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April 21, 2009

Stoneham Packs an Unsatisfying “Picnic”

Sincerity and sizzle are missing from Stoneham Theatre revival of William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama

When William Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Picnic first opened on Broadway in 1953, its searing treatment of women’s repressed sexual desires unleashed by the appearance of a rugged, handsome drifter no doubt shocked post World War II Eisenhower era audiences. Kistler and Kane in PicnicToday, this nostalgic piece of rustic Kansas Americana can seem melodramatic and hopelessly out of date if its themes of alienation, desperation, and unfulfilled dreams are not treated with poignancy and unselfconscious realism.

The recent Stoneham Theatre production, which ended its brief run on April 19, has the small-town look but not the wistful feel of Inge’s bucolic, last-chance romance. The clapboard houses, neighboring back porches, weathered picket fence and modest homespun dresses effectively bring us back to a simpler place and time, but modern posturing and edgy mannerisms often create a barrier between the audience and the melancholy material. Not seeming to trust that the play’s old-fashioned sentiments can still resonate in today’s more sophisticated culture, director Caitlin Lowans has paced her production on fast forward. Bulldozing over the play’s quieter, more contemplative moments, Lowans and her cast have done the exact opposite of what I’m sure they intended: they have made Picnic seem dusty instead of timeless.

To read my complete review at BroadwayWorld.com, click here.

PHOTO: Delilah Kistler and Aidan Kane

April 17, 2009

Lessons to Be Learned from Susan Boyle’s Dream

Susan BoyleOn April 11, 2009 a video from the television show Britain’s Got Talent appeared on YouTube, and in a few short days its unlikely heroine had captivated the world. Since the video’s posting, more than 35 million people have watched 47-year-old Scottish villager Susan Boyle become an overnight sensation. With her beautiful, unaffected voice and equally unaffected personality, this humble out-of-work country girl who says she’s never even been kissed put her dream of becoming a professional singer on the line and with one perfectly chosen song – I Dreamed a Dream from Les Misérables – turned ridicule to reverence. Quite possibly, a new star has been born.

From a marketing perspective, what can we learn from this phenomenon?

The best PR stories are of great human interest.

Susan’s triumphant performance has touched the dreamer in everyone. In a world in which headlines are dominated by the powerful, rich, famous and beautiful, something as simple as a purely natural voice has trumped all the usual shallow self-indulgent celebrity. Find the true heart in a story and people will respond.

The medium is the message.

The internet has changed the shape of mass communications forever. If you don’t have a presence on the web, you don’t have a presence. Period.

It’s called show business for a reason.

Susan Boyle may be a genuinely unadulterated average Joanna whose only goal is to make her unique voice heard. But you can bet that the producers and publicists behind Britain’s Got Talent know exactly what kind of wunderkind they have in their midst, and they aren’t about to let that go unexploited. The star-making machinery is clearly in full swing. Witness the condescending set-up, backstage on-camera interviews, dramatic build-up to the stunning revelation of talent, and cleverly orchestrated cut-away reaction shots, all packaged in a slick goose-bump inducing video posted on YouTube (and no doubt made available for distribution to every major online and broadcast outlet in the world). Just a few days later a recording of Boyle singing Cry Me a River surfaces. Suddenly any thoughts of Susan being a one hit wonder are banished for good.

You couldn’t ask for a better combination of razzle and dazzle. Susan Boyle is a rare and appealing commodity, and Britain’s Got Talent has figured out exactly how to package and promote her.

You can’t beat word-of-mouth to sell your product or service.

Susan Boyle has become a household name because everyday people have spread the word through an exponentially increasing pyramid of emails, message boards, links, and blog posts. The internet is the new water cooler. Viral marketing is your ultimate grassroots reputation builder.

Spot the trends and ride the wave.

It’s no coincidence that this blog entry is about Susan Boyle. Why not capitalize on a news story that’s hot if you can connect to it in a meaningful way? Use related tips to promote yourself and your clients. If you can disseminate helpful information to a wider audience by hitching your wagon to a rising star, Rachel York as Fantinethen you’ve succeeded in utilizing available resources wisely. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Just learn to ride what’s already spinning.


One of my clients, Rachel York, starred as Fantine in Les Misérables on Broadway. As a result, she is frequently asked to sing I Dreamed a Dream in concert. Well, just two days after Ms. Boyle put the song back at the top of the music charts, Rachel’s website started getting hits from people searching for “other people who have sung” the famous ballad. Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to introduce Rachel’s version to an eager public, I quickly uploaded a video of her performing the song.

As the saying goes, timing is everything. If you seize the opportunity when it presents itself, you could gain maximum exposure with minimum investment.


April 02, 2009

‘Bronx Tale’ Finds the Good in a Good Fella

Chazz Palminteri’s acclaimed one-man show about his life on the mean streets of Mafiadom pays homage to the two men who influenced him most: his father and the Capo who “adopted” him.

Chazz PalminteriBroadway, film and television actor Chazz Palminteri’s autobiographical one-man show A Bronx Taleat The Colonial Theatre in Boston through April 5, neither perpetuates nor debunks the Italian mob stereotypes that have spawned a long and prosperous movie genre from which he himself has earned considerable success. Instead, the accomplished writer and performer portrays both the good and the bad – and at times the ugly – in the lives of the wiseguys and goodfellas who populated his Bronx neighborhood during the 1960s when he was an impressionable young boy and teen.

Palminteri tells his tale through his own searching eyes, playing his youthful self as well as 18 key figures from his past. The ease with which Palminteri transforms from one character to another, frequently carrying on conversations amongst several at a time, is positively staggering. A quick change in posture, a subtle twist to the voice, a quirky facial tick or gesture or a penetrating look is all it takes to summon a host of colorful role models and anti-heroes who fill and animate the stage.

To read my complete review at BroadwayWorld.com, click here.

Photo of Chazz Palminteri by Joan Marcus


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