Rachel Brosnahan may be American, but she believes a little bit of her funny bone is British.
Brosnahan is famous for The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, Amazon Prime’s smash comedy hit in which she plays New Yorker Midge, the ‘perfect housewife’ from the Upper West Side who becomes a Downtown stand-up (specialising in mocking men) after her marriage breaks up.
Brosnahan’s feature film choices have been astute, too. Check her out as Jean, first seen lounging in a magenta negligee (above) in director Julia Hart’s superbly plotted 1970s set crime thriller I’m Your Woman.
Written with Jordan Horowitz, a producer of La La Land, it also features a fine performance from London’s Arinze Kene, making his Hollywood film debut.
Rachel Brosnahan stars in I’m Your Woman. Soon, Jean and the child — his name is Harry — are forced to go on the run, aided by Cal, a mysterious bodyguard played by Kene
Some folks have underrated it; but I was hooked on its darkly humorous tone. As Brosnahan puts it, Jean goes from being ‘caught inside the void inside her head, into this quiet woman’s action hero’, after her husband brings home a longed-for baby (which he claims he just found).
Soon, Jean and the child — his name is Harry — are forced to go on the run, aided by Cal, a mysterious bodyguard played by Kene.
The film is, by turns, frightening and funny. When I mention her genius comic timing, there’s a wry laugh from Brosnahan.
‘Early in my career I was told that [comedy] was not a path I should pursue,’ she said — though the gift was evident when she got her first big break in House Of Cards as call-girl Rachel Posner.
I told her I thought her humour had a British feel to it.
Brosnahan and Arinze Kene in I’m Your Woman. On the American side of the family Rachel is the niece of the late fashion designer Kate Spade. ‘I feel half and half . . . or arf and arf,’ she said, adopting a mock Cockney accent
Brosnahan in a scene from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She was nominated for an Emmy Award for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series on Tuesday, July 28,
‘I’m certain that’s true,’ she responded. ‘At least the self-deprecating part. Self-deprecation comes with the tea over there,’ she joked from New York, where she is working on pre-production for a fourth season of Mrs Maisel, which may be able to begin filming next month.
‘My mom’s from Leeds,’ she explained. ‘My grandparents lived in Buckinghamshire and, yeah, I spent a lot of time there as a kid.’ (She also has an aunt and uncle in Haslemere, Surrey.)
On the American side of the family Rachel is the niece of the late fashion designer Kate Spade. ‘I feel half and half . . . or arf and arf,’ she said, adopting a mock Cockney accent as she told how she spent summers and other holidays in the UK, watching Postman Pat and Teletubbies when she was little, before moving on to Anne Robinson in The Weakest Link, Ab Fab, Skins and Little Britain. It’s also where she was introduced to pantomimes.
‘I loved those,’ she sighed. ‘We don’t have them here.
The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. Brosnahan described her co-star in I’m Your Woman (the title comes from a comment made by Tuesday Weld to James Caan in the 1981 Michael Mann caper movie Thief) as a ‘magnetic actor’
She remembers her mother, Carol, having to adopt a U.S. twang to make herself understood in their upmarket Illinois neighbourhood. ‘She still has an accent — and Americans still have problems with foreign accents, of any kind,’ she said.
Brosnahan was impressed, though, by Kene’s American accent. She described her co-star in I’m Your Woman (the title comes from a comment made by Tuesday Weld to James Caan in the 1981 Michael Mann caper movie Thief) as a ‘magnetic actor’.
Their scenes together have heat, even though their characters are not romantically linked.
At one point, they do a fab impromptu rendering of Aretha Franklin’s Natural Woman while sitting in a diner with baby Harry. Although they had three infants to take turns as Harry, ‘the one in the diner was a fake’, Brosnahan said — as was the one in another scene, where Jean and Cal are harassed by a white police officer as they try to rest in a parked car.
She remembers her mother, Carol, having to adopt a U.S. twang to make herself understood in their upmarket Illinois neighbourhood. Pictured in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel
Brosnahan’s feature film choices have been astute, too. Check her out as Jean, first seen lounging in a magenta negligee in director Julia Hart’s superbly plotted 1970s set crime thriller I’m Your Woman
‘I remember that day,’ Kene told me recently. ‘It’s risky being black in America. And remember: this was the Seventies. African-American people have been arrested and killed for sleeping in their cars.’
Kene, who lives in Hackney, is a big fan of Mrs Maisel; and admitted he ‘fan-boyed’ Brosnahan when he first met her. But most of his time — and hers, for that matter — was spent trying to keep the babies happy.
‘The scene is written one way, and you add a live baby into the equation, and the scene becomes something different,’ he said. ‘Babies don’t read scripts, man; last time I checked.
‘They come in and, actually, they’re not even performing. It’s very disarming. That was the most peek-a-boo I’ve played in my life.’
The actor’s about to start filming a new project. And later next year he’ll star as Bob Marley in the musical Marley, set to open at the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue.
■ I’m Your Woman is also available on Amazon
Theatre nightmare as the doors close again
The new Tier 3 Covid rules that came into force this week have dealt another body blow to theatres — just as audiences had started to trickle back.
‘It’s a nightmare for everybody — in and out of the theatre,’ said Cameron Mackintosh, who had to close the Les Miserables Concert show at London’s Sondheim Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue after less than two weeks.
‘We will reopen as soon as we can. It’s catastrophic,’ he fumed.
Tom Stoppard’s poignant masterpiece Leopoldstadt at Wyndham’s; Tina, the Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych; The Phantom Of The Opera at Her Majesty’s; and Mamma Mia! at the Novello all have their eye on June
The closure of his eight theatres costs an estimated £500,000 a week, for they still have to be maintained. Plus, his staff are working like air traffic controllers, readying for when productions will land in theatres again. It’s the same for other owners and producers, such as Nica Burns, Sonia Friedman and Michael Harrison.
For instance, there are plans to reopen Hamilton at the Victoria Palace from May, around the same time it’s hoped the full Les Miserables musical will return to the Sondheim. Mary Poppins wants to fly into the Prince Edward then, too. Harry Potter And The Cursed Child aims to be back on at the Palace Theatre before the summer.
Tom Stoppard’s poignant masterpiece Leopoldstadt at Wyndham’s; Tina, the Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych; The Phantom Of The Opera at Her Majesty’s; and Mamma Mia! at the Novello all have their eye on June.
Mackintosh reiterated that the shows need to play at full capacity, not with social distancing.
Cast your vote for the best song ever
Elaine Paige is about to Let It Go, before they Send In The Clowns.
Yes, they’re song titles. From noon today, those two numbers, from Frozen and A Little Night Music respectively, will be on a list of 50 which listeners can choose from, to decide the BBC Radio 2 Favourite Song From A Musical.
The channel will launch a weekend celebration of musicals next month (date to be announced).
By Gary Smith
Then, on January 31, Paige will devote her Radio 2 Sunday show to a special Top 20 countdown, before revealing the voters’ number one choice for best song from a stage or screen musical.
Easy, right? No! It’s hellishly difficult, but enormous fun, too. There will be rows.
I was part of the panel, along with Paige, West End star Marisha Wallace and arts entrepreneur Sita McIntosh, tasked with compiling a Top 50.
First, we were each asked to come up with our favourite 100. Then we had to boil that figure down . . . and it was tough, having to eliminate some of the greatest songs ever written.
Not sure if I’m allowed to vote again! However, I’ll certainly be tuning into Paige’s broadcast on January 31. (For details of how you can take part, visit bbc.co.uk/radio2 from noon today.)
By the way, Paige’s status as Britain’s queen of the musicals was confirmed when I watched her, last Saturday night, playing Queen Rat in Pantoland at the London Palladium.
Here was an artist — the original Evita! . . . the original Grizabella in Cats (Memory’s on the list)! — a star of West End and Broadway, sending herself up, and her career, too. It was a peerless turn.
I’m saddened that because the theatres in London were shut down on Tuesday night, others won’t get to see her, or Julian Clary, Beverley Knight and their co-stars.
Bowie musical will stream next month
The musical Lazarus, which David Bowie helped develop and saw open in New York before he died on January 10, 2016, will stream on January 8 — which would have been his 73rd birthday.
Directed by Ivo van Hove, Lazarus opened at the New York Theater Workshop on December 6, 2015. Bowie passed away a month later.
Producer Robert Fox told me that the King’s Cross Theatre production, starring Michael C. Hall, Michael Esper and Sophia Anne Caruso, would begin streaming at 7pm on January 8; the same time the following day; and at 3pm on January 10.
David Bowie arrives with his wife Iman at the Theatre Workshop in New York to attend the premiere of the musical Lazarus in 2015
Michael C. Hall plays the role of Newton in the David Bowie created stage show Lazarus during a press preview in London on November 3, 2016
Fox advised that Lazarus would stream around the world at those exact same times in local time zones, ‘so no one has to wake up, or stay up for some ungodly hour’.
Bowie starred in Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 classic cult film The Man Who Fell To Earth, playing Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien from another galaxy looking for a way to save his dehydrated planet.
Hall takes on the part of Newton in Lazarus and sings several numbers written for the show by Bowie.
Fans will know that The Man Who Fell to Earth is based on Walter Tevis’s 1963 novel.
Tevis also wrote The Queen’s Gambit in 1983, which director Scott Frank and producer William Hornberg turned into a blockbuster mini-series starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Camp, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Harry Melling, Moses Ingram and Marielle Heller.
Find streaming information and pricing at https://link.dice.fm/lazarus
Fox said purchasers will be encouraged to donate something above the ticket price to the Theatre Artists Fund and Help Musicians. ‘This is obviously to support the freelancers who’ve been really hurt by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns,’ he added.