NY DAILY NEWS – During Bruno Mars’ 12-minute display — complete with a seamless cameo by The Red Hot Chili Peppers — the 28-year-old singer touched on bouncy ’60s Motown, fun ’70s disco funk, slick ’80s pop and a hint of modern hip-hop-flash. He may not have the figure of Beyoncé or the buzz of Madonna. But this year’s half time star — Bruno Mars — brought dynamism and an old-fashioned sense of showmanship to his Super Bowl blow-out. Opening with his smash “Locked Out of Heaven,” the pompadour’d star whipped through a tight and brisk run of four hits. His sole guest stars — The Red Hot Chili Peppers — seamlessly slipped their percussive song “Give It Away” into the headliner’s “Runaway Baby.” Mars’ 12-minute display exuded a friendliness and ease so winning, it made the edginess or cool of some past Super Bowl stars irrelevant. More, the performance wore its sources well, doubling as a history lesson in song. The songs Mars offered represented a virtual pop nexus of the last 40 years, touching on bouncy ’60s Motown, fun ’70s disco funk, slick ’80s pop and a hint of modern hip-hop-flash. At one point, he referenced James Brown’s fast-footed dance moves.
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SUPER SOPRANO: In Tampa, Tom Jones writes, “No one — and I mean no one — will ever do a better version” of the National Anthem “than Renee Fleming did on Sunday.” It was “the best version ever done at a Super Bowl — yep, it even blew away Whitney Houston’s version in Tampa — and the best that will ever be done.” Jones: “Let’s just bring Fleming back every year” (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 2/3). In Pittsburgh, Mark Kanny writes Fleming’s singing was “beautifully sustained and pitch perfect — but did not try to compete with the emotional impact of pop divas who have sung it in years past” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/3). In St. Louis, Sarah Bryan Miller wrote Fleming “sang it straight: She didn’t take liberties with the notes, although she did mess with the tempos.” Fleming’s “tuning was absolutely accurate and her high notes gleamed” (STLTODAY.com, 2/2). In N.Y., Zachary Woolfe writes Fleming’s performance was “eminently operatic: confident, sensible and performed with ease, and without the strain … that pop-diva belting entails” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/3). The AP’s Talbott wrote singer Queen Latifah — who sang “America The Beautiful” — and Fleming “proved the perfect choices to sing” before the game. Both women are “accomplished performers and handled the pitfall-ridden material with relative ease in stirring performances that brought cheers from the crowd” (AP, 2/2).
Here’s a round up of the reviews from media outlets across the country:
Bruno Mars during his halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVIII “brought dynamism and an old-fashioned sense of showmanship to his Super Bowl blow-out,” according to Jim Farber of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. Mars’ 12-minute performance “exuded a friendliness and ease so winning, it made the edginess or cool of some past Super Bowl stars irrelevant” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/3). In New Jersey, Jim Beckerman writes Mars gave “a high-octane, rip-roaring halftime show that aced what was widely perceived as a gamble.” Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers “bonded sensationally” (Bergen RECORD, 2/3). ESPN’s Mike Greenberg said, “I thought Bruno Mars killed it last night. I thought he was fantastic. … I thought he way exceeded expectations.” Greenberg: “From the moment he appeared hitting those drums to the very last second, I thought he was absolutely sensational. … He’s got a little bit of James Brown and a little bit of Michael Jackson, and that’s a dynamite combination” (“Mike & Mike, ESPN Radio, 2/3). In Austin, Kirk Bohls writes this was “one of the worst and least memorable Super Bowls ever except for the sensational Bruno Mars halftime show” (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 2/3). In Newark, Tris McCall writes under the header, “Bruno Mars Lights Up Halftime.” Mars’ set was “smart and accomplished; if it never rose to the level of spectacle, it was confident throughout, and made the argument that there’s no special effect any better than a tight pop band” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 2/3).
MEMORABLE SET: USA TODAY’s Brian Mansfield writes Mars “established his musician credentials quickly, starting his set behind the drum kit” (USA TODAY, 2/3). BILLBOARD’s Kevin Rutherford wrote the finale of Mars’ show was a “nice, touching moment, and a definite mid-tempo breather from the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, energetic showcase that had preceded it” (BILLBOARD.com, 2/2). The AP’s Chris Talbott writes there were “no flubs, no negative moments that will live on at the water cooler.” Talbott: “And while you can argue about the entertainment value of watching shirtless Chili Peppers gambol about the stage, the 50-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famers managed to match Mars’ energy in a brief appearance that was no less memorable” (AP, 2/3). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Scott Brown wrote Mars “delivered a fluid, frictionless set based on old-fashioned showsmanship” (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 2/2). In California, Ben Wener writes as “halftime shows go,” Mars’ performance was “definitely a cut above, a smart and sharply executed shift away from the overblown productions of the past three years” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 2/3).
TAKE THAT: In N.Y., Hardeep Phull writes Mars’ “spectacle was a poke in the eye for the doubters who questioned the choice of halftime entertainment.” The late addition of the Red Hot Chili Peppers “proved to be a smart move” (N.Y. POST, 2/3). In Phoenix, Joe Golfen writes under the header, “Bruno Mars Up To Super Bowl Challenge.” Mars “proved more than capable of rocking a stadium full of football fans who might not have known exactly who he was” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 2/3). In DC, Chris Richards noted Mars during his final song “wore a triumphant smile, seemingly aware he was a risk well worth taking” (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/2). The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Pia Catton wrote, “Looking back, the question now seems absurd: Was Bruno Mars enough of a star to carry the Super Bowl halftime show?” The real question is, “Was the Super Bowl a big enough show for Bruno Mars?” (WSJ.com, 2/2). In Buffalo, Jeff Miers writes Mars had “a lot to live up to,” and he “almost pulled it off” (BUFFALO NEWS, 2/3). In N.Y., Joe Caramanica writes Mars was “energetic and slick during this set, if not quite fun” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/3).
USA TODAY - The Super Bowl has made cultural icons out of quarterbacks, running backs and Budweiser frogs. Why shouldn’t it do the same for halftime headliner Bruno Mars? Mars wasn’t the biggest name that the biggest game could have booked. Compared to the superstars who have performed for the past several years — Beyoncé, Madonna, the Black Eyed Peas, The Who,Bruce Springsteen — he’s a relative unknown. But the Super Bowl has a way of elevating those who step up their game in the spotlight. And Mars, the Hawaii-born pop/R&B singer whose style draws onMichael Jackson, Elvis Presley and a wide range of ’60s and ’70s soul, has made a career out of doing just that. The fireworks over MetLife Stadium were secondary to Mars’ incendiary, 2.2 million tweet-generating set, which was packed with hits and steeped in history, starting with a blackout that recalled last year’s Super Bowl in New Orleans. Dressed in a gold lamé jacket and black tuxedo pants, Mars established his musician credentials quickly, starting his set behind the drum kit before launching into a 12-minute medley that launched with Locked Out of Heaven then segued seamlessly into Treasure and Runaway Baby. (read the whole article here)
TIME MAGAZINE - Concert of the Year? That’s what the NFL claimed all week long as it hyped its halftime show with Bruno Mars. But could a relatively young artist without huge name recognition carry the day? Even one of the football commentators came out and said “There were a lot of doubters.” Once Mars was done, though, doubters should have been few. (continued here)
VARIETY - Unless you were born with the first name “Prince,” there’s really only so much a performer can do with the Super Bowl halftime show slot, and Bruno Mars did plenty with his…Mars relied on a lot of flash, a hefty dose of Famous Flames-style stagecraft, and a requisite hat tip to the military for a winningly unprepossessing performance. (continued here)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY - With nary a middle finger or nipple shield in sight, pop star Bruno Mars took the Super Bowl halftime stage tonight with a polished, shiny set. …There’s no question the kid is talented. He opened up behind a drum kit (he also plays bass, guitar, and piano, people), banging out an indisputable funky beat before launching into monster hits “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Treasure.” It sounded and looked like real vocals backed by a real band putting on a real show for a really huge audience. Mars is a truly impressive performer — catchy songs, strong vocals, and James Brown footwork rivaled only by the Godfather himself. (continued here)
THE DAILY BEAST - With a little help from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and a lot of help from his boundless energy, Bruno Mars delivered a start-to-finish impressive, entertaining, and fun Super Bowl performance. (continued here)
E! ONLINE - Well, Bruno Mars did say, “I ain’t scared,” when it came to his Super Bowl performance. And it showed as the “Locked Out of Heaven” crooner brought it at the Pepsi half time show, kicking off his performance on the drums. With a few body rolls to boot, the super-talented artist killed it as he performed “Locked Out of Heaven,” “Treasure” and “Runaway Baby” with his eight-piece band, The Hooligans, who were all dressed in a gold blazer and black pants created custom Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane. (continued here)
NY POST - When Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers take the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday for the hotly anticipated Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show, organizers urge the crowd to stay in their seats and use their heads — literally.
“We are essentially creating the largest ever LED screen in the stadium,” said Ricky Kirshner, whose New York-based company Touchdown Entertainment tackles the halftime bonanza from staging, lighting, sound production and also televising.
“Everyone will get a wool hat with a built in LED screen in their warming package under their seat cushion. We’re asking for audience participation. People, please don’t leave your seat.”
The technologically advanced fashion will result in 800,000 pixels, turning the stadium into one of the biggest LED screens ever made.
“It will take up the entire stadium. It’s the first time we’ve done anything like this. If you were to look at the Grammys where there’s a backdrop, this extends that backdrop to the entire stadium,” said Kirshner, whose company has produced the last seven Super Bowl halftime spectaculars.
The concert’s logistics, which have been in gestation since September, have very little room for error.
From the time the Seahawks and Broncos hit the locker room, Kirshner’s crew has eight minutes to set up for an action-packed 12-minute musical extravaganza. After the last note is played, there’s seven minutes on the clock to dismantle the stage and get the field ready for the third quarter.
The concert — including performers, volunteers and crews — will require about 3,000 people to carry out.
With an open air stadium, Kirshner said there are many tweaks that need to be made as opposed to putting on a show of this proportion in a dome.
“There aren’t the rigging points. But on the positive side, we can produce a much more exciting pyrotechnic show,” he said, adding that every stadium has its challenges.
“No one builds a stadium for us to do a halftime show. It’s very annoying. It would be much easier if they would ask us what we need,” he joked.
Though the cold weather and storm potential has been a source of panic for the fans and a constant story line for the media, Kirshner isn’t logging into the Weather Channel every five minutes.
After all, his first was Super Bowl XLI in Miami, where Prince performed in the pouring rain.
“Everyone said, ‘It has never rained at a Super Bowl, don’t worry about it.’ And then of course it poured that day. I don’t believe in watching the forecast anymore. We do many outdoor events. It always seems that if you watch the weather report you will drive yourself crazy, so you just have to do your show and be prepared,” said Kirshner, who promised the same show rain or shine.
Along with the Meadowlands’ blistering cold and whipping winds, the show will also feature local talent.
Producers have enlisted some lucky New Jersey school marching bands from South Brunswick High School, Nutley, Bergenfield, Morris Knolls and Roxbury.
“They won’t be used as traditional marching bands,” Kirshner said. “They are part of the light show. Our team that works with marching bands works with the Olympics and they’re used to recruiting those kids. It’s a whole operation just dealing with 500 marching bands kids. You have to feed them, bus them, move them, get them into rehearsals.”
Kirshner, who was raised in New Jersey and lives in Manhattan, said it’s great to be on his home turf, but he concedes there’s not much time for fun and games, regardless of the location.
“I think we’re so focused on what we do. It’s not glamorous,” Kirshner said. “We never get out to the parties, so it’s not like we experience the Super Bowl feeling all week.”
Beyond the bones of the show, Kirshner, who spent last week in Los Angeles rehearsing, is mostly mum, dropping one hint. “It’s probably more rock music than we’ve had in the past.”
EW The musical number is a tried-and-true awards show opener. But last June, it got taken to new heights when viewers were treated to one of the most elaborate, thrilling, and catchy performances of all when Neil Patrick Harris hosted the Tony Awards for the fourth time.
The “Bigger” number celebrated the best of Broadway and had audiences both at home and in the theater on their feet by the end of the seven-and-a-half-minute performance. (Just check out Debra Messing’s reaction shot to sum up most people’s feelings about the song). With all the songs, magic tricks and cameos the song would have been impressive regardless, but the fact that the number went live after only getting to run it fully through a few times makes it worthy of a standing ovation.
“That’s what makes the Tonys so invigorating,” Harris tells EW. “With almost no rehearsal you’re counting on people to execute well. But these are people who execute well every single night. So they’re used to that kind of pressure and they thrive on it.”
In separate conversations, Harris, as well as Tonys telecast executive producer Ricky Kirshner and Tonys telecast director/executive producer Glenn Weiss, walked EW through what happens when you sketch out a number via Facetime, put each part together separately, and only get a few precious moments to run it all together before curtain.
As told by: Neil Patrick Harris, Ricky Kirshner, and Glenn Weiss
RICKY KIRSHNER: It’s about [November] that people ask us what the opening number will be, and we think we have an idea about what the big shows will be, and then the shows come out and we realize we have no idea what the nominated shows will be. But I think we started planning that number in February or March.
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: I knew we were going to Radio City from the Beacon [Theater] after having been there for two years. I was in my car driving, and I remember thinking, “Well, if it’s moving to Radio City, there’s your opening number.” You can embrace the largeness of it all. So I was driving and thought, “Why not do an Irish quick ditty, [sings] ‘It’s bigger, it’s bigger, This show is so much bigger!’”And then I do a lot of quick verbal acrobatics to instill faith that I know what I’m doing, because I can rattle off a prompter pretty fast. And then go back to the chorus: “It’s bigger! It’s bigger!” So that was sort of the impetus of it.
GLENN WEISS: Look, when you’re putting together a number for the Tonys, it can be host driven or it can not be host driven. When you have a guy like Neil, it’s great because he comes in with all this talent and ability and a magic act, and all that stuff, so he’s quite an asset. And you want to use that asset as much as you can. That said, we put together this team of people. Neil was shooting a movie in New Mexico for a lot of this time, so we were doing a lot of Facetime and all that stuff. As a group there was writer Lin-Manuel Miranda and Tom Kitt who did the music and Rob Ashford who was putting together the choreography of all the Broadway stuff. There really was a terrific team collaboration going on with terrific back and forth.
Read the entire interview here.
PEPSI PULSE #1 – BEYONCÉ PERFORMS FOR THE SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOW
The Super Bowl Halftime Show has become synonymous for being extravagant, an event that arguably rivals the Super Bowl itself. Beyoncé’s appearance at this year’s show may have been the best yet, as her 14-minute performance delivered in every way possible. From “Crazy in Love” to “Halo,” she performed a medley of records from her catalog with style and grace, rarely missing a note while hitting every dance move onstage. Beyoncé even brought out former Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams to join her in performing “Bootylicious,” “Independent Women Part 1” and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Add in grandiose fireworks as well as an elaborate stage and lighting setup, and Beyoncé’s performance was an incredible moment that millions of Americans will remember years from now. Click here to watch Beyoncé perform for the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
#5 – NEIL PATRICK HARRIS’ OPENING PERFORMANCE AT THE TONY AWARDS
Ever since a teenage Neil Patrick Harris impressed viewers as the star of Doogie Howser, M.D. in the late 1980s, it was clear that he was born to entertain, whether that be on the big screen, small screen or on a stage. For his fourth time in five years hosting the Tony Awards, Harris surely outdid himself this year with his opening number. The seven-minute performance highlighted his multitalented background as he sang, danced, played guitar and performed an illusion that caught audience members by surprise. Dare we say it: This was a Tony Award-winning performance from the 40-year-old actor. Click here to watch Neil Patrick Harris perform at the Tony Awards.
Continue to the entire list of most memorable televised music moments here.
LA TIMES This year’s Tony Awards show was one of the top winners at Sunday’s 65th Annual Creative Arts Emmys. The 66th annual Tony telecast — which tied with “Boardwalk Empire” for the second-largest number of Emmys won, with four apiece — took home honors for Outstanding Special Class Program.
NPR Unless you’ve seen every awards show since the dawn of time (which would make you The Unluckiest Person In The World), you can’t really answer the question of whether last night’s opener of the Tony Awards, hosted for the fourth time by Neil Patrick Harris, was the best opening ever.
But if you’re talking about awards shows in recent memory, the answer is that not only was it the best opener, but it utterly embarrassed just about everything except maybe Jimmy Fallon’s “Born To Run” at the 2010 Emmys. It’s funny, energetic, committed, and ultimately deeply and touchingly warm-hearted.
The next time you’re tempted to give an Oscar host a pass on the basis that it’s an impossible, can’t-win job, and that the lazy, easy, corny, toothless humor that passes for patter is a fundamental of the awards format, and that the jokes can’t be better and the numbers can’t be better and the hosting can’t be better and the crowd can’t get excited, keep in mind that that’s exactly what people who want to keep making lazy awards shows want you to think.
Sure, theater people have an advantage with musical numbers, but if you run the Oscars and can’t figure out how to do for and with love of film what the Tonys are doing for and with love of theater, you are terrible at your job and should hand it off to someone else. This wasn’t even the only great number — there was also a funny, biting bit from Andrew Rannells, Megan Hilty, and Laura Benanti, all theater people whose TV shows (The New Normal, Smash, and Go On) were recently canceled.
As for the awards themselves, they proved very big for the play Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, by Christopher Durang, as well as the offbeat revival of Pippin and the new musical Kinkyboots, which brought a first-ever Tony to its composer — Cyndi Lauper. Pam McKinnon and Diane Paulus were the rare pair of women to take directing honors in the same year for play and musical (for Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? and Pippin respectively), and great speeches came from winners including Billy Porter for Kinkyboots, Cicely Tyson for The Trip To Bountiful, and Andrea Martin for Pippin.
Step it up, everybody else. The theater kids are making you look terrible.
LA TIMES In live theater, a performer has to know how to make an entrance, and television critics reviewing Sunday’s CBS telecast of the Tony Awards from Radio City Music Hall in New York City applauded its host, Neil Patrick Harris, for making a memorable one.
The number began more or less where last year’s Tonys had left off, with “Once,” the unpretentious, decidedly non-glitzy 2012 winner for best new musical. Harris appeared as a novice folk-pop guitar strummer in a “Once”-like Irish pub. But within moments he was declaring, “It’s bigger … tonight it’s bigger!” and he was off to the races, joined by a thespian multitude from an assortment of Broadway shows.
As Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times put it, the “opening number had him leaping acrobatically through a hoop, avoiding an effort by Mike Tyson [who made his first theatrical bow this year with a one-man autobiographical show] to chomp his ear and pulling a vanishing act that was as impressive on television as it must have been in the theater. (He disappeared from a box onstage, only to reappear moments later at the back of the hall).”
“As often happens,” Genzlinger continued, “the subsequent show rose to those heights only a few times. One of them came just minutes after Mr. Harris left the stage and the cast of “Matilda the Musical” took it over. If that show’s number didn’t produce an instant spike in ticket sales, there’s no hope for the theater.”
Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd was similarly knocked out by the “invaluable, unshakable Harris…. Harris was never too long out of view, and when he was around, he was put to good use,” with partners who included Sandy, the cute dog from the musical “Annie,” with whom Harris exchanged repeated kisses on the lips before quipping, “You do know I’m in a relationship, right?”
The host wound up working overtime — his last joke was that the Tonys would have to skip the planned finale because the telecast was running late. Instead, Harris started rapping, and was soon joined by past multi-Tony winner Audra McDonald in a duet that reworked Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” to include rhyming shout-outs to many of the night’s major winners.
In Genzlinger’s view, “it wasn’t as funny as last year’s” finale, and he wished that the acceptance speeches had been curtailed to keep the evening more brisk. When victors grasp their coveted medallions, he wrote, “what they actually have in their hands is the power to kill the momentum of the broadcast.”
Lloyd, to the contrary, was touched by Cicely Tyson, who went overtime while thanking Broadway for welcoming her back after a 30-year absence, and by acceptance speeches in which “Kinky Boots” star Billy Porter and composer Cindy Lauper recalled how Broadway musicals reached them when they were very young, via a Tony telecast (Porter) or, for Lauper, her mother’s collection of cast albums.
Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press noted two other memorable moments: Lauper singing her 1980s pop hit “True Colors” while an “in memoriam” sequence of photographs of theater eminences who’d died since last year’s Tonys was displayed behind her. and a satirical number in which Harris, who shot to stardom via television, teamed with a less fortunate trio of theater folk whose TV shows had bombed. He got to gloat a bit, while Andrew Rannells, Laura Benanti and Megan Hilty sang laments.
Hilty’s show, “Smash,” took its final bow a few weeks ago on NBC after two years of dismal ratings. The final hour was the show’s own fictional Tony Awards — making 2013 the year in which truly committed theater buffs could watch two Tony Awards on two networks.