Tag Archives: neil patrick harris

Federal tax code change will help live theater nationwide

Live commercial theater from Broadway to Los Angeles is about to get a huge financial boost under a federal tax code change that’s been championed by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and such stars as Neil Patrick Harris and Bryan Cranston.

Under a new tax package, Broadway and live theater productions will be given the same benefits that have long been afforded to TV and film productions.

Now, like small and large screen projects, live theater and concert productions would get up to $15 million in tax credits if they spent at least 75 percent of their budgets in the U.S. The new rule would apply for productions starting after Dec. 31.

“This is the biggest shot in the arm that Broadway and live performance has had in a long time,” Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said by phone. “It’s a very fair rule. It says: ‘Treat live performance the same as you treat movies.’”

Broadway and off-Broadway producer Ken Davenport, who has urged the theatrical community to push for the measure, celebrated its imminent passage.

“Half the reason I’m happy is that it’s just another sign that people are paying more attention to Broadway as a significant part of the economic driver in this country,” said Davenport, who has helped produce such shows as Kinky Boots, Spring Awakening and Allegiance.

The change is part of the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015, a package of more than $600 billion in tax breaks for businesses, investors and families.

Schumer, who has been working on the tax break for four years, said the change would create “thousands and thousands” more jobs for actors and backstage workers, and produce more shows nationwide, helping hotel, restaurant and taxi industries. He noted that other countries also grant live theater similar breaks, especially in London, which has been luring away American productions.

Schumer said he expected the measure will help both Broadway producers —since they’ll be able to deduct their expenses up front — and investors, who won’t have to pay taxes on profits they haven’t made yet. The measure was co-sponsored by Sen. Roy Blunt, a Republican of Missouri.

Last year, the New York senator was joined by Harris, Cranston, Tyne Daly and producer Harvey Weinstein, as well as cast members from The Phantom of the Opera, Newsies and Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. They all urged passage of the bill, saying it would enable theater producers to take more chances.

“It will help small theater production even more than large, but it will help both,” Schumer said. “I obviously care about Broadway — it’s a major New York industry — but it’s good for the whole country.”

The backers of the change pointed out that the benefits go far beyond New York, where Broadway box offices earned $1.36 billion last season. In the 2012–2013 theater season — the most recent year for which data is available — some 45 touring Broadway shows performed for more than 14 million theatergoers, contributing almost $3.2 billion to the U.S. economy.

“Broadway has a ripple effect through the rest of the country. If Broadway’s booming, then the touring houses are booming. It’s one of our greatest exports, in my opinion. And that business has been growing tremendously over the last 10, 20 years — U.S.-created Broadway entertainment going everywhere from South Korea to Australia. Russia, Sweden and all these countries,” said Davenport.

“It’s a huge business and I think they finally said, ‘Wow, this is significant and we need to treat them with respect and to make sure that people like me still do it.’ It gets harder and harder to produce on Broadway. Every year, it gets just a wee bit harder,” he added. “I’m glad people are starting to say, ‘We can’t lose this business.’”

Host Neil Patrick Harris welcomes a Kanye moment at the Oscars

Neil Patrick Harris might use his job as Oscar host as a way to meet his favorite stars.

“I have, essentially, an all-access pass to the theater,” Harris said during a recent interview. “So I love being able to stand there and say hello to people I’ve never met before. I’m very easily star struck, so it’ll be very exciting to shake hands with celebrities.”

Harris has hosted the Emmys twice and the Tony Awards four times — and has won both awards. On Sunday, he takes on his first Oscar show. The multitalented entertainer took a few minutes between rehearsals to talk with The Associated Press about his plans for the big night.

AP: How is preparing to host the Oscars different from the Tonys or Emmys?

Harris: I want to make sure my content is inclusive of everyone watching, and more people watch the Oscars than any other awards show probably combined. I have more filters probably, in terms of content…  The Oscars — it’s ritual for many people. They see it every single year, and all around the world. So I want to be a little classier and try to be a bit more mainstream while trying to maintain a wink and a nod to those in the know.

AP: You watched all the past Oscar hosts as part of your research. Who stood out for you, and who would you most like to emulate?

Harris: My initial answer would probably be Billy Crystal. I was just the right age to be so taken by movies as an idea, and he had such joy and exuberance about the world of film… But as I’ve done more research, I’m more even impressed now by the older-school generation of Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, and their ability to stand in one place and make (people) feel comfortable just in their demeanor. Because it’s a very classy night — everyone’s in their tuxedoes and fancy dresses — so I’m hoping to make it feel like an A-list dinner party that you get to come and attend.

AP: How nervous are you?

Harris: Well, my job as host is to not be nervous when the show is happening. But I think, in life, being nervous about something that’s forthcoming is very helpful, whether it’s an awards show or a family gathering or a job interview. If you’re too calm and confident, then I think you aren’t executing to the best of your ability. So I try not to let nerves get the best of me, but I welcome them because it tends to fuel me to try harder.

AP: What are you most excited about for the evening?

Harris: I’m hoping that we come in just under five hours. If we can beat that mark, then I feel like it’s a success.

AP: Have you prepared for the possibility of Kanye West coming onstage?

Harris: I think the security at “Saturday Night Live” is still holding him in his seat there from last (week’s) show. So, fingers crossed, he’s detained in New York City. No, nothing would make me happier than something as random as that, as Kanye West deciding to participate in the show in some way. That’s why you want to watch the Oscars. We hope for things to happen that you’ll only experience by watching it… The crazier the better, as far as I’m concerned.

What makes an Oscarcast click? Will it click this year?

What are TV viewers seeking from their annual Oscar fix? The same thing they want from movies: drama, comedy, sex, slapstick, glamour and romance.

Of course, no single movie can do all that. No wonder the perfect Oscarcast is an impossible dream. No wonder so many previous Oscarcasts failed to measure up.

A perfect broadcast would include:

• Roberto Benigni scrambling over auditorium seats to claim his trophy (1998).

• An onstage streaker (1974).

• Cher in a collection of outrageous get-ups.

• A rematch between 2008 rivals James Cameron and ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow.

• That deliciously awful 1988 musical number with Rob Lowe and “Snow White.”

• More of Jack Palance’s one-armed pushups from beyond the grave.

• Plus the stirring acceptance speech by Halle Berry in 2002.

Not gonna happen.

We’ll just have to make do when the 87th annual Academy Awards show airs Sunday, Feb. 22, at 8 p.m. EST on ABC. Besides counter-programming on other networks, here’s what the Oscarcast is up against this year:

SURE SHOT

Everyone loves a blockbuster or two landing best-picture nods. It gets people talking and tuning it. But this year, big hits like “Interstellar” and “The Lego Movie” were snubbed, with the nominees almost uniformly “small” pictures — with the exception, of course, of “American Sniper,” whose box-office firepower in recent weeks has caught everyone off guard and triggered hero-or-killer disputes about its protagonist.

Even so, the favorites appear to be “Birdman” and “Boyhood,” both terrific films that may not be such conversation starters. To handicap their Oscar chances with your friends, you first have to find someone else who has seen them.

WHITER SHADE OF PALE

Procol Harum should be named this year’s Oscar house band.  As you may have noticed, there’s not much diversity among the nominees. Will the contenders’ pallor cast a pall on viewership, or will the uproar over the Academy’s single-mindedness prod movie fans to tune in and witness what they see as Oscar’s sins of omission?

IS THE HOST TOAST?

Neil Patrick Harris is so talented and versatile other entertainers would probably endorse slapping a restraining order on him. Meanwhile, viewers clearly love him, and why wouldn’t they? On the other hand, he’s hosted the Tonys four times and the Emmys twice. Isn’t there someone else out there, maybe with new tricks up his or her sleeve, who could shake things up beyond Harris’ dependable excellence?

PRONOUNCIATION GUIDE

Nothing against the nominated directors, honest! But overall, these guys — no matter how admired and acclaimed —aren’t household names. Not yet, anyway. Here’s hoping that John Travolta (who already mangled Idina Menzel’s name on last year’s Oscarcast) isn’t the presenter.

GETTING IN THE ACT

Maybe a new way of watching the Oscars calls for a new kind of Oscarcast. Tom O’Neil, editor of the awards prediction website GoldDerby.com, thinks so.

“It used to be that viewership was tied to the popularity of the films in contention,” he says. “But there’s been a dramatic shift in the last few years since social media has started to matter.”

Now the Oscarcast, like lots of TV fare, is being fortified with a second screen enabling the viewer to participate, not just sit back and watch. This could signal a change in what draws viewers to the show and keeps them there.

“Everybody wants to watch,” says O’Neil, “then tweet to their friends what they’re thinking. That changes everything.”

Last year’s broadcast had a landmark moment when host Ellen DeGeneres arranged a all-star selfie. Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were among the A-listers crowding into the frame. DeGeneres then asked viewers (of which there were 43 million, the most for the Oscarcast in a decade) to help her set a retweet record. Legions quickly complied, sharing the photo throughout cyberspace and even briefly crashing Twitter.

Count on similar give-and-take Sunday night, says O’Neil, who offers his recipe for what a digital-age Oscarcast should be striving for.

“It doesn’t have to be oh-my-God-amazing,” he proposes. “It has to be an engaging, interactive experience.” And without the customary big-movie lures, “this is the year we may find out for sure if that’s true or not.”

Neil Patrick Harris to host Oscars

Neil Patrick Harris will host the 87th Oscar show live on ABC TV on Feb. 22, 2015.

Harris will follow in the footsteps of Ellen DeGeneres, who hosted the 2014 event on March 2, drawing the biggest Oscar viewership in 14 years, according to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science. An average audience of 45.4 million tuned in to watch DeGeneres, despite calls for boycotts from Republican evangelicals due to DeGeneres’ sexual orientation.

Harris, who has a supporting role in the current hit film Gone Girl, has previously appeared on the Academy Awards show, but February will mark his first time as host. Better known for his work on TV and Broadway, Harris has hosted both the Tony Awards and the Emmys. He’s won five Emmys, and earlier this year he took home a Tony for best lead in a musical for his role in ”Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” 

Harris is the first out gay man ever selected to host the industry’s most watched celebration of itself. With his strong background in musical theater, industry insiders expect his style to reflect that of Hugh Jackman, complete with a song-and-dance number mocking the year’s cinematic blockbusters and nominees.

Harris married his longtime other half David Burtka early this fall in Italy. The two are parents to twins Gideon and Harper.

Neil Patrick Harris and Sting to perform at Tonys

Neil Patrick Harris, Sting, Idina Menzel, Alan Cumming and Sutton Foster — as well as the teaming up of Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Fantasia — will perform at the Tony Awards on June 8.

Producers announced a music-heavy lineup that includes all the best new musical nominees — “Aladdin,” “After Midnight,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” — and some overlooked ones, including “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Rocky” and “If/Then.” Three revivals — “Les Miserables,” “Violet” and Cumming’s “Cabaret” — will also be featured.

Sting will perform a song from his Broadway-bound musical, “The Last Ship.”

Harris, in the past a winning host, will return to sing a song from his “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” in which he plays a German male transsexual rock singer. He together with a lascivious and edgy Cumming as “Cabaret” emcee may add some spice to the night.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast from Radio City Music Hall on CBS. Hugh Jackman will host.

Neil Patrick Harris crushes it in new production of ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’

It’s obvious from the first moments of the new Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch that star Neil Patrick Harris is doing something special. And it’s not just trying on a new role.

He is lowered to the stage in a jumpsuit and ferociously feathered blond wig and immediately begins the show’s first rock-punk song, getting down on all fours, grinding into the microphone stand or licking the guitarist’s strings.

The crowd inside of the Belasco Theatre, where the show opened April 21, loses its mind, and why not? “Thank you! Thank you, you’re so sweet,” Harris says. “I do love a warm hand on my entrance.”

Before our eyes, Harris is opening another chapter in his exceptional show business career with this 90-minute show and he simply crushes it, holding nothing back, softening no edges, making no nice.

The bravura performance has earned Harris a Tony nomination. The show received a total of eight.

Doogie Howser is long gone; the macho, tie-wearing Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother has left the building. That guy in The Smurfs film franchise is nowhere to be found, especially not strutting around in a pair of gold stilettos.

Harris plays Hedwig, a transgender East German performer who explains her tortured path from Berlin to a mobile home in Kansas to New York. Along the way, she has lost a piece of her manhood (the remainder is the rest of the show’s title.)

The show has a renovated book by John Cameron Mitchell — who also played the first Hedwig — and songs by Stephen Trask that straddle the line between rock ‘n’ roll and traditional musical theater. A cult off-Broadway hit in 1998, Hedwig led to a 2001 feature film and has seemingly been waiting for Harris ever since.

Director Michael Mayer has been twice blessed. He has an undervalued score — some of the 10 songs here like “Wicked Little Town,” “Origin of Love” and “Wig in a Box” deserve to be on iPods everywhere — and a stunning leading man who is willing to eat cigarettes and lick the stage (“Tastes like Kathy Griffin,” he comments after putting tongue to wood).

Mayer harnesses both beautifully, allowing Harris in a jean miniskirt to explore his natural exuberance but keeping the show about Hedwig, a feisty piece of show business flotsam or, as she admits, an “internationally ignored song stylist.” Harris sings with real feeling, whether it’s a torch song on a stool while dressed in a little cocktail dress or rocking out a head-banging tune by attacking the scenery.

Mitchell may not be Hedwig anymore, but he has given Harris new dialogue perfectly suited to the new star. There are digs at the ultra-hip Jane Hotel in New York, John Mayer and dating site ChristianMingle, as well as a new recurring joke about Broadway itself: Hedwig makes fun of the fictional Hurt Locker: the Musical, which “opened last night and closed at intermission.” (Not to worry, old jokes like the fragrance “Atrocity By Hedwig” are still there.)

Other updates include some great, trippy projections by Benjamin Pearcy and a set by Julian Crouch that features a rusting car, front and center onstage, plus a fabulous grid of wig mannequins.

The five-piece rock band is headed by Lena Hall, a Broadway veteran who also, appropriately, leads the band The Deafening. In drag most of the night, Hall shows musical versatility and comic chops.

But it will come as no surprise that while Hall has an understudy, Harris does not. And that’s perfectly right: Rarely does a role fit a performer so well. Harris is funny, twisted, poignant, outrageous, bizarre, silly and very, very human.

Entertainment round-up for Feb. 20 | From Smithsonian exhibit of ‘cool’ to winner of Milwaukee public art installation


National

Smithsonian exhibit traces the meaning of ‘cool’

A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery examines how the idea of “cool” permeates American culture. On display are 100 photographs of people who defined cool as a word for rebellion, self-expression, charisma, edge and mystery. The 100 who made the cut, trimmed down from a list of 500 names, include musicians, actors, athletes, comedians, activists and writers. At the origins of cool, a term originally born in 1940s era jazz culture, are entertainers such as Fred Astaire and Billie Holiday. The “granddaddies of cool” include Walt Whitman and Frederick Douglass. More recent examples of cool include Marlon Brando and Madonna, counterculture rebels Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol and present-day torchbearers Jay-Z and Jon Stewart.

The exhibit runs in Washington, D.C. through Sept. 7.

HLN hopes to rebrand as TV for the social media generation

CNN spin-off HLN has embarked on plans to reformat its programming as a TV gathering place for social media users. In a departure from its current format, a traditional talk-TV channel, HLN will curate news, trending topics and viral content from all media platforms. The first salvo will be the syndicated Right This Minute, an hourlong show that spotlights emerging Web videos that will air at 10 p.m. Eastern time. The network will subsequently begin incorporating this social media format into existing programs, including Morning Express, News Now, Nancy Grace and Dr. Drew on Call.

Hugh Jackman to host Tony Awards

Producers of the annual telecast celebrating the best of Broadway announced Feb. 11 that Hugh Jackman will serve as the host for the 68th Tony Awards on June 8 at Radio City Music Hall. This will mark Jackman’s fourth time hosting the event. The ceremony will honor plays and musicals that open on Broadway before April 24, with nominations to be announced on April 29.

Last year’s host, Neil Patrick Harris, will be onstage this spring starring in a new production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Biden books ‘Late Night’ debut

Seth Meyers has scored a powerful guest for his first episode of Late Night: Vice President Joe Biden. The vice president’s office announced Biden will be one of Meyers’ guests on the Feb. 24 premiere. A Saturday Night Live alumnus, Meyers is taking over the show from Jimmy Fallon, the new host of NBC’s The Tonight Show. Fallon has executive guest of his own for his first week — first lady Michelle Obama, who will appear on Feb. 20.

Game over for ‘Flappy Bird’

The viral game sensation “Flappy Bird” vanished from the App Store and Google Play this month after its young Vietnamese creator said it had “ruined his life.” The mobile game, a simple yet maddening challenge that tested players to fly a tiny bird through an obstacle course of pipes, was downloaded more than 50 million times from Apple’s App Store. Creator Nguyen Ha Dong told tech website The Verge that the game was making $50,000 a day in advertising revenue. Several blogs speculated that the game’s deletion stemmed either from allegations that fake accounts had boosted the game’s popularity or the original game breached another gamemaker’s copyright. Dong denied the latter allegation on Twitter.

Users who had downloaded the game can continue playing it on their devices, but its removal from Apple and Android stores means new players will not be able to join the fun.

Lady Gaga shoots video at Hearst Castle

The famous Hearst Castle on the California coast has become a film site for Lady Gaga’s latest big-budget music video. According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, filming was taking place at the castle’s indoor blue-and-gold tiled Roman Pool and the outdoor Neptune Pool. Shoots at the castle, a historical landmark constructed for the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, are rare, as the site is now more commonly visited by tourists. Gaga donated $250,000 to the Hearst Castle Foundation and underwrote a $25,000 water supply study prior to filming. She also will make a public service announcement for water conservation and a short feature on the castle.

Which song from her ARTPOP is getting the Gaga video treatment is still unclear, although it is likely to be “Gypsy.”

Local

NEWaukee and ART Milwaukee merge

Milwaukee’s young professional organization NEWaukee and arts development group ART Milwaukee announced earlier this month that they will be combining into one organization and retiring the ART Milwaukee brand. The change is largely cosmetic, as ART Milwaukee was originally an offshoot of NEWaukee and the groups shared several staff members. According to the ART Milwaukee website, the merger will allow “ART Milwaukee’s initiatives and the opportunities for Milwaukee’s creative class (to) grow exponentially.”

The merger officially took place at NEWaukee’s fifth birthday party on Feb. 13.

Rep gets NEA Grant to support ‘History of Invulnerability’

The Milwaukee Rep is among the 895 nonprofit organizations awarded an Art Works grant by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Rep’s $20,000 grant supports its upcoming production of The History of Invulnerability, a play about Jerry Siegel, the man who invented Superman. The production will mark only the third in the play’s history, and the Rep will use the grant to fund state-of-the-art projection systems to enhance the experience. 

“The artistic and technical challenges of this production demand an added level of financial support, so (the NEA’s) grant will enhance the onstage experience significantly,” said managing director Chad Bauman.

The NEA provided $23.4 million in Art Works grant funding this year.

Ex Fabula names Megan McGee first executive director

Ex Fabula, the Milwaukee-based nonprofit committed to strengthening community bonds through the art of storytelling, announced Feb. 12 that co-founder Megan McGee would become the group’s first executive director.

McGee was an instrumental part in helping Ex Fabula grow over the past five years from a small collaboration of local theater and storytelling enthusiasts to a community staple that now hosts monthly storytelling events, a regular iTunes podcast, a community radio show on WMSE and storytelling workshops.

McGee is known locally for her work as a member of the sketch comedy group Broadminded and for involvement with the theater community.

Milwaukee artist Ray Chi selected for East Side Library commission

The Milwaukee Public Library announced on Feb. 7 that multimedia artist Ray Chi would be awarded the commission for a public art installation at the library’s new East Branch, still under construction at 1910 E. North Ave.

Chi’s work will take the form of three “interventions” — described as “rack, serpent, and boulder” — that will transform three elements of the urban landscape: a bike rack, a winding patch of grass and the concrete walkway.

Chi, an associate lecturer at UWM, has lived in the city for 16 years, and recently received a 2013 Nohl Fellowship grant.

His proposal was the community favorite, according to a survey conducted by MPL.

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Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka are having twins

Neil Patrick Harris

According to an article in OnTop Magazine, Neil Patrick Harris announced that he and his partner, David Burtka, are expecting twins the way this modern world prefers: through Twitter.

His Tweet said:

“So, get this: David and I are expecting twins this fall. We’re super excited/nervous/thrilled. Hoping the press can respect our privacy…”

Harris and Burtka entered into a domestic partnership in 2004, according to OnTop, but Harris didn’t publicly come out until 2008 when he was hounded into doing so by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. Harris has said that he has known he was gay since he was 14.

Read the full story here: Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka To Be Gay Dads.

Lavender on the Walk of Fame

Openly gay celebrities Neil Patrick Harris and Melissa Etheridge are getting stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next year. Harris, the star of “How I Met Your Mother,” is in a domestic partnership with celebrity chef David Burtka. Grammy-winning singer Melissa Etheridge, who appears at The Riverside in Milwaukee on Aug. 11, was recently in the news for her split with partner Tammy Lynn Michaels Etheridge. Other Walk of Fame inductees in 2011 will include Reese Witherspoon, Penelope Cruz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tina Fey, Danny DeVito, The Go-Go’s, Rascal Flatts and Will.i.am., Oprah Winfrey, the Muppets and Buddy Holly.