Race, religion and terrorism: In the prescient 2015 drama "Bars and Measures" at the Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena, playwright Idris Goodwin hits the trifecta of incendiary headline topics, overlaid with rich musical inflections. In the captivating opener, music takes center stage as two men seated across a table launch into an intricate skat and bebop routine. Through the efficiently crafted dialogue that follows, we learn they are brothers who hold opposing faiths. And the reason this performance is a cappella: Inmates are not permitted musical instruments. Loosely based on a 2005 domestic anti-terrorism case, the play has classically-trained pianist Eric (Donathan Walters), a Christian, visiting his imprisoned brother Bilal (Matt Orduña), a stellar jazz upright bassist and converted Muslim who's been arrested in a sting operation.
Walt Disney Studios is returning to its storied vault yet again to adapt one of its popular animated titles into a live-action movie. On Tuesday, the studio announced that it would release a new version of "Mulan," a musical about a young woman who disguises herself as a man so she can enlist in the army. The original film, which was released in 1998, grossed 304 million worldwide. Disney has begun to transform a number of its beloved cartoons into live-action films over the past few years. Both the princess tales "Maleficent" and "Cinderella" clicked with audiences, and a remake of musical "The Jungle Book" was a massive hit, collecting nearly a billion dollars worldwide earlier this year.
In what may be one of the year's easiest renewal decisions, FX announced Tuesday that "American Horror Story" would return for a seventh season in 2017. The horror anthology series from co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk has won 15 Emmy Awards, and its latest iteration -- "American Horror Story: Roanoke" -- has seen a 25% leap in audience over Season 5 -- "American Horror Story: Hotel" -- growing to 6.89 million viewers from 5.52 million. "Ryan, Brad and their team of remarkable writers have done an amazing job of keeping'American Horror Story' endlessly inventive, shocking and entertaining and we are honored to move ahead with them on the seventh installment," said John Landgraf, chief executive of FX Networks and Productions, in a statement Tuesday. "'AHS' confronts our deepest fears with unmatched suspense and style. Each new installment is a cultural event, hotly anticipated for its theme, imagery, cast and twists," Landgraf continued.
The race for evening news viewers is getting tighter. "ABC World News Tonight With David Muir" has topped the usual leader, "NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt," in overall viewers in the first two weeks of the 2016-17 TV season. It's the first time that "ABC World News" has started the season with two straight weekly wins in overall viewers in 17 years, when Peter Jennings was anchor of the broadcast. Muir averaged 8.27 million viewers during the week of Sept. 26-30, giving him an edge over Holt (7.89 million viewers), according to Nielsen data. "CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley" finished third for the week with 6.54 million viewers.
No one did more to put Los Angeles theater on the map than Gordon Davidson. The founder of the Mark Taper Forum, he was one of the city's cultural founding fathers, a mild-mannered but determined revolutionary who built Center Theatre Group into the prodigious theatrical institution it is today and, even more important, built an audience with an appreciation for serious drama in this town. It is impossible to do justice to the dimensions of such a legacy. Davidson's influence on Los Angeles is twinned in my mind with the architectural landmark just down the street from his old Music Center headquarters -- Walt Disney Concert Hall. The reason is that I believe Davidson, who died Sunday at age 83, has done as much to transform the city's conception of itself as a cultural capital as Frank Gehry's magnificent building.
Offering further evidence that the thirst for reviving vintage TV continues, ABC announced that it is bringing back "The Gong Show" with executive producer Will Arnett. Scheduled for a 10-episode run, the game show/talent competition will "celebrate un-traditionally talented, unique performers plucked from the Internet and put on a primetime stage," according to a statement from ABC. During the peak of its late-'70s run, "The Gong Show" was hosted with a sort of anarchic glee by Chuck Barris (whose bizarre autobiography "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" became a 2002 film directed by George Clooney). An outlet for the quasi-talented and otherwise fringe performers on NBC's daytime schedule and later nighttime syndication, the show was a competition to see who could last the longest onstage before one of the celebrity panelists struck a large gong, which ended the performance. "The comedy culture we are living in has finally caught up to'The Gong Show,' " said Holly Jacobs, executive vice president, reality and syndication programming for Sony Pictures Television.
The fabulous paradox of Dolly Parton is that this pint-sized dynamo has created and sustained a larger-than-life, often-cartoonish persona immersed in glitz and glamour without losing the connection to her humble beginnings in the impoverished backwoods of Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains. At the first of two sold-out shows over the weekend at the Hollywood Bowl -- on her most extensive North American tour in a quarter century -- the country singer and songwriter who turned 70 in January was every bit the effusive performer, even while apologizing to the audience for nursing a slight head cold. "It's a good thing it's not a chest cold," she quipped in one of a string of self-effacing one-liners targeting her famous figure. "That'd be like a giraffe with a sore throat." Her current "Pure & Simple" tour, drawn from her new album with the same title, creates an elegant stage setting, with half a dozen curtains flowing from the rafters down to the stage, gorgeously lighted in colors that helped to highlight her pristine white jumpsuit.
"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children," from 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment, bested fellow new release, Lionsgate's "Deepwater Horizon" and expelled last week's victor, "The Magnificent Seven." "Miss Peregrine" brought in an estimated 28.5 million in the U.S. and Canada, meeting analyst expectations of 25 million to 30 million in its opening week. It pulled in 36.5 million internationally. "I'm very excited about it. We're thrilled," said Chris Aronson, the studio's domestic distribution chief.
"Saturday Night Live" kicked off its 42nd season, and all eyes were on Alec Baldwin as he played Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for the first time. The show's cold open played off the first presidential debate and featured Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton and Michael Che as moderator Lester Holt. The sketch, which NBC had promoted earlier in the week, interspersed references from the candidates' real lives with the show's signature comedic zingers -- this time about Trump's taxes, Clinton's sometimes-impersonal demeanor and what some have called the general absurdity of this election. Near the beginning of the bit, McKinnon hobbles on stage, cane in hand and coughing. But once the cane gets stuck, she somersaults into a more invigorated state, a riff on recent concerns about the Democratic presidential nominee's health and a nod to the late Gene Wilder, whose Willy Wonka did the same move in the 1971 movie.
The presidential election campaign and Alex Baldwin's impersonation of Donald Trump gave the season premiere of NBC's "Saturday Night Live" a big ratings lift. Saturday's 42nd season kickoff averaged a 5.8 rating in the 64 overnight markets measured by Nielsen. The figure is 29% higher than the season premiere on Oct. 3, 2015. It was the highest overnight rating for an "SNL" season opener since Sept. 13, 2008, when Tina Fey brought her spot-on impersonation of then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to the show. "SNL" pulled out the campaign stops this year with Baldwin as Trump and Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton in a parody of the first presidential debate last Monday (which averaged a record 84 million TV viewers).