‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards

This image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown shows the cast in
This image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown shows the cast in "Moulin Rouge! The Musical." (Matthew Murphy/Boneau/Bryan-Brown via AP)
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Updated 27 September 2021

‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards

‘Moulin Rouge! The Musical’ leads early at the Tony Awards
  • Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction
  • Broadway favorite Danny Burstein won a featured acting Tony

NEW YORK: “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie, took an early lead at the Tony Awards, earning seven trophies at the halfway point.
The pandemic-delayed telecast kicked off with an energetic performance of “You Can’t Stop The Beat” from the original Broadway cast of “Hairspray!”
The optimistic number was performed for a masked and appreciative audience at a packed Winter Garden Theatre. Host Audra McDonald got a standing ovation when she took the stage. “You can’t stop the beat. The heart of New York City!” she said.
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical” won for scenic design, costume, lighting, sound design, orchestrations and a featured acting Tony for Broadway favorite Danny Burstein. Sonya Tayeh won for choreography on her Broadway debut.

Alex Timbers won the trophy for best direction of a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical.”
It is Timbers’ first Tony. The show is about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub, updated with tunes like “Single Ladies” and “Firework” alongside the big hit “Lady Marmalade.”
Timbers has been nominated twice before, for directing “Peter and the Starcatcher” in 2012 and directing and writing “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.” He has been a production consultant on David Byrne’s “American Utopia,” directed “Rocky” and “The Pee-wee Herman Show” and is directing “Beetlejuice” for the second time next spring.
He picked up a Lucille Lortel Award for directing the off-Broadway production of “Here Lies Love” and went on to direct the show at London’s National Theatre. Other notable off-Broadway credits include the “Love’s Labour’s Lost” in Central Park and the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2016 revival of “The Robber Bridegroom.”
For the Tony, he beat Phyllida Lloyd of “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical” and Diane Paulus of “Jagged Little Pill.”
Burstein, who won for featured actor in a musical for “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” thanked the Broadway community for supporting him after the death of his wife, Rebecca Luker, ReDavid Alan Grier won featured actor in a play for his role in a “A Soldier’s Play.” “To my other nominees: Tough banana, I won,” he said.
Lois Smith won her first Tony for best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play for “The Inheritance.” And Lauren Patten edged out her co-stars from “Jagged Little Pill” to win the award for best featured actress in a musical.
“A Christmas Carol” was cleaning up with five technical awards: scenic design of a play, costumes, lighting, sound design and score. No one from the production was on hand to accept the awards.
Sunday’s show has been expanded from its typical three hours to four, with McDonald handing out Tonys for the first two hours and Leslie Odom Jr. hosting a “Broadway’s Back!” celebration for the second half, including the awarding of the top three trophies — best play revival, best play and best musical.
While other entertainment industries like TV and film found ways to restart during the pandemic, Broadway was unable until now due to financial and physical impediments. The lifting of all capacity restrictions was crucial to any reopening since Broadway economics demand full venue capacity.
The sobering musical “Jagged Little Pill,” which plumbs Alanis Morissette’s 1995 breakthrough album to tell a story of an American family spiraling out of control, goes into the night with a leading 15 Tony nominations.
Nipping on its heels is “Moulin Rouge!,” a jukebox adaptation of Baz Luhrmann’s hyperactive 2001 movie about the goings-on in a turn-of-the-century Parisian nightclub that has 14 nods.
“Slave Play,” Jeremy O. Harris’ ground-breaking, bracing work that mixes race, sex, taboo desires and class, earned a dozen nominations, making it the most nominated play in Tony history.
Other shows to keep an eye on are “The Inheritance” by Matthew Lopez, which nabbed 11 nominations. It’s a two-part, seven-hour epic that uses “Howards End” as a starting point for a play that looks at gay life in the early 21st century. And “Tina — The Tina Turner Musical,” which tells the rock icon’s life with songs that include “Let’s Stay Together” and “Proud Mary,” earned 12 nods.
This season’s nominations were pulled from just 18 eligible plays and musicals from the 2019-2020 season, a fraction of the 34 shows the previous season. During most years, there are 26 competitive categories. This year there are 25 with several depleted ones. But theater insiders think an awards show is even more vital now.
“I would argue it’s more important than ever, in a way,” said James Corden, who hosted the Tonys in 2016. “If there’s a year that we should ever celebrate them, it’s this year, where people’s entire lives have just been ripped away and turned upside down.”
Some intriguing races include whether Karen Olivo wins best leading actress in a musical, despite quitting her show, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” in frustration with Broadway.
Six-time Tony-winner McDonald is not just a host. She’s up for best actress award in a play, which, if she won, would give her seven awards, breaking her own record for the most Tonys won by a performer. And something bizarre has to happen to deny Aaron Tveit winning for best leading actor in a musical; he’s the only person nominated in the category. Voting for the nominees was done in March.
The last Tony Awards ceremony was held in 2019. The virus forced Broadway theaters to abruptly close on March 12, 2020, knocking out all shows and scrambling the spring season. Several have restarted, including the so-called big three of “Wicked,” “Hamilton” and “The Lion King.”
“Jagged Little Pill” goes into the telecast on the defensive, dogged by two controversies.
A former cast member, Nora Schell, a Black nonbinary actor who made their Broadway debut in the chorus in 2019, posted a statement this week on social media describing repeated instances early in the run of the show in which they were “intimidated, coerced, and forced by multiple higher ups to put off critical and necessary surgery to remove growths from my vagina that were making me anemic.”
“Jagged Little Pill” producers — saying they are “deeply troubled” by the claims — have hired an independent investigator, and the union Actors Equity Association said Sunday it was also commissioning “a thorough, independent investigation” of the show’s workplace.
In another controversy, the show’s producers have apologized to fans for changing a character from gender-nonconforming to cisgender female after the show moved from Boston to Broadway.
Two original stars — Celia Rose Gooding and Antonio Cipriano — have announced that they are leaving after Sunday’s performance, with Cipriano on Sunday citing “the harm that many trans + non-binary, and all marginalized folks, in-stage cast members and off have endured.” He wrote he took responsibility “for being part of the cause harmed.”

 


Miss Universe UAE reveals its first 15 finalists

Miss Universe UAE reveals its first 15 finalists
Updated 22 October 2021

Miss Universe UAE reveals its first 15 finalists

Miss Universe UAE reveals its first 15 finalists

DUBAI: Miss Universe UAE has unveiled 15 out of the 30 finalists set to compete in the inaugural beauty pageant.

Organizers took to social media on Thursday to reveal the names of the first contestants, along with their ages and where they live.

The finalists from Dubai include Dilnoza, 23, Alma, Emilia, Natalia, and Anita, all 24, 25-year-olds Sara and Reem, Bahar and Victoria, 26, Franki, 27, and Anna and Asher, 28.

Jasmin, 22, and Razan, 28, from Abu Dhabi, will compete in the next stage. The one contestant from Sharjah was named as Marwa, 23.

Fifteen contestants, out of the 30 models, will be selected on Nov. 5 and the Miss Universe UAE winner will be announced on Nov. 7 at an event at Dubai’s La Perle.

For Thursday’s announcement, the models were all dressed in covered gowns by Dubai-based label Amato Couture.

On Wednesday, pageant organizers revealed that former Miss Lebanon Nadine Nassib Njeim would be on the jury panel for the event.

In a video shared on the organization’s Instagram page, the 37-year-old Lebanese actress said: “I am very happy and honored to announce that I will be part of the official jury of Miss Universe UAE.”

To join the pageant, participants had to be aged between 18 and 28, and live in the UAE.

The committee includes founder and chief executive of Dubai’s Yugen Events, Josh Yugen, Dubai-based fashion designer Furne Amato, former British-Filipino beauty queen Maggie Wilson, philanthropist Alaf Meky, humanitarian Zel Ali, and general manager of Emaar, Sharihan Al-Mashary.

To adhere to the region’s culture, organizers revealed at a recent press conference that the swimwear segment would be eliminated from the competition. The event will feature contestants giving a personal statement and displays of couture activewear and evening gowns.

Miss Universe, which began in 1952, is the world’s biggest pageant. It was previously owned by former US president, Donald Trump.


IMA in Paris celebrates Lebanon’s artistic talent in new exhibition

IMA in Paris celebrates Lebanon’s artistic talent in new exhibition
Updated 22 October 2021

IMA in Paris celebrates Lebanon’s artistic talent in new exhibition

IMA in Paris celebrates Lebanon’s artistic talent in new exhibition
  • Highlights from ‘Lights of Lebanon,’ which presents more than 100 works from 55 artists in a show of solidarity with the Lebanese people

DUBAI: The Insitut du Monde Arabe in Paris is one of Europe’s most important repositories of Arab art and culture. In its latest exhibition, “Lights of Lebanon,” the institute “celebrates the prodigious creativity of modern and contemporary artists from Lebanon and its diasporas.”

The exhibition is split into three periods, running in reverse chronological order: 2005 to the present day (“Lebanon, a country of never-ending  reconstructions”), 1975-2005 (“The somber years”), and 1943 to 1975 (“The Golden Age”).

“What has always been the strength of the Lebanese … is that the fragility of their state never stopped them from moving forward, from building, even if they lived in constant risk. In short, they live in the present, without obscuring personal and collective memory,” the IMA’s museum curator Eric Delpont says in the show catalogue. “It seems to me that in the West, especially in Europe, we couldn’t do this, because we need a sense of security.”

Many of the works on display were donated by the prolific collectors of Arab art Claude and France Lemand. It was Claude who came up with the title of the show, explaining that he sees artists as the “Lights of Lebanon.”

“I mean above all those who have made Beirut the city of light of the East, who have shone at all times of its tormented history, even if over the decades, the dominant clans — who defend only their interests — have plunged Lebanon into political, economic, financial, social, health and even cultural chaos,” he says in the catalogue. “But Lebanon remains a country from which the light shines.”

Here, Arab News presents some highlights from the exhibition, which Lemand describes as just “just a drop in the ocean, as far as this devastated country is concerned, but at least we have the satisfaction of having motivated and even inspired many artists, of all generations.”

Zena Assi

‘Holding On By A Thread’

Assi is one of several artists from the diaspora featured in the exhibition. Claude Lemand felt it important to stress that the show was dedicated to “all those who have links with the country” and believes the fact that the diaspora is so widespread shows that “Lebanon is not just Lebanon; it goes far beyond the small country and its small population and it echoes throughout the world.”

Assi is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in London. This incredibly detailed 2012 piece is typical of her works, which — the exhibition brochure explains — are “punctuated with visual references to eastern cities, particularly Beirut, and the difficulties endured by migrants from different backgrounds – anonymous tightrope walkers clinging onto life by a thread. Her fragmented cities reflect the migratory and urban violence, and the violence in Beirut. Bundles of memories, identity-based burdens, and emotional baggage, she describes their wanderings in cities that are represented as a kaleidoscope of symbols and codes: graffiti on the walls, billboards, contemporary souks, and luxury goods.”

Shaffic Abboud

‘Cinema Christine’

Abboud is widely regarded as one of the — if not the — most important modern Lebanese artists. He is best known for his paintings, several of which feature in the “Lights of Lebanon” exhibition, and particularly for his richly textured abstract works, but this piece is something of a curio. It was created in 1964 for his daughter Christine and was inspired by the picture boxes of itinerant storytellers who would travel from village to village, enthralling the children. “Cinema Christine” is a working model of such a box, complete with magic lamp and narrative scrolls.

Ayman Baalbaki

‘The End’

Baalbaki’s bleak dystopian image was selected to open the show — presumably a deliberate statement that Lebanon has now reached rock bottom (perhaps tempered with the hope that, from such a point, the only way is up). The artist has spent much of his career exploring the numerous conflicts in the region through his art — his images of veiled fighters have proved particularly popular. This piece, created over the last five years, is less confrontational but equally powerful.

Etel Adnan

‘Al-Sayyab, The Lost Mother and Child’

The much-revered artist, writer and poet is still prolific today, aged 96, and is widely regarded as Lebanon’s greatest female artist. She is best known for her colorful impressionist landscapes, but has described her artist books (or ‘leporellos’) such as this one as “particularly important” parts of her portfolio. In the leporellos, inspired by Japanese folding books, Adnan complements her writing with drawings in ink and watercolor. “I avoided using traditional calligraphy, although it is wonderful, to highlight my personal writing, which, in its very imperfection, brings the person writing into the work,” she states in the show catalogue, which goes on to explain that Adnan uses the horizontal, foldable format to “create works that can be extended into space — ‘a liberation of the text and images.’”

Fatima El-Hajj

‘Promenade’

El-Hajj’s work is displayed in the second part of the exhibition (“The somber age”), but — as Claude Lemand explains in the catalogue — her vibrant work can be seen as defiance in the face of the violence and destruction that surrounded her as she began her artistic career around the time that the Civil War broke out in the mid-Seventies. “She experienced the entire civil war and all the wars and misfortunes that followed; she still suffers in body and soul, but she has never painted war scenes or scenes of destruction,” he says. “For her, painting is eternal; she’s developed thinking and a world that transcends war and death.”


Can ROKA deliver the goods in Riyadh?

Can ROKA deliver the goods in Riyadh?
Updated 22 October 2021

Can ROKA deliver the goods in Riyadh?

Can ROKA deliver the goods in Riyadh?
  • We see if the award-winning Japanese restaurant lives up to the hype

RIYADH: When ROKA opened its doors in downtown Riyadh at the end of July, it was an immediate hit with local food lovers. So much so that reservations needed to be made well in advance.

Now that the hullabaloo around the launch has died down a little, it’s easier to get a spot, but ROKA is proving to be more than a flash in the pan. The Japanese restaurant has won plenty of awards in its home city of London, and its first international branch — which opened in Dubai last year — demonstrated the chain’s eagerness to maintain those high standards. Its latest offering, located in the heart of the Saudi capital, is following suit.

First impressions are good. The interior’s upscale rustic Japanese style and classy lighting suggest an easy, unpretentious sophistication, while its scale — seating for up to 243 guests — shows a confident ambition.

The interior’s upscale rustic Japanese style and classy lighting suggest an easy, unpretentious sophistication, while its scale — seating for up to 243 guests — shows a confident ambition. (Supplied)

The serving staff were unfailingly excellent; clearly knowledgeable about the food and comfortable recommending a tailored selection based on individual preferences.

Great service and nice decor are all well and good, but the most important ingredient in ROKA’s success is, of course, the menu.

Starting with the mocktails, we sampled nearly every option. One highlight was the Green Yoda — a blend of matcha green tea, passion fruit and a bright burst of lemon; perfect as a palate refresher between courses.

The lamb cutlets with Korean spices and sesame cucumber is one of the stars of the grilled menu. (Supplied)

But matcha is an acquired taste. If you’ve yet to acquire it, we’d recommend the White Lotus, a tempting mix of dragon fruit, lychee, strawberry and yuzu that goes well with any meal. We didn’t enjoy the Yuzuki as much, even though it came highly recommended by the ROKA team. It tasted somehow watered down and was quite bland.

Any disappointment at the Yuzuki was quickly tempered by the yellowtail sashimi and yuzu-truffle dressing that got our dinner started with a bang. The earthy truffle flavors were the perfect complement to the subtle sweetness of the melt-in-your-mouth fish — amplifying its natural flavors while preserving the integrity of its cut.

The sweet potato tempura and truffle sauce was less of a hit. The presentation — as with every dish — was superb, but the taste was underwhelming and lacked the punch we were expecting.

ROKA opened its doors in downtown Riyadh at the end of July. (Supplied)

We were on safer ground with the king crab, black cod and prawn dumplings with roasted chili dressing, which deserves its tag as one of ROKA’s signature dishes. The exterior of the dumpling had been seared to create a satisfying layer of crunch packed with an array of sweet seafood flavors.

For our maki rolls, we selected the wagyu tartare maki with karashi mustard, along with the crispy prawn and avocado maki with dark sweet soy. Both were fantastic, and we’d list them as must-try options.

The evening’s standout dish, though, was the black cod marinated in yuzu miso and served with pickled radish. The cod’s crunchy exterior and sweet creamy center matched with the tang of the yuzu miso is a perfect combination, making this truly the best cod we’ve tasted in Riyadh. Pair it with ROKA’s baked potato with yuzu cream and chives served tableside to make it even better.

ROKA’s offers baked potato with yuzu cream and chives. (Supplied)

If you’re not a seafood fan, then go for the Robata meat section, which offers a wide selection cooked live at the grilling station. (The restaurant is famed for its Robatayaki cooking method — the grilling technique that gives the meat a satisfying charred flavor.) Our only meat selection was the lamb cutlets with Korean spices and sesame cucumber. Apparently this is one of the stars of the grilled menu, but we found it fell a bit short of ROKA’s general high standards. The plating was once again beautiful — the lamb chops delicately balanced against each other — but the flavors were unbalanced, with the disappointing spice blend overpowering the tenderness of the lamb and leaving little room for flavors to be infused from the grill.

But our night ended on a high note with the yoghurt and almond cake. It’s a favorite on the Dubai branch’s menu and we can see why. The cake’s hard crust hides a warm, fluffy almond sponge that is topped with a mango toffee sauce and a dollop of caramel miso ice cream. It’s essentially an upscale, deconstructed mango cobbler, and it’s delicious; a perfect blend of warm, comforting flavors that brought our dinner to a very satisfying end.

Overall, ROKA justified its reputation as one of Riyadh’s most exciting new eateries.


Review: Disney’s new anthology series ‘Just Beyond’ is just right for teen audiences

Review: Disney’s new anthology series ‘Just Beyond’ is just right for teen audiences
Updated 22 October 2021

Review: Disney’s new anthology series ‘Just Beyond’ is just right for teen audiences

Review: Disney’s new anthology series ‘Just Beyond’ is just right for teen audiences
  • Teen horror show relies on earnest allegories and family-friendly scares

LONDON: Teen horror is a surprisingly tricky thing to get right. Go to far with the ‘horror’ and it makes it unsuitable for teen audiences. Go to far with the ‘teen’ and it makes it a tough sell for anyone else. In an attempt to tread this finest of lines, Disney+ has opted to adapt the works of prolific teen-horror writer R. L. Stine into a new, eight-part anthology series, featuring standalone episodes and a cast of fresh young actors.

 When a young girl realizes that the monster stalking her (“My Monster”) is created by her anxiety following her parents’ divorce, she discovers it only chases her if she keeps running. (Supplied)

“Just Beyond” covers a lot of ground in those eight episodes — from aliens and monsters to ghosts and alternate universes. Each episode stays unerringly on the right side of family-friendly, with just the occasional jump scare and a tendency to wrap every episode up with a nice, narrative bow by the time the credits roll. Fans of Stine’s books and graphic novels will find a lot to like in “Just Beyond”.

A grieving son takes his widowed mother for granted (“The Treehouse”) until a trip to an alternate dimension teaches him to appreciate that they both miss his dad. You get the idea. (Supplied)

Where the series really finds its feet is during its more allegorical moments. In among the stories of witches and ghouls are some heart-warming (yet still teen-friendly) parallels. When a young girl realizes that the monster stalking her (“My Monster”) is created by her anxiety following her parents’ divorce, she discovers it only chases her if she keeps running. A teenage witch tries to hide her gifts from her friends (“Which Witch”) until she realizes that they love her no matter what. A grieving son takes his widowed mother for granted (“The Treehouse”) until a trip to an alternate dimension teaches him to appreciate that they both miss his dad. You get the idea.

Some of the messages are a little heavy handed, and some of the performances a little over earnest. But though “Just Beyond” can be a tad on the nose, that’s probably what it’s going for. Parents, admittedly, might not find a huge amount to draw them in, but this show isn’t really for them, as the title of the first episode in the series makes clear. Its name? “Leave Them Kids Alone.”


What We Are Reading Today: Athens at the Margins by Nathan T. Arrington

What We Are Reading Today: Athens at the Margins by Nathan T.  Arrington
Updated 22 October 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Athens at the Margins by Nathan T. Arrington

What We Are Reading Today: Athens at the Margins by Nathan T.  Arrington

The seventh century BC in ancient Greece is referred to as the Orientalizing period because of the strong presence of Near Eastern elements in art and culture. Conventional narratives argue that goods and knowledge flowed from East to West through cosmopolitan elites. Rejecting this explanation, Athens at the Margins proposes a new narrative of the origins behind the style and its significance, investigating how material culture shaped the ways people and communities thought of themselves.
Athens and the region of Attica belonged to an interconnected Mediterranean, in which people, goods, and ideas moved in unexpected directions. Network thinking provides a way to conceive of this mobility, which generated a style of pottery that was heterogeneous and dynamic. Although the elite had power, they were unable to agree on the norms of conspicuous consumption and status display.