Friday, June 26, 2009

Man in the Mirror

Written by Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett,
Performed by Michael Jackson


I’m gonna make a change,
For once in my life
It’s gonna feel real good,
Gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right . . .

As I turn up the collar on
My favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin’ my mind
I see the kids in the street,
With not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind
Pretending not to see
Their needs?

A summer’s disregard,
A broken bottle top
And a one man’s soul
They follow each other on
The wind ya’ know
’cause they got nowhere to go
That’s why I want you to know

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have
Been any clearer
If you wanna make the world
A better place
Take a look at yourself, and
Then make a change

I’ve been a victim of
A selfish kind of love
It’s time that I realize
That there are some with no home,
Not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me,
Pretending that they’re not alone?

A willow deeply scarred,
Somebody’s broken heart
And a washed-out dream
They follow the pattern of
The wind, ya’ see
Cause they got no place to be
That’s why I’m starting with me

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have
Been any clearer
If you wanna make the world
A better place
Take a look at yourself
Then make that change.

An immense talent, a troubled life, an activist spirit.

The unforgettable music lives on.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Horray for Hollywood: Memories of the Directors Guild Awards

A couple of years ago, after fifteen years as a member, I attended the Directors Guild of America Awards Dinner for the first time. My mentor, Jerry, who retired a few years ago, was to receive the Frank Capra Award for Lifetime Achievement. (His work ranges from "Apocalypse Now" to "Jerry Maguire". He's the man who gives Martin Sheen his orders to "Terminate with extreme prejudice" and the coach who hovers over the unconcious Cuba Gooding Jr., so he's done work onscreen as well as behind the camera.)

The event took place at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, and I knew the room --- it was the same one where, two years before, I had co-chaired a gala for a charity that promotes inclusion for children with disabilities. All of the AD's who worked with Jerry were his guests.

It was a tremendous amount of fun: Carl Reiner was the host, and he was hilarious. It's traditional that people don't take too serious a tone and, though not a roast, nominees and winners alike took a bit of ribbing.

All of the honorees from film and television were present, with actors from their projects presenting them. Ang Lee ("Brokeback Mountain") was introduced by the quiet, softspoken Heath Ledger and the charming and gregarious Jake Gyllenhaal. They talked about what an honor and a privilege working on the film had been and how Ang's direction helped them grow as actors. When Heath and Jake introduced him, they both started to tear up and gave the director hugs when he reached the stage. The soft-spoken director took a moment, looked back at them with a smile, turned to the audience and said, "I don't know, guys. That felt kind of gay to me."

Talk about exploding a stereotype! We must have laughed for five solid minutes!

There was joke after joke about "Brokeback" all evening, and not a single one was derogatory or mean-spirited. That's entertainment.

Since it's the Directors Guild, all of the feature nominees are given a plaque before the winner is announced. The presenters talk about the experience of working on the film, then introduce the director.

George Clooney ("Good Night and Good Luck") was introduced by David Straitharn (love his work) and the elegant Patricia Clarkson. (I worked with her on "Alex Haley's Queen")

Steven Spielberg ("Munich") was introduced by Geoffrey Rush.

Paul Haggis ("Crash") was introduced by Matt Dillon and Thandie Newton. (I worked with Matt on "Singles")

Bennett Miller ("Capote") was introduced by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener. Phillip and Catherine said they didn't have any remarks prepared, then called on some people in the audience to ask questions.

Ang Lee stood up and asked, "I come from China and I made a film about the struggles of being gay. Which oppressed minority do you represent?"

Clooney stands up and asks Bennett, "I wrote, directed and starred in my movie. Didn't you have any work for me?"

Spielberg says, "I've been in the business since you were five. Do you have any advice on how I can improve as a director?"

Clint Eastwood stands and says to hurry up: he's getting old and he needs to get his Lifetime Achievement Award while he's still awake.

Paul Haggis says, "Both of us are first time nominees. How come you're getting this great tribute?"

It was funny and sweet and touching --- and one of the best times I've had in years.

Damn, I love making movies.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Tony Awards in the Cyber Age

I'm an acting awards show junkie. Corny, crazy or classy, at their best they remind me of just how entertaining, inspirational and uplifting art can be.

This Sunday, June 7, the 2009 Tony Awards will be held at Radio City Music Hall at 8/7c, broadcast live on CBS, simulcast in Times Square (with full video and audio) in an open-to-the-public live party for 2000. They will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, live Tweeted by Mark Indelicato, and available to follow on mobile alert, MySpace, Facebook, Tweeter and Join the cyber-audience at

I worked with two of this year's nomineees, Angela Lansbury and John Glover, on one of my first show's, "Murder, She Wrote," so I'll be cheering a little louder for them. Angela, a true lady, is nominated for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play for her role in Blithe Sprit. John, one of the coolest guys I've ever met, is up for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play for his work in Waiting for Godot.

See you Sunday!

Here are the nominations for the 2009 American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards®
Presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing:

Best Play

Dividing the Estate
Author: Horton FooteProducers: Lincoln Center Theater, Bernard Gersten, André Bishop, Primary Stages
God of Carnage
Author: Yasmina RezaProducers: Robert Fox, David Pugh & Dafydd Rogers, Stuart Thompson, Scott Rudin, Jon B. Platt, The Weinstein Company, The Shubert Organization
Reasons to Be Pretty
Author: Neil LaButeProducers: Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, MCC Theater, Gary Goddard Entertainment, Ted Snowdon, Doug Nevin/Erica Lynn Schwartz, Ronald Frankel/Bat-Barry Productions, Kathleen Seidel, Kelpie Arts, LLC, Jam Theatricals, Rachel Helson/Heather Provost
33 Variations
Author: Moisés KaufmanProducers: David Binder, Ruth Hendel, Barbara Whitman, Goldberg/Mills, Latitude Link, Arielle Tepper Madover, Bill Resnick, Eric Schnall, Jayne Baron Sherman, Wills/True Love Productions, Tectonic Theater Project, Greg Reiner, Dominick Balletta, Jeffrey LaHoste

Best Musical

Billy Elliot, The Musical
Producers: Universal Pictures Stage Productions, Working Title Films, Old Vic Productions, Weinstein Live Entertainment
Next to Normal
Producers: David Stone, James L. Nederlander, Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, Second Stage Theatre, Carole Rothman, Ellen Richard
Rock of Ages
Producers: Matthew Weaver, Carl Levin, Jeff Davis, Barry Habib, Scott Prisand, Relativity Media, Corner Store Fund, Janet Billig Rich, Hillary Weaver, Toni Habib, Paula Davis, Simon and Stefany Bergson/Jennifer Maloney, Charles Rolecek, Susanne Brook, Israel Wolfson, Sara Katz/Jayson Raitt, Max Gottlieb/John Butler, David Kaufman/Jay Franks, Mike Wittlin, Prospect Pictures, Laura Smith/Bill Bodnar, Happy Walters, Michele Caro, The Araca Group
Shrek The Musical
Producers: Dreamworks Theatricals, Neal Street Productions

Best Book of a Musical

Billy Elliot, The Musical Lee Hall
Next to Normal Brian Yorkey
Shrek The Musical David Lindsay-Abaire
[Title of Show] Hunter Bell

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre

Billy Elliot, The Musical
Music: Elton John
Lyrics: Lee Hall
Next to Normal
Music: Tom KittLyrics: Brian Yorkey
9 to 5: The Musical
Music & Lyrics: Dolly Parton
Shrek The Musical
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics: David Lindsay-Abaire

Best Revival of a Play

Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Producers: Lincoln Center Theater, André Bishop, Bernard Gersten
Mary Stuart
New Version: Peter Oswald
Producers: Arielle Tepper Madover, Debra Black, Neal Street Productions/Matthew Byam Shaw, Scott Delman, Barbara Whitman, Jean Doumanian/Ruth Hendel, David Binder/CarlWend Productions/Spring Sirkin, Daryl Roth/James L. Nederlander/Chase Mishkin, The Donmar Warehouse
The Norman Conquests
Producers: Sonia Friedman Productions, Steven Baruch, Marc Routh, Richard Frankel, Tom Viertel, Dede Harris, Tulchin/Bartner/Lauren Doll, Jamie deRoy, Eric Falkenstein, Harriet Newman Leve, Probo Productions, Douglas G. Smith, Michael Filerman/Jennifer Manocherian, Richard Winkler, Dan Frishwasser, Pam Laudenslager/Remmel T. Dickinson, Jane Dubin/True Love Productions, Barbara Manocherian/Jennifer Isaacson, The Old Vic Theatre Company
Waiting for Godot
Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Harold Wolpert, Julia C. Levy, Elizabeth Ireland McCann

Best Revival of a Musical

Guys and Dolls
Producers: Howard Panter and Ambassador Theatre Group, Tulchin/Bartner, Bill Kenwright, Northwater Entertainment, Darren Bagert, Tom Gregory, Nederlander Presentations, Inc., David Mirvish, Michael Jenkins/Dallas Summer Musicals, Independent Presenters Network, Olympus Theatricals, Sonia Friedman Productions
Producers: The Public Theater, Oskar Eustis, Andrew D. Hamingson, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Gary Goddard Entertainment, Kathleen K. Johnson, Nederlander Productions, Inc., Fran Kirmser Productions/Jed Bernstein, Marc Frankel, Broadway Across America, Barbara Manocherian/Wencarlar Productions, JK Productions/Terry Schnuck, Andy Sandberg, Jam Theatricals, The Weinstein Company/Norton Herrick, Jujamcyn Theaters, Joey Parnes, Elizabeth Ireland McCannPal Joey
Producers: Roundabout Theatre Company, Todd Haimes, Harold Wolpert, Julia C. Levy, Marc Platt
West Side Story
Producers: Kevin McCollum, James L. Nederlander, Jeffrey Seller, Terry Allen Kramer, Sander Jacobs, Roy Furman/Jill Furman Willis, Freddy DeMann, Robyn Goodman/Walt Grossman, Hal Luftig, Roy Miller, The Weinstein Company, Broadway Across America

Best Special Theatrical Event

Liza’s at The Palace
Producers: John Scher and Metropolitan Talent Presents, LLC; Jubilee Time Productions, LLCSlava’s Snowshow
Producers: David J. Foster, Jared Geller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Judith Marinoff Cohn, John Pinckard
Soul of Shaolin
Producers: Nederlander Worldwide Productions, LLC; Eastern Shanghai International Culture Film & Television Group; China on Broadway
You’re Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush
Producer: Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Steve Traxler, Home Box Office Inc., Gary Sanchez Productions, Bat-Barry Productions, Ken Davenport, Ergo Entertainment, Ronald Frankel, Jon B. Platt, James D. Stern, The Weinstein Company, Tara Smith/b. Swibel, Dede Harris/Sharon Karmazin, Arny Granat

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play

Jeff Daniels, God of Carnage
Raúl Esparza, Speed-the-Plow
James Gandolfini, God of Carnage
Geoffrey Rush, Exit the King
Thomas Sadoski, Reasons to Be Pretty

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play

Hope Davis, God of Carnage
Jane Fonda, 33 Variations
Marcia Gay Harden, God of Carnage
Janet McTeer, Mary Stuart
Harriet Walter, Mary Stuart

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical

David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish – Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gavin Creel, Hair
Brian d’Arcy James, Shrek The Musical
Constantine Maroulis, Rock of Ages
J. Robert Spencer, Next to Normal

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical

Stockard Channing, Pal Joey
Sutton Foster, Shrek The Musical
Allison Janney, 9 to 5: The Musical
Alice Ripley, Next to Normal
Josefina Scaglione, West Side Story

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play

John Glover, Waiting for Godot
Zach Grenier, 33 Variations
Stephen Mangan, The Norman Conquests
Paul Ritter, The Norman Conquests
Roger Robinson, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play

Hallie Foote, Dividing the Estate
Jessica Hynes, The Norman Conquests
Marin Ireland, Reasons to Be Pretty
Angela Lansbury, Blithe Spirit
Amanda Root, The Norman Conquests

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical

David Bologna, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Gregory Jbara, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Marc Kudisch, 9 to 5: The Musical
Christopher Sieber, Shrek The Musical
Will Swenson, Hair

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical

Jennifer Damiano, Next to Normal
Haydn Gwynne, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Karen Olivo, West Side Story
Martha Plimpton, Pal Joey
Carole Shelley, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Scenic Design of a Play

Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Rob Howell, The Norman Conquests
Derek McLane, 33 Variations
Michael Yeargan, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Best Scenic Design of a Musical

Robert Brill, Guys and Dolls
Ian MacNeil, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Scott Pask, Pal Joey
Mark Wendland, Next to Normal

Best Costume Design of a Play

Dale Ferguson, Exit the King
Jane Greenwood, Waiting for Godot
Martin Pakledinaz, Blithe Spirit
Anthony Ward, Mary Stuart

Best Costume Design of a Musical

Gregory Gale, Rock of Ages
Nicky Gillibrand, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Tim Hatley, Shrek The Musical
Michael McDonald, Hair

Best Lighting Design of a Play

David Hersey, Equus
David Lander, 33 Variations
Brian MacDevitt, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Hugh Vanstone, Mary Stuart

Best Lighting Design of a Musical

Kevin Adams, Hair
Kevin Adams, Next to Normal
Howell Binkley, West Side Story
Rick Fisher, Billy Elliot, The Musical

Best Sound Design of a Play

Paul Arditti, Mary Stuart
Gregory Clarke, Equus
Russell Goldsmith, Exit the King
Scott Lehrer and Leon Rothenberg, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

Best Sound Design of a Musical

Acme Sound Partners, Hair
Paul Arditti, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Peter Hylenski, Rock of Ages
Brian Ronan, Next to Normal

Best Direction of a Play

Phyllida Lloyd, Mary Stuart
Bartlett Sher, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
Matthew Warchus, God of Carnage
Matthew Warchus, The Norman Conquests

Best Direction of a Musical

Stephen Daldry, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Greif, Next to Normal
Kristin Hanggi, Rock of Ages
Diane Paulus, Hair

Best Choreography

Karole Armitage, Hair
Andy Blankenbuehler, 9 to 5: The Musical
Peter Darling, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Randy Skinner, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas

Best Orchestrations

Larry Blank, Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
Martin Koch, Billy Elliot, The Musical
Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal
Danny Troob and John Clancy, Shrek The Musical

* * *

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre
Jerry Herman

Regional Theatre Tony Award
Signature Theatre, Arlington, Va.

Isabelle Stevenson Award
Phyllis Newman

Tony Honor for Excellence in the Theatre
Shirley Herz

* * *

Tony Nominations by Production

Billy Elliot, The Musical - 15
Next to Normal - 11
Hair - 8
Shrek The Musical - 8
Mary Stuart - 7
The Norman Conquests - 7
God of Carnage - 6
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone - 6
Rock of Ages - 5
33 Variations - 5
Exit the King - 4
9 to 5: The Musical - 4
Pal Joey - 4
West Side Story - 4
Reasons to Be Pretty - 3
Waiting for Godot - 3
Blithe Spirit - 2
Dividing the Estate - 2
Equus - 2
Guys and Dolls - 2
Irving Berlin’s White Christmas - 2
Liza’s at The Palace - 1
Slava’s Snowshow - 1
Soul of Shaolin - 1
Speed-the-Plow - 1
[Title of Show] - 1
You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W. Bush - 1