Broadway Backwards, the annual gala that bans gender constraints in its performances, will make its virtual premiere on March 30 as a benefit for both Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in New York City. The show will feature Jay Armstrong Johnson as an isolated New Yorker who dreams a fantastical journey guided by a late-night television host, portrayed by Jenn Colella. New performances will be merged with numbers from previous editions of Broadway Backwards. The evening will also include performances and appearances from Darren Criss, Lea Salonga, Stephanie J. Block, Deborah Cox, Matt Bomer, Ariana DeBose, Robin De Jesús, Cynthia Erivo, Joshua Henry, Cherry Jones, Kelli O’Hara and Jim Parsons. Additional guests will be announced later. The online event can be viewed here and will remain available through April 3.
Celebrating 10 years on the air, singing competition The Voice will begin it’s 20th season on March 1. The show, known for it’s trademark rotating judging chairs, has inspired spin-offs all over Europe, Asia, and Australia. In the American version’s 20th season, there are some changes in the judges’ seats and new faces as the mentors. It should be another season that fans can’t get enough of, from the blind auditions to the final live performances.
Nick Jonas picked Darren Criss as his team’s mentor. Both Jonas and Criss are singers and actors. Jonas took over Criss’ role in Broadway’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying after Criss’s engagement was up. They also co-starred in the historical film Midway. Criss’ breakout role was on the musical series Glee and has since done everything from TV to movies to Broadway to voice acting. Criss took to Twitter to thank Jonas for picking him, joking about calling himself the “bonus Jonas.”
I know I joke a lot about being a bonus Jonas. But I guess if you joke enough about something, dreams…come…true? That’s the saying, right?
— Darren Criss (@DarrenCriss) February 1, 2021
iHeartRadio, FlynnPictureCo., Psychopia Pictures and UpperRoom Productions have defied the pandemic to complete production on There Be Monsters, a 10-part narrative sci-fi thriller podcast. Starring are Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker‘s John Boyega and American Crime: The Assassination of Gianni Versace‘s Darren Criss. There Be Monsters is produced by Beau Flynn of FlynnPictureCo., Dan Bush of Psychopia Pictures and Boyega’s UpperRoom Productions, and it will be available later this year on the iHeartPodcast Network.
Boyega plays Jack Locke, a mysterious hero with a vendetta who infiltrates a Silicon Valley body hacking startup run by an enigmatic CEO Max Fuller (Criss), whose highly secretive creations promise to enhance human biology in incredible ways. Of course, every drug has a side effect.
iHeartRadio began developing this with the producers in late 2019 as part of its expanding slate of immersive PodFiction audio dramas. As the creative team was getting ready to fly to London, Atlanta and L.A. to record the actors in early 2020, the pandemic hit and shut them down. Despite the challenges of executing a scripted fictional podcast thriller remotely with a full cast of actors, they harnessed a completely remote technological process. Each cast member was sent a “Studio in a Box,” which included important materials from a professional studio microphone to tutorial videos – which allowed the cast to record studio-quality “scripted” audio from the safety of their own homes, while still performing together. They connected virtually via teleconference across multiple continents and time zones. The director, producers and actors connected virtually daily for six hours to record – and over the course of two weeks the production captured over 400 pages of material with 20 different actors.
“The process to develop this scripted show and the ability to capture the connection, emotions and overall dynamic between the cast members while recording remotely, from across the globe, was unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” said Conal Byrne, president of the iHeartPodcast Network.
The PodFi also stars Marley Shelton (Rampage), Clark Gregg (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Tony nominee Sahr Ngaujah (Fela!, Patti Cake$). The series was created and directed by Dan Bush (The Vault, The Signal), who co-wrote along with Nicholas Tecosky. Boyega was the first to attach as star and producer.
“Getting to explore this format of storytelling whilst also adjusting to new methods of recording with the cast members made it an exciting process,” said Boyega. “I’m thrilled it all came together and hope audiences are just as drawn in as I was to this sci-fi thriller series.”
Of his creation, Bush said “There Be Monsters is a psychological thriller that chronicles the rise of humankind 2.0, and the disruptions to society that come with it. We chose to format this story as a scripted podcast because it is an immersive, storytelling playground.”
This summer sees the release of Superman: Man of Tomorrow, which finds Clark Kent working as an intern for the Daily Planet and learning on the job how to save the city of Metropolis. Check out an exclusive first look from the film below.
Darren Criss, who can be seen on Netflix this weekend starring in Ryan Murphy’s new drama Hollywood, will lead the Superman: Man of Tomorrow cast as the big blue boy scout himself. Zachary Quinto, who got his start playing the murderous supervillain Sylar on NBC’s Heroes, will here voice one of the greatest supervillains of all time: Lex Luthor. Alexandra Daddario (San Andreas) will voice Lois Lane.
Superman: Man of Tomorrow becomes available on digital video, 4K Ultra combo pack, and Blu-ray combo pack this summer.
Somewhere out there in the cloud—or perhaps on a forgotten bit of Netflix B-roll—there’s a recording of David Corenswet, Jeremy Pope, and Darren Criss, the three young stars of Ryan Murphy’s new limited series, Hollywood (Netflix), performing an impromptu off-script soft-shoe tap routine. “We were hoping we were going to have a musical number, so we choreographed our own,” remembers Corenswet, a native Philadelphian whose stage-actor dad raised him on a diet of classic movie musicals. “I think we made a good pitch for our own spin-off show?”
In the meantime, there’s Murphy’s latest (with cocreator Ian Brennan), his first soup-to-nuts endeavor with Netflix. He calls it a “love letter to old Hollywood,” a lighthearted revisionist history that poses a provocative question: What if the minorities, women, and queer people whose stories and contributions have always gotten short shrift had been allowed to shine in their industry’s so-called Golden Age? Murphy calls this speculative genre “faction,” a mix of fact and fiction in which made-up characters intersect with historical figures: Hattie McDaniel, Anna May Wong, Rock Hudson. The last, whose death from AIDS in the mid-’80s shook Hollywood, is a particular touchstone. “What happens if Rock Hudson is out of the closet and successful in the 1940s?” Murphy wonders.
In this alternate universe, a very young Hudson (Jake Picking) falls in love with a gay, black male prostitute named Archie (Pope), who is actually a down-on-his-luck screenwriter. Archie works for Ernie (Dylan McDermott), who runs a gas station as a front for an industry-facing prostitution ring. (It’s not dissimilar to the operation Scotty Bowers describes in his 2012 memoir Full Service.) Archie’s coworker Jack (Corenswet) is his straight, white foil: an aspiring actor who gets his big break when a client, an aging silent-film starlet named Avis (Patti LuPone), hooks him up with a contract at her husband’s studio. (“She didn’t mind throwing in one-liners” during sex scenes, says Corenswet, “some at my expense, some very complimentary!”) Meanwhile, Criss, who is half Filipino, plays a biracial director whose ability to pass as white affords him opportunities denied his Asian peers.
“It’s fun, naughty, and kind of zany,” says Criss, a Murphy veteran (Glee, American Horror Story, and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story). At 33, he’s the trio’s elder statesman, while Corenswet and Pope, like their characters, are Hollywood greenhorns. Corenswet, 26, a lantern-jawed Juilliard grad whom Murphy compares to Leonardo DiCaprio, had a breakthrough last year in The Politician. (“Breakthrough implies there’s something on the other side,” he demurs. “I relish every moment on set, assuming I’ll never get another.”) For Pope, 27, an Orlando-born, twice Tony-nominated Broadway star with smooth, matinee-idol good looks, Hollywood is only his second screen-acting credit.
Of the three male leads, it’s Pope—who in many ways identifies with Archie—for whom Hollywood’s revisionist premise hits closest to home. He describes being a young musical-theater student in New York City, suddenly made all too aware that leading roles for black actors were few and far between. When Murphy, a fan of Pope’s Broadway work, approached him, the actor knew what to ask: “We’re talking about this black gay writer in the ’40s. Are there going to be people in the writers’ room who represent that voice?” There were, and his rapport with Corenswet and Criss was another boon. “We talked music, we talked food, we began immediately to soft-shoe our way through life,” Pope effuses. “Ryan gives all types of artists a lane to drive in.”