Published October 14, 2008
This is a report, not an official review, of Katie Holmes in the new Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s "All My Sons." The opening night is Thursday, with reviews to follow.
But this production of "All My Sons" is getting a lot of attention, of course for all the wrong reasons. First of all, it’s "All My Sons" starring the amazing John Lithgow, the beloved Dianne Wiest and the recently discovered Patrick Wilson, who turns out to be a real find in a dramatic role.
Katie Holmes has the fourth role, Ann, which is small although integral to the play. Because she’s married to Tom Cruise in real life and has worked little since their meeting in 2005, people want to know: Is she any good? Is this just a publicity gimmick? Was it worth seeing her in the press, sashaying back and forth every day to and from rehearsal in different outfits, often sporting toddler Suri as an ornament?
So the answer is: I saw "All My Sons" on Saturday night. It was a packed house. There were people outside trying to buy tickets. After the show, a line forms for Katie at the stage door. Maybe the fans are there for the other stars. They should be there for Christian Camargo, who makes a tremendous impact as George, brother to Katie’s character, who disrupts the fragile relationships of the main players. He’s that good.
They should also be there for Wilson, who’s the surprise of the night. He’s been in "The Full Monty" on Broadway, and "Little Children" in movies. But here he really carries the ball, and the show, in a way that is quite disarming. Good for him. Lithgow and Wiest are seasoned stars by now; they’re sensational in these roles, and probably think all the fuss around Katie is just amusing.
Before the Tom Cruise business, Katie had a solid acting success in the movie "Pieces of April." When I met her in April 2005, she told me she wanted to do plays. Then she met Cruise, and all of that was over. Three and a half years later, she gets her chance, at last. She isn’t bad. She’s up against some real pros, and she holds her own. Like most movie and TV actors, her voice and projection need work. But she knows her lines, appears to understand the character and does not embarrass herself at all. Given the pressures involved, that’s a lot.
Simon McBurney is a wonderful, respected British actor and theater director who’s in charge of this production. Ironically, he has a small part in the current film, "Body of Lies," as a computer hacker. At the movie’s premiere last week, no one from the film seemed to know who he was. What a shame. He gives "All My Sons" a very modern feel, using video and music to augment the action. He’s also allowed Katie to be sassy and forthright, and maybe a little pushy too. Sometimes it works, although every once in a while she came off shrill. That may soften in time.
The main thing is, Katie Holmes is in most of the play, and is working damn hard. She doesn’t need anyone to "save" her. Last week I received an email from the anti-Scientology group called Anonymous. They plan to protest the opening of "All My Sons" and make a scene on West 45th St. to prove some point. I can only advise them not to do this. They will come off as loony as those they’re against, and won’t help Katie. She, everyone in the Schoenfeld Theater, is doing serious work. Let’s celebrate their achievement, not annoy them (and the play across the street, "August: Osage County").
Miller wrote "All My Sons" in 1947, by the way. Sixty-one years later, its themes are strangely contemporary: money, values, loyalty, patriotism, war. Lithgow could easily be playing Dick Cheney. It just shows again what a genius Arthur Miller — who also gave us "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible," among others — was.
Last week, I raved and raved about Beyonce’s new single, "If I Were a Boy." Remember? I thought it was the best thing she’d ever done, and was amazed that she’d even found the material.
Well, guess what? The story behind "If I Were a Boy" is absolutely scandalous. It also explains my question of why this single missed the Grammy deadline of Sept. 30, since it was ready to go at least three weeks ago. The answer: it was held up by endless legal wrangling since, in the long hallowed tradition of the music business, the young woman who wrote the melody and lyrics for "If I Were a Boy" had no idea Beyonce had even recorded her song until a stranger called with the news. By then, it was too late.
BC Jean is a hot, up-and-coming, 21-year-old female singer songwriter from San Diego. Those who’ve met her says she’s smart and "gorgeous." But BC (her initials, legend has it, are for "beautiful child") got a cold dose of reality this summer when it comes to the record business. According to sources, she and her manager/mother have been strong-armed by Beyonce’s people and others who saw gold in "If I Were a Boy" and didn’t care how they got it.
You can hear BC Jean’s version of her own song, written with German pop-factory producer Toby Gad, at www.bcjean.net. It’s certainly as good as Beyonce’s if not better. It’s no wonder that this young woman is now the center of so much attention.
Altogether, I am told, BC Jean wrote and recorded about a dozen songs with Gad for an album the producer was planning to make of his own. When the deal fell apart, Gad — whose 300 plus credits are all co-written, never solo — took the songs and started marketing them to big name, established artists. Gad’s past "collaborators" include Fergie, on "Big Girls Don’t Cry."
Besides Beyonce, Gad brought at least one of the songs to Disney for "Hannah Montana" star Miley Cyrus. But Disney wanted the lyrics changed to be age-appropriate. BC Jean refused. For now, Miley and Gad have been rebuffed.
When I wrote about Beyonce’s version of "If I Were a Boy" last week, calls came pouring in from people who knew the real history of this story. BC Jean’s mother/manager, Lori Carlson, told me she couldn’t comment on the situation. But plenty of people knew the saga of Beyonce’s legendary manager/father Mathew Knowles’ aggressive pursuit of the publishing rights to the potential hit record. His goal was to get the rights to the song and to put Beyonce’s name on the writing credits.
The Carlsons, I’m told, recently came to terms with Beyonce, after enduring the kind of record biz terrors that would curl the hair of the guys from "Hit Men." Now, "If I Were a Boy" is hitting big time. Part of the deal, my sources insist, is that the two singers will duet on BC Jean’s debut album once she gets her own recording deal. Right now, managers, publishers and A&R people from all over the industry are falling over themselves trying to sign BC Jean. They should be. She seems to be the real deal, a potential artist with a big career looming in front of her. It’s a shame that this is the way she had to find out about the record business.
BC Jean’s story is an old one that dates back to Elvis Presley and continues ‘til today. The larger issue, of course, is that performers who don’t write their own music get no royalty when their records are played on the radio. That’s why a Performance Royalty Act is being pushed in Congress right now, and why songwriters should back it. Artists wouldn’t be looking to muscle in on their business if they were paid appropriately. Beyonce simply falls into a category that also includes Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett as well as Sam Moore and Judy Collins, each of whom testified in front of Congress about the matter this year.
And by the way: BC Jean’s story is pretty common. I’d love to hear from all the other songwriters out there who’ve been ripped off just in the last year. The back stories of how records get made, how big stars who don’t write their own music wind up with hit material, are always hell-raisers.