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Live Performance

Hamish Hamilton On What It’s Like to Direct the VMAs

HamishHamiltonAs a live event director and producer, Hamish Hamilton has been behind some of the most watched shows in history. He recently directed the Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show, the 2013 VMAs (aka Miley Twerk-Gate) and the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.

In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do?, Hamilton explains how he prepares for these enormous productions, and what happens behind the scenes:

At the 2013 VMAs we had the most disastrous, monumental technical breakdown 30 minutes before we went on air. The entire stage, which was supposed to rotate 360 degrees, became jammed. We were faced with the very real possibility there would be no show. It was one of those moments that’s kind of a nightmare; something you think isn’t ever going to happen. I just went cold. But you just deal with it. You know, when you have a lot of really great people thinking calmly, out of the box, and working as a team to do something difficult, that’s very important. It’s actually bizarre because a lot of people don’t even notice, the program isn’t usually affected — and we had Miley Cyrus and the twerking incident, which kind of overshadowed everything!

To hear more about how he manages the pressures of such huge productions, read: So What Do You Do Hamish Hamilton, Director Of Some Of The World’s Biggest Televised Events?

Billy Joel Set to Redefine ‘New York State of Mind’

Although Billy Joel recently confirmed his decision to forego the biography-autobiography route, he will be returning to the fore with a vengeance in the new year. Per a live-streamed press conference this morning from Madison Square Garden, the entertainer will begin performing monthly concerts in January, for essentially as long as the public wants to buy tickets for them. The 2014 “franchise” performances will include a show on Joel’s 65th birthday (May 9).

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The press conference, streamed live at 11 a.m. ET on the Internet and several TV channels, will be re-aired tonight at 9 p.m. on the MSG Network, with the added bonus of a Joel interview. Meanwhile, if you want to see how this morning’s big media event went down, search the Twitter hashtag #BillyJoelMSG.

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This Santa’s Helpers Include Meisner and Stanislavsky

CharlesEdwardHallFrankfort, Kentucky is a lot closer to midtown Manhattan than the North Pole. Which is a good thing because that’s where Charles Edward Hall, the man who has been playing Santa Claus in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular since 1986, makes his home.

AP drama writer Mark Kennedy has fun with the subject matter, starting with a very cute cookies-and-milk lede. He also highlights St. Nick’s impressive thespian training:

Hall is a classically trained actor who cut his teeth doing Shakespeare, Moliere and Ibsen after graduating from Murray State University. One of his more memorable roles was as the Wicked Witch of the West in [previous Radio City Music Hall show] Snow White Live.

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Mike Albo One-Man Show Revisits ‘Crassest Junket Ever’

Mike Albo is certainly making the most of being fired from the New York Times. The one-time “Critical Shopper” columnist turned his ouster into the 2011 eBook The Junket and has now expanded those musings into a one-man show of the same name.

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The Junket opened this past weekend at Dixon Place and runs for the next two Friday/Saturdays. There’s no better primer for the show than this Q&A conducted by The Slant. Albo starts off by describing the titular junket that got him into trouble with the NYT:

“It was the crassest junket ever,” he laughed in a recent interview with The Slant, rattling off the trip’s corporate sponsors — Trojan Condoms, Cold-Eeze, Pom Wonderful, H&M, Starbucks and Gillette!

“The bukaki of a junket,” he joked.

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The ‘Unnerving’ Experience of Auditioning for Woody Allen

New York Post theater critic Michael Riedel has a fun item about the leading-lady audition procession for Bullets Over Broadway. The 1994 film version allowed Dianne Wiest to beat out co-star Jennifer Tilly and three others for that year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and now, every conceivable name is trying out for the stage version of Helen Sinclair.

Zach Braff and Vincent Pastore are already lined up for the Broadway musical, scheduled to start previewing next March. But no decision has yet been made in connection with the plum part of Sinclair:

Auditioning for Allen is, I’m told, unnerving. For one thing, he seldom makes eye contact with the performer.

“He looks down at the floor,” a source says. “[Director] Susan [Stroman] is warm and gracious. He says nothing. Not even ‘Thank you.’ ” [Patti] LuPone came in with diva guns blazing, wowing everybody with her pipes and wit. When she left, Woody mumbled: “I don’t see her in the part.” Next!

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Dave Chappelle Rambles His Way to Instant Hartford Infamy

AP writer Dave Collins has a solid recap of last night’s Funny or Die debacle at the Comcast Theatre in Hartford. The city was the latest stop for the website’s Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival tour, and we do mean stop.

Headliner Dave Chappelle chose to throw away a sizable portion of his allotted time, possibly in reaction to being heckled. Or it may just have been because he didn’t really feel like performing last night.

Among those in the audience was Massachusetts state representative Matthew Lesser:

“He basically stopped his routine and refused to go on and said he was contracted for 25 minutes and said he was just going to sit there,” Lesser said. “He was berating the audience and telling them they were a lousy audience. I think it was kind of sad and disappointing.”

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Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes Send-Up Rolls into New York

It was a smash in Chicago. Now, August 20-24 at the Players Theatre as part of the New York International Fringe Festival, TheTomKat Project is set to wow fans in the very city where Katie Holmes pulled the plug on her marriage to Tom Cruise one year ago.

The play, featuring just a few odd props and the narration of writer Brandon Ogborn, skewers celebrity, the media and the Church of Scientology. There is no pretense at conventional celebrity impressions; lead actors Walt Delaney and Julie Dahlinger don’t much look like Cruise or Holmes. But that’s half the fun, with the support of a  versatile group of co-stars:

Based on actual interviews and completely imagined scenes, seven actors portray 54 characters including Oprah Winfrey, David Miscavige, Matt Lauer, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, Cruise/Wagner partner Paula Wagner, Steven Spielberg, Nicole Kidman and Suri.

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MSG Aims to Make LA’s Forum Fabulous Again

For all those concertgoers who live west of the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, this is a BIG press conference. Later today, MSG will officially confirm the details of its “first business venture west of the Mississippi.” From Randy Lewis‘ LA Times report:

“There are plenty of venues in the LA market,” Madison Square Garden Co. executive chairman James L. Dolan told The Times on Friday, “but none of this size that can accommodate artists like the Eagles, with multiple-day runs where the venue is completely tuned into the concerts that are going to be put on.”

The inaugural booking signals the intense interest in the project by Eagles manager Irving Azoff, who also manages Christina Aguilera, Van Halen and Steely Dan. Azoff, former executive chairman of Live Nation Entertainment and previously CEO of Ticketmaster before it merged with Live Nation, has a long professional and personal association with Dolan.

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Mort Sahl on Possibly Leading Woody Allen Back to Stand-Up

Last week, New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff shared an interview with Woody Allen. The article generated a fair bit of excitement because of Allen’s revelation that he has been inspired by a recent Mort Sahl comedy performance at the Carlyle Hotel to possibly contemplate a return to the stand-up stage:

“I was thinking of it. Since I saw him [Mort], I’ve just been toying with the idea. I would love to see if I could. Just getting together an hour of stuff to talk about would be a lot of work.”

FishbowlNY was curious how Sahl felt about possibly being once again Allen’s comedy muse. The 86-year-old legend, via email, was kind enough to respond.

“To your question on why Woody might have been “sparked” by the [Carlyle Room] shows,” Sahl writes, “I can only say that perhaps I had subjects in my monologue – movies, directors, beginnings in comedy, formulaic comedy – that registered with him and were experiences that we had together.”

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Wendy Williams: Broadway ‘Most Difficult Thing I’ve Ever Done’

It’s not every day, month or even year (Jerry Springer opera notwithstanding) that a daytime talk show host chats with their audience about the experience of being on Broadway. So be sure to check out Wendy Williams‘ rich rundown of playing Mama in the revival of Chicago.

Williams told the audience – following her first four weekend performances – that belting out a couple of musical numbers has been both thrilling and more difficult than anything she has attempted during her storied radio and TV career. She also segued at one point during the segment to a hilarious denial of a June 28 National Enquirer report.

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