Let us get to the real reason that a revival of The Elephant Man, by Bernard Pomerance, at the Booth Theatre, has returned to Broadway. A movie star, (People magazine claimed that Bradley Cooper is The Sexiest Man Alive), wanted to play the lead. To give him credit, he gives a splendid performance, as John Merrick, the hideously deformed man, who was a carnival attraction, until rescued by a doctor, Frederick Treves (a superb Alessandro Nivola), in 1884, in England. Until he died at an early age, he lived in a hospital in London, under the doctor's care. Patricia Clarkson plays a sympathetic actress, who disrobes topless in the second act, with her back to the audience, to gratify Merrick's desire to see a partially naked lady. All three actors give excellent performances, under the direction of Scott Ellis. The scenic design of Timothy R. Mackabee is minimal, and the play feels like an historical lecture. But the audience seems only interested in seeing Cooper in person on stage.
After his first performance in The Last Ship, I photographed Sting at his curtain call, and, afterwards, when he posed for photographers. I was introduced to him, and found him quite charming. I wish him great success with his musical.
The 26th Annual Gypsy of the Year Competition at the New Amsterdam Theatre is one of the most joyous events of the year. I have covered it since its inception. It raises enormous funds for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a noble cause. This year, the 40th anniversary of The Wiz was celebrated, with a magnificent opening number featuring many of the original cast. The final number was Home from The Wiz, performed by Lillias White. It was a perfect ending. Hugh Jackman, Nathan Lane and Judith Light presented the awards. The winning number was Is the Writing on the Wall? performed by cast members of The Lion King. It was well deserved.
Every Brilliant Things, by Duncan Macmillan, starring Jonny Donahue, opens Decembers 14, at Barrow Street Theatre. My comments will appear in the next column.
I attended the a lovely VIP reception of the Duke Ellington Center's Annual Ring Dem Bells holiday party and concert at the Landmark on the Park, 160 Central Park West, which honored the legendary Candido with the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. Mercedes Ellington was the host for the event. Unfortunately, I had to leave early for another gala.
I attended the Transport Group Theatre Company Gimme a Break! Gala at Asia Society honoring Tony Winning Producer Barbara Whitman, who received the Transporting American Theatre Award 2014. Julie Halston was the host, andMichael Cerveris, Sydney Lucas, Lisa Kron, Lindsay Mendez and Alice Ripley performed. It was a glorious event.
Four gorgeous Vivid Cabaret ladies posed in the window of the Gentlemen's club for a holiday photograph, dressed as Santas.
They then posed for photographs inside the club. Vivid is located at 61 West 37th St. The New York Post ran a photo the next day and WINS news featured the story the same day. It added a little warmth to the holiday season.
I photographed author Charles Kipps at a book signing for his book Times Square Trouble at the gift shop Phantom on Broadway on Broadway at 49th St.
Film Society of Lincoln Center presented two press screenings of New Releases. They were Maiden, which opens for one week on December 12, and A Tale of Winter, which opens for one week on December 19. Maiden, by Sergei Loznitsa, Ukraine/Netherlands, 2014, is a documentary of a protest, which forced the President of Ukraine to flee the country. The film focuses on the crowds that demonstrated in the main squares of the capital city, risking death and injury to restore democracy. It is an impressive picture reflecting the unhappy situation which still exists in the country.
A Tale of Winter, by Eric Rohmer, France, 1992, is an intelligent, intellectual film by the distinguished filmmaker. A hairdresser (an adorable Charlotte Very) has an affair with a cook while on vacation. The result is a cute daughter. Five years pass, and the unwed mother has unsatisfying, romantic affairs with two other men, while yearning for the father of her child. It is a fascinating look at life in Paris, and Nevers, where she considers living with one of her lovers. The dialogue is interesting, because the heroine and her lovers never stop talking, expressing their feelings towards religion and their frustrated lives. It is a most enjoyable film.
Film Society of Lincoln Center presented an opening night screening for The Last Laugh: An Alternate History of Spanish Comedy December 12-18. Amanece, que no es poco, by Jose Luis Cuerda, Spain, 1989, is a comedy about a father and son, traveling through Spain on a motorcycle with a carriage. They spend the night in a small village filled with eccentric villagers. The film makes fun of the church, the school and the Guardia Civil (the national police force in rural areas). On the eve of an election, all the ladies meet to decide which women will commit adultery, or become a prostitute, or a whore, or a nun. No one chooses to become a nun. As you can see, this comedy is not funny; in fact, it is a stupid film with no redeeming virtue. The humor is crude and the dialogue is vulgar. What a disappointment!
I was invited by a colleague to see 1001 Grams, by Bent Hamer, Norway/Germany, 2014, at Soho House, where Matt Dillon introduced the director of the film. It is an interesting film about a Norwegian female scientist who attends a seminar in Paris to discuss the measurement of the weight of a kilogram. Her life is full of frustration and grief, but her encounter with a French scientist results in a happy ending, with a final scene of both of them in a bathtub. After the film, we sat at a table in a restaurant at 407 West 13th St, for a reception to congratulate the director.
Leviathan, by Andrey Zvyagintsev, Russia, 2014, is a powerful film about a working man, who owns a house that the mayor of his small town desires. What he suffers at the hands of this brutal bureaucrat is shocking. There are other problems dealing with a lawyer friend who comes from Moscow to assist him, and a young son from his first wife, who hates his stepmother, who has an affair with the lawyer. Everyone in the film drinks copious amounts of vodka, and behaves badly.The acting is excellent, realistic and sad. The characters' lives are dull and monotonous. I enjoy film because I am able to travel vicariously and avoid the inconvenience of air travel. The photography of this barren, isolated village in the northwest of Russia is superb, but I would not like to visit it. Every person in the film is unpleasant, but one cannot take one's eyes off the screen. It is a marvelous film, that one will not forget easily.