Last week, the news broke that Jake Gyllenhaal would be dropping out of Into The Woods to star in the thriller Nightcrawler. The actor was set to play Rapunzel's Prince in the fairy tale musical, but had to quit due to scheduling conflicts. Needless to say, this is a big fat bummer. We were so looking forward to seeing the him (and his dreamy blue eyes) in a different kind of role.
So, which unlucky guy must face the daunting task the of filling Jake Gyllenhaal's shoes? According to Deadline, Billy Magnussen will be taking Gyllenhaal's place in the Into The Woods cast alongside A-listers like Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, Christine Baranski, and possibly Anna Kendrick. Magnussen has appeared on Boardwalk Empire and As the World Turns and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play.
Sorry, Billy Magnussen, we're sure you're a nice guy and all, but...actually, maybe you aren't. Who are you anyway? You kind of look like Spencer Pratt, and a quick scan through your IMDb page tells us you once played someone named Spencer in a TV show called Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell. Maybe we're being immature, but that's enough to make us not want to like you. We want Jakey!
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Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce's hit Broadway comedy Vanya And Sonia And Masha And Spike has turned into a New York money-maker after recouping its entire $2.75 million (£1.77 million) investment. The show, co-starring Billy Magnussen and Kristine Nielsen, received a big box office boost following its win for Best Play at the Tony Awards last month (Jun13), and now producers have something else to celebrate after the production moved into profit in the 17 weeks since its March (13) opening.
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike joins an elite group of profitable shows this season, including Tom Hanks' Lucky Guy and Bette Midler's I'll Eat You Last.
The play's run was recently extended until the end of August (13), although Weaver will be replaced by Julie White after she bows out of the production on 28 July (13) due to prior filming commitments.
If you haven't read a word of Anton Chekhov you'll enjoy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. But you’ll find it so much funnier if you have.
Christopher Durang’s modern-day update of themes and situations from the Russian master’s oeuvre just won the Tony Award for Best Play, causing its run at the John Golden Theatre to be extended through August 28. Catching up with the play again following its Tony victory, it’s easy to see the reason why it took home the big prize. Or rather four reasons why: David Hyde Pierce, Kristine Nielsen, Sigourney Weaver, and Billy Magnussen as the titular quartet. Their commitment elevates what’s otherwise rather slight material — Durang’s transformation of Chekhov into a self-referential comedy of errors. Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is really no different from the playwright’s Durang/Durang, his collection of six one-act parodies of classic plays like Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, which Durang transformed into “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls.”
In Bucks County, PA, fiftysomething siblings Vanya (Hyde Pierce) and Sonia (Nielsen) greet the morning much as they always do: in pajamas drinking coffee on their porch, awaiting the arrival of a cherished blue heron. They’ve never had to earn a living — their famous actress sister Masha (Weaver) sends them money in exchange for being able to flaunt her fabulous movie-star life to them on occasion — and Vanya spends his days writing experimental plays, while Sonia pines for Vanya. Don’t worry, she’s an adopted sibling. Much of the play takes place on that porch, capped with a gabled roof, dappled with warm sunlight, and enfolded by a cherry orchard (because it’s Chekhov).
Though Vania, Sonia, and Masha’s sibling dynamics are very Chekhovian, Durang chooses to go meta on us by revealing that their parents were literature professors and community theater enthusiasts who deliberately named them after Chekhov characters. Some of Durang’s dialogue is overly expository in setting up this concept, with Vanya saying to Sonia “Well, I guess that’s what happens when your parents are literature professors,” as if she’s only learning of their profession for the first time. It’s the kind of conceptual futzing that’s frustrating.
But Durang’s material gets a shot of adrenaline the moment über-thesp Masha appears, threatening to sell their house out from under them and flaunting her vapid boy toy Spike (Magnussen), a finalist for a role on Entourage 2. Weaver’s Masha is in full Norma Desmond mode, crippled by both inferiority and superiority complexes, while Magnussen plays Spike with go-for-broke physicality as if he were a horny puppy dog — he humps Masha repeatedly throughout the show and performs a ridiculous “reverse striptease,” in which he starts with his clothes off but gives a Chippendales-style performance as he gets dressed. Once the laughs subside you realize the four characters represent four different coping methods for dealing with life: nostalgia (Vanya), hermitage (Sonia), escapism (Masha), and ignorance (Spike).
Durang tends toward the absurd, as he did in The Marriage of Bette and Boo and Betty’s Summer Vacation. Masha is determined to put her siblings in their lowly place by forcing them to attend a party where she’s dressed as Disney’s version of Snow White, while Vanya is a dwarf and Sonia is the Evil Queen. They stay in these costumes for much of the play.
In the second act, Durang starts treating his characters like human beings more than archetypes. Sonia’s role as the Evil Queen turns out to be a huge hit at the party, overshadowing Masha, and her sincere attempt at connection afterward, a lengthy phone conversation with a potential suitor, is hopeful and heartbreaking, a gossamer transformation perfectly executed by Nielsen. Vanya’s emotional breakdown after Spike doesn’t “get” his play about a molecule is a show-stopping five-minute monologue about his love of the analog era before the much-younger Spike’s birth and his contempt for everything that’s come since. Hyde Pierce may not have conveyed emotional fragility this acute since Niles Crane.
Though it’s hard not to think that Durang is really besotted with his own cleverness — and hard not to be annoyed by that — Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike is proof that serious neuroses don’t need to be taken too seriously.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt | Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter @Hollywood_com
Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sutton Foster took the stage together. No, they haven't teamed up for a Broadway show, a new television series, or a Modern Family/Bunheads crossover (which would be awesome). But the theater-loving stars came together Tuesday to announce the nominations for the 2013 Tony Awards. (They are the hosts for this year's show, after all, so it only made sense that these two would have the honors of making the big announcement.)
Check out which plays and actors are nominated for Tony Awards for their work on the stage this year.
2013 Tony Awards Nominations:
Best Play:The Assembled PartyLucky GuyThe Testament of MaryVanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
Best Musical:Bring It On: The MusicalKinky BootsMatilda The MusicalA Christmas Story, The Musical
Best Book of a Musical:A Christmas Story, The MusicalKinky BootsMatilda The MusicalRodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Best Revival of a Play:Golden BoyOrphans The Trip to BountifulWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Best Revival of a Musical: AnnieThe Mystery of Edwin DroodPippinRodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Laurie Metcalf, The Other PlaceAmy Morton, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Kristine Nielsen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and SpikeHolland Taylor, AnnCicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Tom Hanks, Lucky GuyNathan Lane, The NanceTracy Letts, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?David Hyde Pierce, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and SpikeTom Sturridge, Orphans
Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre: A Christmas Story, The Musical Music and Lyrics: Benj Pasek and Justin Paul Hands on a Hardbody Music: Trey Anastasio and Amanda Green Lyrics: Amanda Green Kinky Boots Music & Lyrics: Cyndi Lauper Matilda The Musical Music & Lyrics: Tim Minchin
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Stephanie J. Block, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Carolee Carmello, Scandalous Valisia LeKae, Motown The Musical Patina Miller, Pippin Laura Osnes, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Bertie Carvel, Matilda The Musical Santino Fontana, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella Rob McClure, Chaplin Billy Porter, Kinky Boots Stark Sands, Kinky Boots
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Carrie Coon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Shalita Grant, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Judith Ivey, The Heiress Judith Light, The Assembled Parties Condola Rashad, The Trip to Bountiful
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play:Danny Burstein, Golden Boy Richard Kind, The Big Knife Billy Magnussen, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Tony Shalhoub, Golden Boy Courtney B. Vance, Lucky Guy
Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical:Annaleigh Ashford, Kinky Boots Victoria Clark, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella Andrea Martin, Pippin Keala Settle, Hands on a Hardbody
Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical:Charl Brown, Motown The Musical Keith Carradine, Hands on a Hardbody Will Chase, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Gabriel Ebert, Matilda The Musical Terrence Mann, Pippin
Best Costume Design of a Play: Soutra Gilmour, Cyrano de Bergerac Ann Roth, The Nance Albert Wolsky, The Heiress Catherine Zuber, Golden Boy
Best Costume Design of a Musical: Gregg Barnes, Kinky Boots Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical Dominique Lemieux, Pippin William Ivey Long, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Best Direction of a Play:Pam MacKinnon, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Nicholas Martin, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike Bartlett Sher, Golden Boy George C. Wolfe, Lucky Guy
Best Direction of a Musical:Scott Ellis, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots Diane Paulus, Pippin Matthew Warchus, Matilda The Musical
Best Choreography:Andy Blankenbuehler, Bring It On: The Musical Peter Darling, Matilda The Musical Jerry Mitchell, Kinky Boots Chet Walker, Pippin
Best Orchestrations:Chris Nightingale, Matilda The Musical Stephen Oremus, Kinky Boots Ethan Popp & Bryan Crook, Motown The Musical Danny Troob, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Best Scenic Design of a Play:John Lee Beatty, The Nance Santo Loquasto, The Assembled Parties David Rockwell, Lucky Guy Michael Yeargan, Golden Boy
Best Scenic Design of a Musical:Rob Howell, Matilda The Musical Anna Louizos, The Mystery of Edwin Drood Scott Pask, Pippin David Rockwell, Kinky Boots
Best Lighting Design of a Play: Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer, Lucky Guy Donald Holder, Golden Boy Jennifer Tipton, The Testament of Mary Japhy Weideman, The Nance
Best Lighting Design of a Musical:Kenneth Posner, Kinky Boots Kenneth Posner, Pippin Kenneth Posner, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella Hugh Vanstone, Matilda The Musical
Best Sound Design of a Play:John Gromada, The Trip to Bountiful Mel Mercier, The Testament of Mary Leon Rothenberg, The Nance Peter John Still and Marc Salzberg, Golden Boy
Best Sound Design of a Musical:Jonathan Deans & Garth Helm, Pippin Peter Hylenski, Motown The Musical John Shivers, Kinky Boots Nevin Steinberg, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre:Bernard GerstenPaul LibinMing Cho Lee
Regional Theatre Award:Huntington Theatre Company, Boston, MA
Isabelle Stevenson Award:Larry Kramer
Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre:Career Trainsition For DancersWilliam CraverPeter LawrenceThe Lost ColonyThe four actresses who created the title role of Matilda The Musical on Broadway: Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon, and Milly Shapiro
Follow Lindsey on Twitter @LDiMat.
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White Oleander focuses on teen beauty Astrid Magnusson (Alison Lohman) and her equally beautiful mother Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer) an accomplished--if self-centered and manipulative--artist who tends to drag her daughter a budding artist in her own right into her own neuroses. To Astrid however her mother is a goddess--at least until police charge Ingrid with poisoning her lover in a fit of jealousy and she is sentenced to life imprisonment. Astrid is immediately placed into the foster care program and each new home presents a different set of rules for the young girl. There's life with Starr (Robin Wright Penn) an alcoholic-turned-born-again-Christian who becomes violently jealous of Astrid. There's life in a child-welfare institution where Astrid meets Paul (Patrick Fugit) a comic book artist with whom she immediately connects. Then there's life with Claire (Renee Zellweger) a lonely woman who can't have children of her own and whose husband (Noah Wyle) is never home. Claire shows Astrid the kind of genuine love the girl has never experienced but Ingrid haunts them needling and sabotaging her daughter's happiness at every turn. Astrid could simply go off the deep end but instead she becomes more resilient ultimately reaching a place where she can love her mother without letting her destroy her life. Sapville.
The acting talent in Oleander is definitely the movie's saving grace. The actresses make the film's trite dialogue almost palatable. Pfeiffer is amazingly beautiful and strong as Ingrid and she manages to burn the character into our brains even when she's not on the screen. Ingrid's relationship with her daughter is at times hard to watch: Ingrid digs at Astrid to try and control her but all this really does is expose Ingrid's own insecurities and failings as a mother. Pfeiffer relishes these moments and plays them to their full effect. Playing the other two "mothers" in Astrid's life the always good Penn takes the thankless part of Starr and turns it into something memorable while Zellweger's expert turn as Claire has a broken-doll quality that perfectly captures the character's fragility. The real dilemma for the film's producers was finding the right Astrid--an actress who could hold her own at the heart of the story--and whose talent would hold up opposite Pfieffer. Lohman was chosen from a cast of thousands and does a fine job playing Astrid; the camera clearly loves her. Still she needs a little more experience under her belt before she can truly shine. Fugit who was once the newcomer himself in Almost Famous (and did a much better job the first time out) manages to create a believable rapport with Lohman as her boyfriend Paul.
OK this is a gripe to all Hollywood executives: stop using sentimental material to make major motion pictures even if it is from a bestselling book. While Fitch's novel tells a moving story it does not necessarily translate into an inspiring film. Director Peter Kosminsky does his best with Oleander to create a haunting atmosphere and there are times when the material is elevated especially in the scenes between Zellweger and Lohman and those that explore the tragedy that befalls them. Yet ultimately the film plays like an after-school special. This isn't to say an intimate story can't make an interesting movie (The Good Girl and Igby Goes Down are just two examples of what's out there right now) but Oleander fails to engage its audience in any kind of meaningful way.