What do you do when you lose the best actor of our generation?

Unfortunately, in the six years of writing this blog, I’ve done more “farewell” blogs than I would like to.  I’ve lost friends.  I’ve lost associates.  I’ve lost people that I’ve never met, but who influenced my life daily.

And yesterday, we all lost someone who I consider to be the greatest . . . absolutely the Jackie-Gleason like greatest . . . actor of my generation.

Philip Seymour Hoffman was my generation’s Brando, Pacino, De Niro . . . you know, those guys whose last name is awe inspiring all by itself.  He was an enormous talent, making us laugh (I still chuckle just thinking about his “Make it rain!” character in the sloppy comedy, Along Came Polly), and making us cry (people doubted his ability to tap into the pathos of Willy Loman in Death of a Salesmanbut he found a well deeper than most actors could ever even dream about).

Look at the versatility . . . from his breakthrough minuscule performance of a sniveling prep school kid in Scent of a Woman to his Oscar winning performance in Capote.

And I have no doubt we would have seen him back on Broadway soon enough.

But we won’t.

Because yesterday, Philip Seymour Hoffman, at the just-getting-good age of 46, who graduated from Tisch just one year after I arrived on campus, passed away.

He died suddenly, tragically, and also, like a character in a Eugene O’Neill drama . . . symbolically.

Rumor has it that he died with a needle in his arm.

It’s heart-crushingly sad.  And honestly, I couldn’t give a crap about the performances that we’ll be deprived of by Mr. Hoffman’s passing.  I’m more concerned about the children of Mr. Hoffman, who will be deprived of their father.  And what about his zillion friends, many of whom are in the Broadway industry, who will miss the “amazing man,” that they all say he was after working with him on shows like Salesman, Long Day’s Journey, and True West.

It also makes me incredibly mad.

People like Philip shouldn’t be dying.  And drugs like the ones found in his West Village apartment, that in some cases can be purchased online . . . are snuffing out lives way before their prime.

A few months ago we lost the barely-out-of-puberty Cory Monteith to an overdose.  And remember Heath Ledger.  Whitney Houston.  Amy Winehouse.

And we could keep going back . . . what about Chris Farley, Kurt Cobain, Lenny Bruce, John Belushi, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley . . .

Want more?

How about Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan, or Justin Bieber.

Oh wait.  They’re not gone.  Thank God.

But they could be.

Philip explained that himself.  After he first kicked his habit in his early twenties, he said this about why he did it:

You get panicked . . . I was 22 and I got panicked for my life, it really was, it was just that. And I always think, ‘God, I have so much empathy for these young actors that are 19 and all of a sudden are beautiful and famous and rich.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God. I’d be dead.’

Unfortunately, just one year ago he admitted to falling off a 23 year old wagon.  And yesterday, the beast of addiction tragically bested him.

What are we going to do to help those that get caught up in the dramatic cyclone that is fame and success in the entertainment industry?  (The NBA and the NFL have introduction seminars for their rookie players to help them enter their high dollars and high stakes world, maybe we should as well?)  What are we going to do to rid our cities of heroin bags labeled with cutsey names like ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Ace of Hearts’ that were found in Phillip’s apartment?  What are we going to do . . .

I’m going to start by making a donation to The Actors Fund.  They help those battling addiction in our industry.  And you can help The Actors Fund as well with a donation.

And if you have a friend or family member that’s battling this disease, help them get help.  Because blogs like this shouldn’t exist.

 

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Fun on a Friday: A departed friend reminds us about the strength of Show Biz.

We’ll get to the “fun” part of this Friday post in a paragraph or two, but this first bit ain’t so fun.

The world tragically lost the big boss, Mr. James Gandolfini, on Wednesday.  And I think we’re all still in shock that our modern day Godfather could go so young.

I worked with Mr. Gandolfini for a moment and a half, when I was on staff at the General Manager’s office of the Broadway adaptation of On The Waterfront in the early 90s.  Watching him in a itty-bitty role, I remember thinking, “That guy is good . . . too good . . . why am I watching him more than others, even when he’s not talking.”

And I wanted to work with him again, when I offered him the role of Jessep (the Jack Nicholson character) in A Few Good Men.  (He would have crushed it.)

Unfortunately, he won’t ever grace our stages again, which is another tragedy, since this is a guy that while terrific on the tube was a force of nature on the stage.

You’ll be missed, Boss.

So this fun on a Friday is dedicated to James Gandolfini.  Watch the clip below, which is a fantastic monologue from The Sopranos (there’s a tip for the actors out there – don’t just look to plays for your monologues – look to TV and movies as well).  

And when you watch all the way to the end, you’ll see why this video qualifies for a “F on a F” post – and you’ll pick up a little known mob fact that you can use when looking for investors in your shows as well.  Email subscribers, click this link if you can’t see the video.  (Oh, and thanks for that VIP industry reader out there who reminded me of this cool clip).

 

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Shaiman smashes Smash: A love story.

Here are my Top 2 reasons why I love Marc Shaiman:

  1. He’s ferociously talented.
  2. He’s ferocious about speaking his mind.

Maestro Marc has been involved with a few online public debates over the years  . . . I’ve agreed with him on some . . . and not on others . . . but one thing is for sure, I’ve learned so much from every single one.

And his latest is no exception.

His “What Went Wrong with Smash” essay (which you can read here) is a masterclass in songwriting.  It talks about the inspiration and impetus for so many of the songs that appeared in the show, as well as how the songs were modified along the way thanks to the collaborative process . . . sometimes for better, and sometimes for, well, the opposite of better.

Marc is a smart dude, and he starts his post with the acknowledgement that Smash didn’t work.  And then he digs in to try and understand why.

That kind of acknowledgement and analysis is how we, as artists and producers, learn, so that the next time we do something, we have a better shot at success.

Read his article here.

 

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When was the last time there wasn’t a Sondheim show on Broadway?

Everyone knows that the great Mr. S. has had a major impact on the Broadway stage, right?

Well, get this.

Our office just noticed that there isn’t a show with songs by our “Shakespeare”  this season.  And for some reason that felt a little odd.

So we started sorting through the last few seasons of shows and realized it was odder than we thought.

In fact . . .

This is the first year since . . . ready for it . . . 1992 (!) that there hasn’t been a Sondheim show on The Great White Way.  Don’t believe me?  Check for yourself!

Shocking, right?  Shocking that there isn’t one, and shocking that for the last twenty years the Maestro has had some kind of representation on the boards.

What does this mean?  An anomaly?  Have we finally run out of his shows to revive?  Or, gulp, is he falling out of favor?  I don’t see any works slated for next season either . . . will it be two years in a row (trend alert).  Or will Passion move and put us back on track?

All those questions aside . . . I’ll end with this.  We should all stop for a moment and remark on the incredible feat that this man has achieved.  A show with your songs each year for 20 years?  Like it or not, recouping or not, this dude is a deity.

 

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What do Barry Manilow and Mike Tyson have in common?

Both are playing Broadway this season.

Tyson did a few rounds with us this summer, and now, the guy “who wrote the songs” recently announced that he is coming back to Broadway for 17 sweet shows only.

So why does this duo intrigue me?

Well, #1, I’m a Fanilow.  “Can’t Smile Without You,” “Weekend in New England,” “Somewhere Down The Road?”  Come on, this guy can write a tune!  Heck, I even enjoyed the score to his musical Copacabana!

But there’s a #2.

Barry Manilow is doing seventeen shows.  Tyson was here for just six shows.  Frankie Valli just sang seven shows in the middle of October.   Comedian Lewis Black was here recently for a week.

(FYI, that is probably the first time in the history of the typed word that those four gentlemen appeared in the same paragraph together.  And now all that I can do is imagine all four of them starring in the next Judd Apatow buddy flick together.)

But that’s not all.  Donny and Marie were here just a bit ago.  And Kathy Griffith.  And . . .

Get my point?

While Broadway has always had a special event performer every once in awhile, the trend is definitely increasing.  And, as I blogged back in 2010, it’s starting to feel a little bit more like Vegas, isn’t it?

This kind of “Alternative Programming” is good overall.  It fills a couple of weeks at a dark theater, and provides jobs to many that might normally be out of work.

Just as long as it doesn’t get in the way of our Traditional Programming.  The day a new play can’t come into town because Air Supply is doing a gig at The Broadway is the day I pack it in.

 

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