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Playbill Viewing: Film Adaptation of Ahrens and Flaherty’s Lucky Stiff, Starring Jason Alexander, Dennis Farina, and Nikki M. James

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s 1988 musical Lucky Stiff, about a British shoe salesman who takes his dead uncle to Monte Carlo in order to qualify for his inheritance and becomes entangled with a wild cast of characters, received a film adaptation in 2015 and is now available to stream on Prime Video.

Book writer and lyricist Ahrens adapted the musical for the screen, and she and composer Flaherty wrote two additional songs. The duo are Tony Award winners for Ragtime

The film is directed by Christopher Ashley with choreography by Joey Pizzi (Burlesque), the movie stars Dominic Marsh, Tony winner Jason Alexander (Seinfeld, Jerome Robbins Broadway), the late Dennis Farina (Get Shorty), and Tony winner Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon), as well as Don Amendolia, Pamela Shaw, Kate Shindle, Jayne Houdyshell and Mary Birdsong, with appearances by Cheyenne Jackson, Jennifer Cody, Kevin Chamberlain, Wesley Taylor, and more.

Lucky Stiff premiered at Playwrights Horizons in April 1988 and was the first show of future Tony Award winners Ahrens and Flaherty to be produced outside a family-theatre arena (they had collaborated on a Theatreworks USA musical for kids).

Ahrens penned book and lyrics and Flaherty the music, drawing on the Michael Butterworth novel The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo. Lucky Stiff was the recipient of a 1988 Richard Rodgers Production Award and 1990 Helen Hayes Award for Best Musical.

Recapping Smash 2.03: Steam Heat

With Bombshell still in limbo, Eileen wants Tom and Julia to consider bringing on a dramaturg, which is the most horrifying thing either of them has ever heard. (Note: Dramaturgs working on a show are a pretty common occurrence.) Julia’s concern is that people hear about it and start gossiping about the show being in trouble. Or worse, the dramaturg sues for credit! (isn’t that what contracts are for?) Luckily, the dramaturg is played by Daniel Sunjata, so that should calm Julia down.

As Julia staggers under the weight of Eileen’s suggestion, Ivy is auditioning for casting director Bernie Telsey for a revival of a musical adaptation of Les Liasions Dangereuses (which originally starred Madeline Kahn as Cecile) and pushes for a chance at Cecile, despite them seeing Jen Damiano and Jessie Mueller. Across town, Veronica is singing “Home” from The Wiz for Derek (still fired), while Derek mocks the idea that The Wiz should be period and Dorothy should be innocent.

While Derek suggests he stage a scene with Veronica to prove to the producers that he can handle The Wiz, Karen is pitching Derek to Kyle and Jimmy. Jimmy is unconcerned about presenting to Derek (despite a lot of stuff being missing), which is probably because he’s a straight white man so he’ll obviously triumph here. The only thing that can defeat a straight white man is another straight white man, so obviously Derek stands them up.

In a meeting with The Dramaturg, he tells Julia that there’s no character development outside the songs, it plays like a shallow biopic, and her script is two-dimensional. Julia counters by pointing to the standing ovations in Boston. Then, Julia the Writer claims that it works better if you see it. That’s… not a great save, Julia.

At Eileen’s, Julia begins to throw a tantrum about having to work with someone who wants to rework her book and Eileen puts her foot down. If Julia doesn’t want to do the work, Eileen informs her, then she’ll find someone who will. So Julia confronts The Dramaturg in public… where was this drama when she was writing Bombshell? And then as The Dramaturg tells her she doesn’t know steamy sexual heat, he casually places his hand on her shoulder. Oh, Dramaturg. You fit right in with the men of Smash. (At least he does address the fact that Bombshell seemed to focus on Marilyn’s marriage to Joe DiMaggio.) At least he finally gets Julia down to work!

Tom is pulling double duty, writing Bombshell all night and working with Ivy on her upcoming audition during the day. He points out that innocent Cecile gradually morphs into a woman who knows how to manipulate men—just like Marilyn! And, he adds, Ivy. Weird comment from a friend, but OK. It works, because Ivy gets the part!

Julia’s having a worse day, because she walks in with a sexy JFK scene and song and thinks that will be enough for The Dramaturg to leave. Oh no, he says, she never would have written that without him pushing her. She’s stuck with him now! And that might be unfortunate, because his take on Marilyn is that she slept with powerful men to further her career, and maybe JFK and RFK helped hasten her death, but they also died, don’t forget. Well, they were assassinated, but OK?

That scene at least accomplishes one thing: It convinces Veronica Moore that she needs to be a sexy Broadway star and do a once-in-a-lifetime concert with Derek. Derek’s like, cool, but I have to head down to Greenpoint to hear a pitch for a new musical. And he likes it! Fade out on a girl…

The Daily Distraction: Pearl Bailey Goes Medieval on the Muppets

These are frightening times, and we all must take necessary precautions as we social distance and self-isolate. That being said, you deserve a break every now and then. Welcome to Playbill’s Daily Distraction.

Day 13: Pearl Bailey Is Madame Rose But Also a Renaissance Queen and the Muppets Are There??

The Daily Distraction is the Bailey Distraction for today, as Pearl Bailey was born March 29, 1918. Though the entertainer is known for musical performances like Hello, Dolly! and on screen in Carmen Jones, the Tony Award recipient stopped by The Muppet Show in 1978 and performed a rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

Yes, the song was already used in a Daily Distraction: Rita Moreno in The Ritz. But you know what Rita Moreno’s version was missing? Jousting.

The sketch is some sort of Camelot tale, using show tunes from the Great American Songbook, including Fozzie Bear singing Guys and Dolls, Gonzo singing Annie Get Your Gun, and Miss Piggy singing West Side Story (we’re sorry, Rita). After all this, Bailey, residing over the festivities, finds an excuse to sing a jazzy version of the Gypsy tune. The Muppets join in—modulating, even!

PHOTOS: Celebrate Pearl Bailey’s Birthday by Revisiting Her Tony-Awarded Performance in Hello, Dolly!

As Bailey herself says, “You know, Rowlf, this don’t make any sense at all.” She’s not wrong. But we’re watching anyway—what else do we have going on?

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Alvin Ailey Launches Online Streaming Series With Screening of Revelations

The Ailey organization will launch a new online streaming series, Ailey All Access, March 30 with a screening of the acclaimed dance piece, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. The move to online programming is one of many in the industry as theatres, concert venues, and other cultural hubs temporarily close their doors in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to screenings of full-length works, Ailey All Access will feature virtual dance classes, original short films from the dance community, and more.

Introduced by Artistic Director Robert Battle and featuring commentary from some of the dancers, the screening of Revelations will kick off at 7 PM ET. Earlier that day, at 3 PM, dancer Hope Boykin will teach a Revelations-inspired virtual choreography workshop.

“Alvin Ailey created the ultimate prayer about overcoming adversity through hope and faith,” shared Battle. “During this period, it is fitting that we are launching Ailey All Access with his Revelations on the Company’s birthday. I know in my heart that he would be proud to see that we are taking on a challenge and seizing an opportunity to explore new ways of lifting up hearts, minds and spirits with the transformative power of dance.”

The performance series will continue with regularly scheduled weekly performances each Thursday, beginning April 2 at 7 PM ET with Yannick Lebrun’s intimate Saa Magni and Bradley Shelver’s high-energy Where There Are Tongues, followed by Judith Jamison’s Divining on April 9.

Other upcoming broadcasts include Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Camille A. Brown’s City of Rain and Rennie Harris’ Lazarus. Check out the full slate of offerings at alvinailey.org/ailey-all-access.

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