Poor Christine Ebersole

Winning two Tony Awards apparently isn’t enough to warrant above-the-title billing in movies these days. The wonderful Christine Ebersole is the only person on The Big Wedding poster not to be named… even someone named Ben Barnes (?!) gets himself up there. Look at her, sadly watching from the corner…

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Ever the underdog, Ye Old Theatre…

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In Rep with “Cloud Atlas”

The Repertory System isn’t dead!

Back in Ye Olde Days, troupes of actors would rehearse several shows at a time and perform them on alternate evenings. Audiences got the unique thrill of seeing the same set of actors perform, say, a Shakespeare on Tuesday, and a Durang on Wednesday. (Now that would be a fun bill!) For reasons of cost that system is mostly dead.

Or is it? Cloud Atlas, the wonderfully big-thinking movie based on David Mitchell‘s novel of the same name, puts the idea of the old Rep System back to use, and brilliantly so. Built out of six seemingly separate stories, Cloud Atlas flits from one narrative to another, a handful of actors changing garb and temper along the way. We get Halle Berry as a Space Agey adventurer in one tale and a hard-hitting journalist in another. Tom Hanks has equally heavy lifting, playing everything from a scientist to a strange tribesman to a murderous writer.

Thematically, this continuity seems to suggest that the characters are reincarnated versions of themselves. But on a less heady, more concrete level, it’s also just really damn cool seeing great actors in different digs.

Witness Madame Berry and Mr. Hanks…

and Hugo Weaving…

Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Bae Doo-na, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon and others round out the chameleonic cast.

So cool, right?!

I Am Lion, Hear Me Roar

For those of us who hit elementary school in the early 90′s, our first brush with musical theater came from animated films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. These titles traded in traditional musical forms, but were staged by brilliant visual artists, not Broadway heavy-hitters.

As little kids, we didn’t know about Stephen Schwartz, Alan Menken, or Elton John, we just loved their characters and adored their music. Disney animation was the ultimate status symbol, too — pity the first grader who hadn’t seen Lion King on the big screen and on home video. Several of those classic titles have been turned into Broadway musicals, but it’s the films that will always stay closest to the heart of those who grew up on them.

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The Walkout

Vera Farmiga in “Higher Ground (L), Lily Rabe & Josh Hamliton in “A Doll’s House,” (R)

“The Walkout:” It’s a perfect 11 o’clock moment, the instant your hero shouts, “Enough!” then marches out the door, leaving the familiar behind for the unknown.

A film and a play recently made Grade A hay out of this device. The former, Vera Farmiga’s “Higher Ground,” examines one woman’s journey in and out of faith; the second, “A Doll’s House” (which I saw in revival at Williamstown), presents a wife on the verge of implosion. Each woman makes a dramatic exit, and each gives a wrenching, climactic address explaining why she’s leaving and what she clings to as – click click – her heels take her into uncertainty and solitude.

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An Adjustment on the Deuce

The premise behind “The Adjustment Bureau” is simple and delicious: At each human’s birth, a supreme, omniscient “chairman” creates a script for his or her life. As people grow, the chairman helps turn these prescribed narratives into reality with little nudges, or “adjustments:” inconspicuous, seemingly random blips—lost keys, forgotten appointments—that ultimately put people on the “right” path. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt oh-so-stylishly lead the way through this delightfully glossy, children’s book fantasy kind of grown-up blockbuster.

Exiting the AMC Empire on West 42nd Street, where “Bureau” is playing, I couldn’t help but wish for a few “adjustments” in that theater’s exceptional history. Once a beautiful, legitimate playhouse, it followed Times Square into general decay and porno squalor. Under the jurisdiction of The New 42nd Street Street, Inc., the Empire missed the world-class renovations sported by several of its Deuce brethren, and now serves as the entrance to AMC’s monster movie complex. (This remarkable civic tale gets the royal treatment in Anthony Bianco’s pitch-perfect book, “Ghosts of 42nd Street.”)

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