One of Broadway’s most celebrated performers and writers, Harvey Fierstein has won four Tony Awards. In 1982 he wrote TORCH SONG TRILOGY, a collection of three plays rendered in three acts over four hours and played the lead role, New Yorker Arnold Beckoff, a Jewish homosexual, drag queen and torch singer and his quest for true love and a family.
A ‘torch’ song is a sentimental love tune where the singer laments an unrequited or lost love. It opened on Broadway at the Little Theatre on 10 June 1982, winning both the Best Play and Best Actor in a Play Tony Awards for Harvey, who also reprised the role for the 1988 film adaption opposite Matthew Broderick and Anne Bancroft. While the distinctively gravel-voiced actor has appeared in a number of notable films and television shows, he is probably best remembered as Robin Williams’ character makeup artist, Uncle Frank Hillard in MRS DOUBTFIRE.
In 1984 he won the Tony for Best Book of a Musical for LA CAGE AUX FOLLES. Twenty-six years later he replaced Douglas Hodge in the lead role of ageing star Albin who plays drag queen Zaza in the 2010 Broadway revival. Harvey collected his fourth Tony for his performance as the mother Edna Turnblad in the musical HAIRSPRAY in 2004. He has also been nominated on three other occasions, for the NEWSIES (2012) and KINKY BOOTS (2013) books and Best Play for writing CASA VALENTINA (2014).
Harvey kindly signed this ‘Arnold’ sketch for me after I mailed it to his New York agency.
This year’s Academy Award nominations were announced on Monday and while Denzel Washington’s name wasn’t included this time he has had his fair share of Oscar success. His nine nominations include two wins for Best Supporting Actor as Private Silas Trip in the American Civil War drama GLORY (1989) and Best Actor for his role as corrupt detective Alonzo Harris in TRAINING DAY (2001).
In fact he has received a career total of 96 Award nominations, winning 39, which also includes three Golden Globes. His sole Tony success was for his performance as Troy Maxson, a former baseball player working as a waste collector and struggling to support his family in the revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play FENCES, which opened at the Cort Theatre on Broadway in April 2010 for a limited 13 week engagement. It received ten Tony nominations, winning three, including Best Revival. In 2016 he starred, directed and produced the film adaption, which earned him Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor, winning the Screen Actors Guild award.
Seven years ago Denzel attended the premiere of FLIGHT at London’s Empire Cinema in Leicester Square in which he played an airline pilot with a drinking problem, and yes, as per usual was Oscar nominated. I managed to get him to sign my FENCES sketch as he walked the red carpet, not an easy feat given his popularity.
Sonia herself has received the Producer of the Year Award on four occasions, the first to win three consecutively from 2015-2017 and again this year. In 2014 SFP made Oliver Award history, with the most wins, including New Play (CHIMERICA), Best New Musical (THE BOOK OF MORMAN), Best Play Revival Revival (GHOSTS), and Best Musical Revival (MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG). Three years later SFP and co-productions received an unprecedented 31 Olivier Award nominations, with 11 for the record-breaking HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, winning 9, the most ever for any production.
Last year Sonia was named Broadway Briefings Show Person of the Year and was featured in TIME magazine’s top 100 most influential people. She has also branched into television with the same success, winning two 2016 BAFTA Awards for the six-part mini-series adaption of Hilary Mantel’s WOLF HALL, which aired on BBC Two.
Sonia kindly signed my sketch for me at her London office.
As per tradition and our annual November wedding anniversary ritual, my wife and attended a Shakespearean stage offering. This year the Royal Shakespeare Company have taken up residency at London’s Barbican Theatre over the festive season, with three plays: AS YOU LIKE IT, MEASURE FOR MEASURE and THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, being performed in repertory. We chose the latter (because it was on the actual day of our anniversary).
Justin Audibert’s gender-flipped “landmark production” (Evening Standard) is a radical take on the Bards fierce and energetic comedy of gender, where 1590 Padua is reimagined as a matriarchal society with women in charge. Wealthy Bautista Minola is seeking to marry off her two sons, the sweet-tempered Bianco and the rebellious Katherine. Enter Claire Price as Petruchio. She’s after money and taming the headstrong Katherine (Joseph Arkley) is her spousal target. Yes, a women called Petruchio mistreating a man called Katherine. “Price is hugely watchable with a pleasingly dotty Queenie-from-Blackadder sort of vibe,” wrote Andrzej Lukowski in his TimeOut review.
Claire kindly signed this Petruchio sketch, which I left at the Barbican stage door.
Prominent American playwright David Mamet was in London earlier this year to direct his contentious dark comedy BITTER WHEAT at the Garrick Theatre. Based on the Harvey Weinstein scandal, which sparked the MeToo movement, it run from June to September, featuring John Malkovich’s return to the West End after thirty years, as Hollywood studio boss Barney Fein and his fall from power. David attracts frequent debate and controversy, and was once quoted, “Being a writer in Hollywood is like going to Hitler’s Eagle Nest with a great idea for a bar mitzvah.” Often described as the prime chronicler of the macho males and power struggles, his distinctive writing style, involving cynical, street-wise dialogue has become known as ‘Mamet speak.’ David’s 1983 play about four disparate real estate agents, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, which premiered at the National Theatre in London, won the Pulitzer Prize and the subsequent Broadway production was nominated for four Tony Awards, including Best Play. Four years later SPEED-THE-PLOW also won a nomination for Best Play.
David has written a number of major screenplays, including my favourite, THE VERDICT and WAG THE DOG, both Oscar and Golden Globe nominated. He also wrote the script for the 1992 film version of GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS.
David signed my portrait sketch as he arrived for the BITTER WHEAT press night at the GarrickTheatre.
One of the best films I have seen recently is Saul Dibb’s war drama JOURNEY’S END, based on R.C.Sherriff’s 1928 play. Released in 2017, it is the stage plays fifth film adaption. It follows a group of British soldiers awaiting their fate in an Aisne dugout under the leadership of a young officer Captain Stanhope during the Spring Offensive, a series of German attacks along the Western Front near the end of WWI.
Sam Claflin plays the boozy, brooding, self-loathing, belligerent Stanhope. Peter Bradshaw, in his four-star Guardian review said it is “expertly cast and really well acted:forthwright,powerful and heartfelt.” Sam was nominated for the 2018 Evening Standard Best Actor Award Film for his performance. He came to International prominence as Philip Swift in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES in 2011, followed by his role as Finnick Odair in THE HUNGER GAME film series (2013-2015). This year he joined the cast of the TV series PEAKY BLINDERS as Oswald Mosley.
Sam signed my sketch at the screening of his latest film, THE NIGHTINGALE before his Q&A at the Curzon Mayfair in London last week.
British actor Matt Smith made his name on the stage before becoming the youngest and eleventh incarnation of the Doctor (2010-2014) in the long-running BBC television series DOCTOR WHO, winning two National TV Awards and a BAFTA nomination. He has returned to the London boards in the revival of LUNGS alongside his THE CROWN co-star Claire Foy at the Old Vic. They play a nameless couple wrestling with the planet’s biggest dilemmas. While shopping in Ikea, he mentions the idea of having a baby which unleashes an absurd hour of verbal fireworks.
He made his West End debut playing Guy in the world premiere of the stage adaption of the dark comedy-drama SWIMMING WITH SHARKS at the Vaudeville Theatre in October 2007 opposite Christian Slater. A year later he won acclaim and an Evening Standard Award for his performance as Henry, an aspiring artist who left school to care for his mother in Polly Stenham’s THAT FACE at the Royal Court Theatre, before a West End transfer. The cast were nominated for an Olivier Award.
After leaving DOCTOR WHO, Matt returned to the stage in another world premiere. He played the sociopathic investment banker Patrick Bateman who embarks on a deadly journey as a Manhattan serial killer in Rupert Goold’s musical adaption of the 2000 film AMERICAN PSYCHO in the winter of 2013. The season sold out and was extended.
Matt kindly signed my drawing of him as Patrick Bateman, which I had been carrying around in my folder for the past six years, after a LUNGS rehearsal session at the Old Vic stage door.
Claire Foy has returned to the London stage for the first time after her acclaimed portrayal of Lady Macbeth opposite James McAvoy’s MACBETH at the Trafalgar Studios in 2013. She reunites with her THE CROWN on-screen husband Matt Smith in Matthew Warchus’s revival of Duncan MacMillian’s hilarious two-hander LUNGS at the Old Vic for a short run, which ends this Saturday. They play an unnamed couple freaking out over what to do with their lives in the face of imminent climate catastrophe.
After being nominated for a BAFTA for her performance as the ill-fated queen Anne Boleyn in the BBC television serial WOLF HALL (2015), Claire received further international recognition for her role as the young Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of Peter Morgan’s Netflix series THE CROWN opposite Matt, who played her consort, Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, winning a Golden Globe, an Emmy and two SAG Awards. She was also BAFTA nominated as she was for her performance as Neil Armstrong’s wife Janet in Damien Chazelle’s 2018 biopic FIRST MAN.
In his TimeOut review, Andrzej Lukowski wrote, “Claire Foy and Matt Smith are magnetic in this big stage outing.”
Claire kindly signed this sketch for me during rehearsals at the Old Vic.
Annette Bening has received four Academy Award nominations. Her first was for her supporting role as Myra Langtry in the new-noir crime drama THE GRIFTERS (1990). She also received a BAFTA nomination. Nine years later, she appeared as Carolyn Burnham in the Best Picture winner, AMERICAN BEAUTY, earning her second nom and first for Best Actress. She did win two SAG awards-one as Best Actress and the other as a member of the cast and collected the Best Actress BAFTA. Her third Oscar nomination was for her portrayal as the popular, but disillusioned theatre actress Julia Lambert in BEING JULIA (2004), winning a Golden Globe. Her last Academy recognition was for the 2010 comedy drama about a same-sex couple raising two teenagers, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT. Once again she won a Globe.
Many Marvel fans will know her as Supreme Intelligence and Mar-vell/Wendy Lawson in the CAPTAIN MARVEL films and was a guest at this years BFI London Film Festival, attending the Gala screening of her latest movie about the CIA’s post 9/11 detention and interrogation Programme, THE REPORT, in which she plays Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Annette has also been nominated for an Emmy for her portrayal of Jean Harris in the 2005 TV movie MRS HARRIS. She began her acting career on the stage and earlier this year returned to Broadway after a 32 year absence as Kate Keller in Arthur Miller’s ALL MY SONS, receiving a Tony Award nomination, to go with the her first in 1987, as photographer Holly Dancer in COASTAL DISTURBANCES.
Annette kindly signed my portrait montage I sent to the American Airlines Theatre in New York, during the ALL MY SONS run in May this year.
French playwrighting phenomenon Florian Zeller’s frightening tale of teen depression, THE SON made its UK debut at London’s Kiln Theatre in February with a sold-out run before transferring to the Duke of York’s in the West End for a ten-week season. Directed by Michael Longhurst and translated by Christopher Hampton this “immaculate production” (The Guardian’s Michael Billington) completes the French writer’s trilogy of plays; THE FATHER, focused on aged dementia and THE MOTHER on middle-aged psychosis.
THE SON is “the most powerful of all,” according to Ann Treneman in her five-star review in The Times, “superbly acted with a rhythm that keeps you on the edge of your seat.”
After skipping school and self-harming, 17 year-old Nicolas (Laurie Kynaston) moves out of his mother (Amanda Abbington) Anne’s house to live with his father Pierre (John Light) and Pierre’s lover Sofia (Amaka Okafor) and their new baby. In his Evening Standard review, Nick Curtis called the play an “unnerving and beautifully sensitive drama… a lacerating examination of the effect of a son’s mental illness has on his divorced parents.”
The four cast members signed my drawing at the theatre a few weeks ago as they arrived for a Saturday matinee.