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SHOWBIZ 'Rent,' Ariana Grande, Lena Waithe, Elton John
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times
2018-12-11

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Fox has announced the full cast for the upcoming live musical event Rent, which will air Sunday, Jan. 27, a press release noted. Actress Kiersey Clemons, Emmy nominee and Tony winner Brandon Victor Dixon, singer/songwriter Jordan Fisher, actress/singer Vanessa Hudgens, singer/songwriter Brennin Hunt, R&B/pop singer Mario, recording artist Tinashe and drag performer Valentina are set to star. The television adaptation will be broadcast from the Fox Studios in Los Angeles. Film, television and theater producer Marc Platt, along with the estate of writer/composer Jonathan Larson, will executive-produce the event.

Vevo confirmed that the Ariana Grande video "thank u, next" had broken the 24-hour Vevo record and is the fastest to reach 100 million views, a press release touted. The video features Kris Jenner playing Ariana's mom as well as a playful representation of some of movies most iconic romantic comedies, including Legally Blonde and 13 Going on 30. The scenes feature cameos from Jennifer Coolidge, Jonathan Bennett, Troye Sivan, Colleen Ballinger, Daniella Monet, Elizabeth Gillies and Stefanie Drummond.

In other Grande-related news, Grindr-owned LGBTQ news site INTO has removed the byline of the author who wrote an op-ed condemning the record-breaking "Thank U, Next" music video after a "high number of death threats" were directed at the writer, Page Six reported. The op-ed said that the video is "laden with transmisogyny, anti-queer jokes and blackface." INTO Editor-in-Chief Zach Stafford updated the article with a formal apology.

Lena Waithe's installation was a huge hit at Refinery29's interactive exhibit 29Rooms in Los Angeles, Page Six noted. The "Ready Player One" star's "Oh Say Can You See" room includes a four-part installation that "follows decades of American history that have brought on waves of persecution and disenfranchisement and continue to be met by Black protest, Black heroes, Black art and Black excellence," an insider told the website. Kesha also displayed a room at the show.

Archive footage of Elton John's festive classic "Step Into Christmas" has been unveiled, a press release noted. The extremely rare performance footage was originally broadcast in 1973 as part of The Gilbert O'Sullivan Show. Featuring John alongside his classic band line-up of Davey Johnstone, Dee Murray and Nigel Olsson ( and a rare cameo from songwriting partner Bernie Taupin on percussion ) it has not been seen since it was first aired in 1973. "Step Into Christmas" is available now as a three track digital EP featuring the original single audio, B-side of "Ho! Ho! Ho! ( Who'd Be A Turkey At Christmas )" and the audio version from the Gilbert O'Sullivan Show.

A Newer World—an original musical based on the Harvard Scandal of 1920, which involved the university forming a secret court to rid the school of a group of gay students whose dorm room parties exposed their secret lives—had an invitation-only reading on Dec. 6 at Pearl Studios,, Broadway World noted. The performance featured direction by two-time Tony winner Jerry Mitchell ( Kinky Boots; Pretty Woman ), and the reading had musical direction by Will Van Dyke ( Pretty Woman ). A few of the cast members included John Riddle, Ricky Schroeder, Max von Essen and Elena Shaddow.

Singer-songwriter k.d. lang will perform a 25th-anniversary concert celebrating her critically acclaimed 1992 album Ingénue from the Majestic Theater in San Antonio, Texas, in "k.d. lang — Landmarks Live in Concert — A Great Performances Special," premiering nationwide Friday, Dec. 14, a on PBS, the network announced. This Landmarks Live in Concert special features an uninterrupted performance of the complete Ingénue album, including lang's Grammy-winning hit "Constant Craving," "Save Me," "Wash Me Clean," "Season of Hollow Soul" and "Miss Chatelaine." The concert also includes the Leonard Cohen song "Hallelujah" and a previously unreleased song by lang and Joe Pisapia, "Sleeping Alone," in addition to an interview with lang by James Reed, an entertainment editor at the Los Angeles Times.

Janelle Monae has come aboard The Glorias: A Life on the Road, the Gloria Steinem biopic that has Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander playing the feminist and social-political activist at various stages of her life, Deadline noted. Julie Taymor is directing the film, which is based on Steinem's memoir. The Glorias will follow Steinem's journey to become a crusader for equal rights and her groundbreaking work as a journalist and campaigner.

A list of actors with the worst reviewed movies has surfaced, Newsweek noted. The list, compiled by GoCompare, according to the Washington Post, does not name the worst actors; instead, it ranked the worst reviewed films averages to pin actors who appear in the most bashed movies. The men's list features Mike Epps in the leading spot, followed by Kevin Pollak,: Josh Duhamel, Robin Williams and Gerard Butler. Jessica Alba leads the female list of actors in worst rated films, and right behind her is Jessica Biel.

Tyra Banks has broken her silence on the death of America's Next Top Model alum Jael Strauss, People.com noted. "Top Model has lost a beautiful soul," Banks tweeted a day after Strauss, 34, died from breast cancer. Strauss, who competed on season eight of Top Model in 2007, died in hospice care Dec. 4 after being unconscious for a number of days, TMZ reported. Strauss announced her diagnosis in a Facebook post on Oct. 4.

MTV announced that Lindsay Lohan's Beach Club will premiere Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. CT, a press release noted. Following, the show will roll out globally across Viacom's international network of MTV channels in nearly 180 countries. The docuseries chronicles Lohan as she expands her business empire in Mykonos, Greece, with the launch of her new club, Lohan Beach House—but she won't do it alone.

BET has cancelled the pro-basketball-dancer show Hit the Floor ( helmed by gay executive producer/director James LaRosa ) after four seasons, TheWrap.com noted. The series ran for three years on VH1 and one year on BET.

WME has signed Lee Daniels, who directed the films Precious and The Butler, and co-created the hit Fox drama Empire, Deadline reported. Daniels ( who was with CAA ) also co-created the Fox drama Star, about a trio of women who form a singing group in Atlanta; that drama was the first under the overall deal with Fox television under his Lee Daniels Entertainment banner. Additional upcoming projects from the out director/producer include Waiting To Exhale, Eric Garner's Story … I Can't Breathe, biopics on Snoop Dogg and Sammy Davis Jr, and Ain't No Mo' ( Daniels' first play ).

Duane Martin, the estranged husband of Tisha Campbell-Martin, is accused of hiding money for multiple sources for years—even as the couple declared bankruptcy, according to TheGrio.com, citing a TMZ item. Bankruptcy officials claim he hid money from several different sources, including a loan obtained from Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith during the Martins' bankruptcy filing in January 2016. Officials learned of the alleged scam after Campbell-Martin filed for divorce in February and discovered her estranged husband had "concealed" and "diverted valuable assets" in their bankruptcy case.

The members of Heart—who are still sorting out seemingly irreconcilable differences ( Ann Wilson's husband being arrested for assaulting her sister Nancy's children in 2016 )—will mark their legacy with a new concert recording, Live in Atlantic City, Rolling Stone reported. The gig—recorded in 2006 for VH1's Decades Rock Live broadcast—will be available on LP, CD, DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 25, and it will feature a new mix and new mastering. The concert featured guest appearances by Alice in Chains, Dave Navarro, Rufus Wainwright, Carrie Underwood and Guns N' Roses Duff McKagan, among others.

Jessica Simpson responded to a Natalie Portman quote the latter gave to USA Today, Page Six noted. Portman told the newspaper, in part, ""I remember being a teenager, and there was Jessica Simpson on the cover of a magazine saying 'I'm a virgin' while wearing a bikini, and I was confused." Simpson tweeted, in part, "I was taught to be myself and honor the different ways all women express themselves, which is why I believed then—and I believe now—that being sexy in a bikini and being proud of my body are not synonymous with having sex." Portman later apologized.

The movie Love, Gilda ( about the late comedienne Gilda Radner ) will be out on DVD and digital HD on Jan. 1, a press release noted. The release stated, "Weaving together her recently discovered audiotapes and rare home movies, Love, Gilda opens a unique window into the honest and whimsical world of the beloved performer whose greatest role was sharing her story." The documentary also includes interviews with Saturday Night Live creator/producer Lorne Michaels and writer Alan Zweibel, Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz and Second City CEO Andrew Alexander.

Suspiria actress Chloe Grace Moretz locked lips with model Kate Harrison after enjoying dinner at Nobu in Malibu, as seen in photos published by TMZ, People.com noted. The model has posed for Playboy alongside fellow model Emily LaBowe for its Adventure Issue. Moretz previously dated Brooklyn Beckham, son of David and Victoria Beckham.

Faye Dunaway is coming back to Broadway—and she'll be playing Katharine Hepburn, Deadline noted. In a brief and surprise announcement, producer Ben Feldman dropped the news that Dunaway—after an absence of more than 35 years from the Broadway stage—will play Hepburn in the Broadway premiere next summer of playwright Matthew Lombardo's one-woman-play Tea at Five. The play, in a new version by Lombardo written for this production, will be directed by the Tony-nominated John Tillinger.

NBC News chief Noah Oppenheim announced that Kathie Lee Gifford has decided to exit Today show, where she has hosted the final hour of the four-hour franchise since 2008, Deadline reported. Part of Oppenheim's memo read, "As we all know, Kathie Lee's plate has been overflowing lately with film, music and book projects, and after giving us eleven extraordinary years, she's decided to focus her attention full-time on those other creative endeavors. ... Kathie Lee is generously staying with us through the show's next anniversary, April 7, 2019."

Amid the backlash to the firestorm over the Christmas classic "Baby It's Cold Outside," Susan Loesser—the daughter of the song's composer, Frank Loesser—defended the song while talking with Inside Edition. She insisted that connecting the song to the #MeToo movement is way off the mark, and added that her parents used to perform the song at parties, saying, "It's not a date-rape song—it's a flirtatious song." Frank Loesser wrote the song in 1944 for the film Neptune's Daughter; it won Best Song at the Oscars.

Neon has acquired North American rights to Amazing Grace, the Aretha Franklin concert film that has taken 45 years to get to a big screen, Deadline.com reported. The 1972 concert documentary, directed by Syndey Pollack, chronicles Franklin's famed performance with the choir at the New Bethel Baptist Church when she was 29. The movie had been mired in legal technicalities ever since.

George Eads is done with MacGyver, EW.com noted. EW has confirmed that the veteran CBS actor will be written off the reboot sometime in 2019. He has played Jack Dalton, a former CIA agent who's worked alongside MacGyver ( Lucas Till ), since the reboot's launch in 2016. The Hollywood Reporter stated Eads asked to leave the Atlanta-based series so he could spend more time with his young daughter in Los Angeles; the trade also reported that Eads walked away from the set in October after an "altercation."

Amanda Palmer has announced the release of There Will Be No Intermission—her first solo album in more than six years, a press release noted. The album is now available for pre-sale in multiple formats on AmandaPalmer.net and will be released March 8, 2019. To suppor the album, Palmer will hit the road for a seated theater tour beginning in North America in early 2019 and continuing globally into 2020.

Facebook Watch has set a New Year's Day premiere for 365 Days of Love, a new daily docuseries featuring Modern Family star Sofia Vergara, Deadline noted. The series concept was developed by New Form CEO Kathleen Grace. 365 Days of Love will feature a new story of love and human connection daily throughout 2019. The stories hail from top talent, influencers, emerging filmmakers and everyday people.

Showtime will debut the world premiere of the new documentary film American Dream/American Knightmare, on Friday, Dec. 21, on-air, streaming and on demand, a press release noted. The documentary—which offers an uncensored look into the life of notorious rap mogul Marion "Suge" Knight—is directed by Antoine Fuqua ( Training Day; Southpaw ).


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