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Bitch or Brag About Broadway

Musicals Tonight! offers theater enthusiasts a chance to sound off in a new series of programs hosted by Filichia.

Peter Filichia
I got a call from Mel Miller, the honcho behind Musicals Tonight! -- the modest troupe that offers staged readings of vintage musicals. Thanks to Mel, we've had the chance to see Broadway flops (Goldilocks), forgotten hits (Leave It to Me), London musicals (Love from Judy), and even closed-on-the-road disasters (That's the Ticket!). Broadway musicals of yore aren't the type of thing you'd assume would get noticed by the august Obie committee, but Mel got a check from the nominators last June in support of what he's trying to do. So, with a little extra in the kitty, Mel's starting a new series. His plan: Interviewers sit down with celebrities and chat about their lives and careers. Would I take the Tuesday slot? I could invite some notable star I know and we could chatter away.

But you know who I'd rather invite? You. Yes, you. Sure, there's a place for interviewers asking celebrities the who, whats, wheres, whys, and hows of their lives, and I know that Charles Nelson will do a wonderful job in the Monday night series that Mel has asked him to host. But I'd rather celebrate the so-called "little guy." You know the people I mean because, if you're reading this, you're one of them: The man or woman who has a terrific love/hate relationship with Broadway, with an emphasis on the former; the one who attends first previews and can't wait to post on www.talkinbroadway.com/allthatchat/, so (s)he often does it during intermission at an Internet cafe; the one who's the first to buy the newest cast album the moment it hits the stores, if (s)he hasn't already pre-ordered it through a website. Now, this type of person is to me a "celebrity" and certainly someone to whom I can relate

So, I said to Mel, how about bringing theater enthusiasts on stage and interviewing them? What have you seen? What have you liked? What have you hated? Have you been to London lately? Anything good out there in regional theater? What big hit doesn't deserve to run? What flop should have run longer? What would have helped to make it work? Who do you think should take over in a current show? Which Wild Party did you prefer? What do think of our rhythm bands? Monkey glands? Hot dog stands? What do you think of Stokowski's hands?

Matthew Murray
I talked to Matthew Murray about this and asked if he wanted to co-conduct the interviews. Aside from being my colleague in his position as associate editor of TheaterMania.com, Matthew is one of our brightest under-30 critics; I'm astonished at the depth and breadth of his knowledge every time I read one of his reviews on Talkin' Broadway. And given that I'm more than twice his age, I thought it'd be a good idea to have fresh-as-paint youth represented as well as decrepit old age. I mean, Matthew's got energy! I didn't get around to seeing String of Pearls, The Eyes are the First to Go, or The Happy Prince, but he saw all of them. On the other hand, I witnessed the original productions of A Funny Thing Happened, Follies, Tovarich, and Do I Hear a Waltz? long before Matthew was a gleam in his father's recessive show-loving gene. So I bring that to the table -- or, at least, to the chair. Between the two of us, we see about 600 shows a year, and we're full of opinions about them. Here's betting that we even speak more frankly than we dare to do in print or on the web. You can bring grill us on what you want to know, or grill us till we're toast. Tear us apart for things we've written. In the process, you may make us look like idiots, and we may return the non-favor.

The series is called "Bitch or Brag About Broadway" and here's how it works. You come to the old Primary Stages space at 354 West 45th Street and pay 10 bucks. You'll see three chairs on stage, with me on the right, Matthew on the left, and the center one reserved for you. We'll call for volunteers to come up; raise your hand if you're sure you want to occupy the hot seat. Then start shooting -- with words, of course. You will have five full minutes with us while an egg timer fulfills the function that the hourglass did in The Wizard of Oz -- to let us all know when your time is up. Only here, if we think that you're entertaining enough, we'll give you the option to stay for another five minutes. If we don't think you're particularly scintillating, one (or both) of us will blow a horn that will emit a humiliating sound, cueing you to get the hell off the stage right now. But if you're really good, you'll get yet another five minutes, leading to two pleasures: (1) You will have made good on Andy Warhol's immortal claim that everyone in the world will be famous for 15 minutes, and (2) You'll have your ten dollar admission fee returned to you on the spot.

Our first session -- which may also be our last -- will take place at 6pm next Tuesday, October 12. That's the day Columbus discovered America, and it's the day that Matthew Murray and I want to discover you. Call 212-362-5620 for reservations.

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[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]
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