIV was [has evolved],” Liff said. As an openly gay man himself, he felt that it was his responsibility to “present the show in a way that would make people stop and think about their actions, and have more respect for the battle” toward equality that LGBTQ people have had to fight across generations.  

Liff’s next project, however, couldn’t be any more different. He’s currently at work on the choreography for “Head Over Heels,” a musical based on Philip Sidney’s 16th century text, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, using the songs of the ‘80s female rock group, The Go-Go’s. The show will be fully staged in a developmental production on Jan. 16 and is aiming for Broadway in fall 2017, with “Spring Awakening” and “Hedwig” director Michael Mayer at the helm.

If Mayer’s previous work is any indication, “Head Over Heels” won’t shy away from sex or politics, albeit in an entertaining way. Given the seriousness of America’s political climate, Liff told HuffPost he “can’t work on fluff right now,” but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’m very lucky to be an artist at this time,” he said. “We’re the ones who get to channel and funnel our emotions and our frustrations into something beautiful, something that might help the world in some sort of way. If one person a night can be changed by [a show that I’ve worked on], I’m even luckier.” 

“Falsettos” plays New York’s Walter Kerr Theatre through Jan. 8. Head here for more information. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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Will Diversity on Broadway Attract New Audiences?

Broadway, the colossal $ 1.37 billion theatrical industry, is booming and bigger than ever. According to the Broadway League, Broadway attendance for the 2014-2015 season reached 13.1 million ticket buyers – 80% of whom were Caucasian. However, with the addition of culturally varied productions, we can look forward to audiences becoming more diverse.

Creators of new musicals are incorporating diverse casting choices and musical styles. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new Broadway blockbuster musical Hamilton uses a diverse cast and hip-hop music influence to celebrate American culture today by telling a story of America’s past. Audiences are resonating with this new change in Broadway musicals as first-time theatergoers discover a new genre of theatrical storytelling. As Hamilton‘s hip-hop infused cast recording ranks higher in the billboard charts, rap enthusiasts will discover a musical that speaks their language all the while attracting an array of nontraditional theatergoers as well as widening the horizons of that 80%.

Broadway historically has shown a lack of Hispanic representation on stage and that could correlate as to why they are also the smallest group of ticket buyers. However, the 2015-2016 Broadway season has enough Latin flavor that the rhythm will get you. This month, international superstars Gloria & Emilio Estefan raised the curtain to their autobiographical musical On Your Feet!. The Queen of Latin Pop brings her sound to the Great White Way and is confident su gente will show up to celebrate. According to weekly data released by the Broadway League, audiences brought in a respectable $ 970,013 for its first seven-preview performance week. On its second week, On Your Feet! brought in $ 903,937 holding its own on the boards along side some of Broadway’s favorites. Word on the street is Ana Villafañe gives a star turning Broadway debut as Gloria Estefan and makes the perfect grand marshal for the Latin party-anthem titled musical.

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This season alone brings one of the most diverse Broadway seasons in recent years. Here are 7 more shows to prove it:

Allegiance – Now playing at the Longacre Theatre: World-renowned singer Lea Salonga returns to Broadway alongside George Takei in a musical about Japanese-American internment camps.

The Gin Game and Hughie: James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, and Forest Whitaker are portraying characters that are usually played by white actors breaking casting stereotypes (Jones & Tyson in The Gin Game, Whitaker in Hughie opening this spring).

The Color Purple: This anticipated revival of The Color Purple (Produced by Oprah Winfrey) will celebrate Oscar & Grammy winner Jennifer Hudson, West End star Cynthia Erivo, and Orange Is The New Black star Danielle Brooks.

Shuffle Along: This spring, six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald will headline Shuffle Along with Tony Award winner Billy Porter (Kinky Boots), Brian Stokes Mitchell, Brandon Victor Dixon and Joshua Henry.

Eclipsed: Following rave reviews at The Public Theater Off-Broadway, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o will make her Broadway debut in Eclipsed by Danai Gurira (the only African-American female playwright represented this season) this spring.

Spring Awakening – Now playing at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre: This critically acclaimed Broadway revival, featuring a cast of both hearing and deaf actors, has become the must-see Broadway production this fall. Directed by Michael Arden, Deaf West Theatre’s reinvention is more thrilling than ever before.

Diversity on stage will give people of different backgrounds a reason to explore forms of entertainment new to them. Audiences want to relate to characters that look and sound like them. Often, I have found myself to be the only Hispanic (or of any ethnicity) at a Broadway play. This new trend will bring new ticket buyers to Broadway. And with shows like On Your Feet!, I always will be around mi gente.

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— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.




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The Magic of Taiko for American Audiences

A few months ago I had the privilege of introducing readers to a Japanese drum ensemble whose enduring sounds have performed for over thirty years and today counts 100 talented performers in its troupe. Kodo is credited with popularizing the Japanese drum taiko style around the world–their magic is in the group’s ability to draw its audience into traditional Japanese sounds.

They spend most of their time during overseas and in Japan, and they recently wrapped up their North American tour, which took them all over the U.S. and Canada. When I followed back up with the group a few weeks ago, they told me how exciting it was to play in America’s longest running performing arts theater, the Brooklyn Academy of music and the thrill of performing to sold-out audiences in cities around the country. Here’s what they had to say about One Earth: Mystery‘s three-month stint inviting North American artists to experience the mystery of Japanese folk arts.

Steve Mariotti: How did One Earth: Mystery do with North American audiences? Were any changes made in the process?
Kodo:
Many changes have been made to Kodo’s productions ever since we have welcomed in Kabuki actor, Tamasaburo Bando as our artistic director. The theatrical and humorous pieces were internationally acclaimed, and audience of all ages were able to enjoy the performance. We have made a few minor changes to better reflect our North American audience tastes, and it has brought an addition of colorful expression on stage.


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Namahage (credit: Takashi Okamoto)

SM: What were the compositions featured in this tour and what are their significance?
Kodo:
We had a few newly written pieces for this production which were all influenced by different art forms, culture, and music. Kodo’s compositions are written by the performing members, and our production in particular, Mystery, featured many of the traditional Japanese folk arts from all over the country. The serpent scene was Kodo’s interpretation of Jamai (“serpent dance”) from Iwami Kagura in Shimane Prefecture. There are other traditional Japanese performing arts incorporated into the production such as Shishimai and Namahage. Other pieces in the production were written by the performers who get their influence from touring the world, and spending their time on Sado Island.

SM: How did the group shape the timing and delivery for their audience? What did you need to understand about the audience to do that? How do you get to know an audience?
Kodo:
As Mystery featured theatrical parts that brought a laugh to the audience, the “ma” was considered an important aspect of the performance. “Ma” is a Japanese expression using a significant length of pause and silence. “Ma” is used to create humor in theatrical scenes, and express tension in concentrated serious scenes. This “Ma” is adjusted at every performance, based on what we learn throughout our audience feedback during tour. The audience reactions are always very genuine; the length and timing of applauses, cheers, laughs, and the standing ovation after the finale, really reflects their feelings during the performance.


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Chit Chat (credit: Takashi Okamoto)

SM: What are Kodo’s near future plans? What is the big vision for the future?
Kodo:
In May of 2015, Kodo will perform in Osaka Japan in collaboration with Tamasaburo Bando for the musical production called Amaterasu. In August, we will host our 28th annual international music festival called Earth Celebration here on our home soil on Sado Island. In October, we will be in Montreal, Canada to be part of a contemporary ballet production called Kaguyahime.

After our performances of the production, Mystery, we will have our next new production called Eternity, touring domestically in Japan. At the end of 2015, the newest production called Chaos will premier. With the artistic direction of Tamasaburo Bando, Kodo will continuously aim for the highest quality performance, and present the audience with everlasting excitement of taiko music.


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Shishimai (credit: Takashi Okamoto)

Kodo will be back on U.S. soil in 2017, and you can see them in Europe next year.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Arts – The Huffington Post
ENTERTAINMENT NEWS-Visit Adults Playland today for the hottest adult entertainment online!

The Wedding Ringer – Audiences react to Kevin Hart’s new comedy!

Release Date: 16 January 2015 (United States)
Doug Harris (Josh Gad) is a loveable but socially awkward groom-to-be with a problem: he has no best man. With less than two weeks to go until he marries the girl of his dreams (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting), Doug is referred to Jimmy Callahan (Kevin Hart), owner and CEO of Best Man, Inc., a company that provides flattering best men for socially challenged guys in need. What ensues is a hilarious wedding charade as they try to pull off the big con, and an unexpected budding bromance between Doug and his fake best man Jimmy.

Genre: Comedy
Cast: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Ken Howard,
Director: Jeremy Garelick
Writers: Jeremy Garelick & Jay Lavender

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