Jonathan Groff and Aaron Lazar bring fresh intelligence to ‘A New Brain’ in Encores! series

“Aaron Lazar plus this song equals a panty-dropper,” says Jonathan Groff, Lazar’s co-star. “Male and female panties.” The emotionally charged show tune in question, “I’d Rather Be Sailing,” is part of William Finn’s musical “A New Brain.” The show runs Wednesday through Saturday at the Encores! Off-Center concert series. Groff, known for “Spring Awakening” and HBO’s “Looking,” and Lazar, seen recently on Broadway in “The Last Ship,” play boyfriends in the musical drawn from Finn’s real-life health crisis. Groff was obsessed with “A New Brain” as a teen. Lazar is discovering the musical. “This whole show,” Lazar says, “is a beautiful surprise for me.” Go to for details on “A New Brain.” You can hear the complete conversation with Groff and Lazar on the Joe D Show podcast. Continue Reading

EXCLUSIVE: ‘I felt like I won the lottery by accident!’ Jonathan Groff on playing King George in ‘Hamilton’ on Broadway

It’s good to be the king. So says Jonathan Groff, who confirms that he is reprising the plum part of King George III on Broadway in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop biomusical “Hamilton,” starting performances July 13 at the Richard Rodgers. In an interview for The Joe D Show podcast with Aaron Lazar about their roles as boyfriends in the Encores! Off-Center production of William Finn’s musical “A New Brain” at City Center, Groff explains how he came to the royal role of King George — and why he wanted more. “They asked me before I’d heard any of the music for ‘Hamilton,’” says Groff in his first interview about moving with the show to Broadway. “It hadn’t opened yet. But they knew in advance that Brian had to leave. They called me,” and were like ‘Do you want to do it?’ And I was like ‘Yeah, for two months. I don’t even know what it is. But they’re like ‘You just have one song’ and I was like, great. Whatever.” Then he saw “Hamilton,” about founding father Alexander Hamilton at the Public Theater. “I was like ‘Oh my God.’ I couldn’t believe it,” says Groff. “Lin was making fun of me because I couldn’t stop crying through the whole thing. I felt like I won the lottery by accident. Yeah, I want to do this for long. It’s so fun. I’m not in the show that much so I’d just watch the show because I was like, ‘What the f--- is happening right now.’ It’s just so good.” “A New Brain” runs June 24-27 at New York City Center. The Joe D Show (on iTunes) with Groff, who shows off his new piano playing skills, and Lazar, who performs a snippet of the song “I’d Rather Be Sailing,” airs June 19. Continue Reading

Jonathan Vilma’s advice to Patriots QB Tom Brady: ‘lawyer up’

Jonathan Vilma knows a little something about sacking an NFL suspension. And now the former Jets first-round draft pick, who was the accused ringleader of the Saints' cash-for-hits bounty program, is offering up some advice to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. "I'd tell Brady to fight the emotion of defending himself publicly, lawyer up and begin to devise a gameplan to beat the NFL through the (court) system," Vilma wrote in a text message to ESPN's Ed Werder. MYERS: BONDS DEFLATED AS PATRIOTS VS. NFL GETTING NASTY Vilma, who was initially hit with a season-long suspension by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in 2012 for his role in the BountyGate scandal, hired a lawyer and took the league, and Goodell, to federal court after going through the NFL's appeals process. Vilma, who spent four seasons with the Jets before being traded to the Saints in 2008, was able to continue playing while fighting the league's ban. The threat of federal court eventually led to Goodell appointing ex-NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a neutral arbitrator. In December 2012, Tagliabue ruled in favor of Vilma, and three other players, and overturned the suspensions. Brady was slapped with a four-game ban by the NFL on Monday for being "at least generally aware" of the Patriots' use of under-inflated footballs in last season's AFC title game and not fully cooperating with the league's DeflateGate investigation. The four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback appears to be following Vilma's advice as he has hired powerful New York lawyer Jeffrey Kessler to handle his appeal. Kessler was part of the legal team that successfully battled the NFL over the BountyGate sanctions. Continue Reading

Alabama coach Nick Saban to address arrests of Geno Smith and Jonathan Taylor

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama coach Nick Saban is expected to address the media Monday after two Crimson Tide players were arrested in separate cases over the weekend. Defensive back Geno Smith and defensive lineman Jonathan Taylor are facing legal trouble again. Smith was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol Saturday for the second time in his career. Smith took to social media to apologize to fans for his arrest. “I know I have lost respect from alot of Alabama fans and thats understandable but I will be better from these events in my life!” Smith said in one of several such posts on his Twitter page Saturday. He was also arrested on a DUI charge in August 2013. Taylor’s case is potentially even more of a problem for the program. The player signed with the Tide months after his dismissal from Georgia and was arrested Saturday for similar allegations of domestic abuse. The case in Georgia is still pending. Saban has kicked Taylor off the team, saying the player knew he was signed under a “zero tolerance policy.” His case has been referred to the university’s judicial affairs, according to school spokeswoman Deborah Lane. Taylor has been charged with domestic violence third-degree assault and domestic violence third-degree criminal mischief, police said. A police news release said the woman had injuries to her neck and a hole had been punched in the closet door of a bedroom. The 6-foot-4, 335-pound lineman was dismissed from Georgia in July 2014 following his arrest on aggravated assault and family violence charges. Taylor played last season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. He was also one of four Georgia players arrested in March 2014 for receiving double payments for checks of $71.50 issued by the school’s athletic department. Alabama had also re-signed defensive lineman D.J. Pettway out of a junior college last year, 10 months after the Continue Reading

Jonathan Crombie, beloved ‘Anne of Green Gables’ boy next door, dead at 48 from brain hemorrhage: reports (VIDEO)

Canadian actor Jonathan Crombie died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage in New York City on Wednesday, his family told CBC News. Crombie, 48, last appeared on a recent episode of CBS’ “The Good Wife,” but he found an enduring place in the hearts of many in his long-running role as Gilbert Blythe in the “Anne of Green Gables” series. The character portrayed by the Toronto native wins the fancy of the eponymous red-haired orphan girl transported to the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island in the adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery's novels. And Crombie, who won the role as a high schooler over the likes of Jason Priestly in a 1985 CBC miniseries, came to embody his famous part in filmmaker Kevin Sullivan’s line of TV shows and movies, Sullivan told CBC. “I think for legions of young women around the world who fell in love with the Anne of Green Gables films, Jonathan literally represented the quintessential boy next door, and there were literally thousands of women who wrote to him over the years who saw him as a perfect mate,” Sullivan said. “I think there will be hundreds of people who will be floored that this has happened. It's such a devastating tragedy. In reality, Jonathan was as generous, as kind, as sensitive and as ambitious, in some ways, as the character he came to be identified with.” Crombie also served as the voice of Benjamin Bear in the animated series “The Secret Adventures of Benjamin Bear,” according to his profile on the IMDb entertainment database. He’s survived by his father, former Toronto Mayor David Crombie, and his sister Carrie Crombie, who told CBC her brother relished his lead role in the Broadway production of “The Drowsy Chaperone” as his proudest accomplishment. “He would only take the bus back and forth from Toronto to New Continue Reading

Alabama DL Jonathan Taylor kicked off team after second domestic violence arrest

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama coach Nick Saban has dismissed Jonathan Taylor from the team following the second domestic violence arrest of the defensive lineman's college career. Saban announced the decision on Sunday, a day after Tuscaloosa police arrested Taylor when a woman reported she was assaulted by her boyfriend. Taylor signed with the Crimson Tide about six months after his dismissal from Georgia following his arrest in a girlfriend's assault. "Jonathan Taylor has been dismissed from the team and is no longer a part of our program," Saban said in a statement released through the athletic department. "This will still need to go through the legal process, but when he was given an opportunity here, it was under strict guidelines and we made it clear there was a zero tolerance policy." RELATED: NICK SABAN TO ADDRESS ARRESTS OF GENO SMITH AND JONATHAN TAYLOR University spokeswoman Deborah Lane said Sunday that Taylor has been referred to judicial affairs. Taylor has been charged with domestic violence third-degree assault and domestic violence third-degree criminal mischief, police said. A police news release said the woman had injuries to her neck. The 6-foot-4, 335-pound lineman was dismissed from Georgia in July 2014 following his arrest on aggravated assault and family violence charges. Taylor played last season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Mississippi. He was also one of four Georgia players arrested in March 2014 for receiving double payments for checks of $71.50 issued by the school's athletic department. Alabama athletic director Bill Battle said the university and athletic department had "set forth very clear standards of accountability and expectations of conduct" for Taylor. "Jonathan was afforded a chance to successfully overcome the difficulties that resulted in his departure from the University of Georgia," Battle said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it appears that he was unable to do so, in Continue Reading

The Joe D Show: ‘A New Brain’ stars Jonathan Groff and Aaron Lazar

Guests for this week’s "The Joe D Show" podcast are Jonathan Groff and Aaron Lazar, stars of “A New Brain” at New York City Center June 24-27. Groff (“Spring Awakening,” “Looking”) knows the 1998 autobiographical musical by William Finn like the back of his hand. He learned to play piano for it — and you can hear him tickle the keys. Lazar (“The Last Ship”) is discovering the show — and carries the rapturous song, “I’d Rather Be Sailing.” He sings a tiny snippet. Listen to the The Joe D Show to hear more of this lively, if a little bit F-bomb-laced conversation about “A New Brain,” “Hamilton,” “Looking,” “The Prince of Egypt,” joint showers (you need to hear it) and more. Make sure to find us on iTunes ( and subscribe for more episodes. This podcast is edited by Frank Posillico and produced by me. Want more ‘The Joe D Show’? Check us out on iTunes, Stitcher or your podcast provider of choice. And if you like the show, let them know with a review. We want to hear from you. Hit us up on the Twitter with the hashtag #JoeDShow, and follow us at @TheJoeDShow, and find more articles, reviews and theater news at Get more Daily News podcasts. Continue Reading

Jonathan Rhys Meyers admits suffering ‘minor’ alcohol relapse, apologizes to fans

Jonathan Rhys Meyers admitted to suffering an alcohol relapse weeks after trouble pics surfaced showing him staggering through London looking haggard and clutching a bottle of vodka. The Irish actor, who has long struggled with substance abuse issues, posted a message to fiancé Mara Lane's Instagram account Monday to apologize to fans and explain the incident, which he called a "minor relapse." "Mara and I are thankful for your support and kindness during this time," Meyers said. "I apologize for having a minor relapse and hope that people don't think too badly of me." "I stopped drinking immediately and it is no reflection on 'Damascus Cover' as I was not meant to attend Cannes this year and I apologize to fans and colleagues." "I am on the mend and thank well-wishers and sorry for my disheveled appearance as I was on my way home from a friends (sic) and had not changed I feel I made a mistake and feel quite embarrassed but this was just a blip in my recovery otherwise I'm living a healthy life," he said. In the unfortunate pics taken on May 15, the 37-year-old heartthrob looked nearly unrecognizable, sporting a week's worth of stubble on his puffy, splotchy face.  His T-shirt was spattered with stains, his pants were unbuttoned and he carried an open bottle of vodka in one hand and a blue plastic bag in the other. Jonathan Rhys Meyers admitted to relapsing into alcohol abuse earlier this month. He was photographed carrying a bottle of vodka and looking disheveled while walking through London on May 15. The "Match Point" actor has had a long history of substance abuse and mental health difficulties and has also spent several stints in rehab dating back to the mid-2000s. In 2013, it was reported that NBC refused to pay him the majority of his $100,000 per episode salary for "Dracula" until filming of the vampire drama was completed, fearing his addiction might disrupt the production schedule. The movie Continue Reading

‘A New Brain’ review: Jonathan Groff and company light up Encores! Off-Center show

A TUNEFUL and chipper number in “A New Brain” repeatedly points out that you need “heart and music to survive.” The show heeds half that smart advice. Back in a starry and beautifully sung Encores! Off-Center concert staging led by Jonathan Groff, this 1998 show has more than enough music from composer/lyricist William Finn. This quirky and intensely personal 90-minute work about Finn’s own life-and-death medical crisis is practically sung-through. A few musical gems pop up in a score chockablock with character-driven songs, novelty numbers, pretty ballads and unexpected, grin-inducing rhymes (“elbow/hell no”). On the other hand, this “Brain” could use more heart. Maybe Finn, who co-wrote the book with director James Lapine, is too close to the material. But there’s an almost clinical detachment toward the characters. Gordon, a struggling composer eager to create something, played by Groff, is sketchily drawn. Relationships with his boyfriend Roger and mother Mimi and others close to him are underexplored. Wispy connections stunt a fuller and richer emotional wallop. Fortunately, Lapine has assembled a cast of Broadway pros who enrich underwritten principal roles. As Roger, Aaron Lazar adds a sweet-and-hunky presence and vocals to match. His version of the wishful and lovely “I’d Rather Be Sailing” is as seductive as a cool ocean breeze. Funny girl Ana Gasteyer shows serious pipes in the touching “The Music Still Plays On,” about a mother’s fears. Dan Fogler won a Tony for Finn’s “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” Here he lends humor as Gordon’s boss. Josh Lamon adds fun as a chubby “nice” male nurse. And Rema Webb is such a soulful powerhouse you almost don’t mind that the homeless woman who sings of change — in every sense — seems to have drifted in from “Rent.” Continue Reading

Jonathan Blum, the Park Slope Picasso, hosts retrospective of his work

Here’s an artist who is still head and shoulders above everyone else. Jonathan Blum, known as much for his whimsical forehead portraits as he is for his storefront studio on Fifth Ave. in Park Slope, will host a major retrospective of his work on Saturday with hundreds of pieces that he’s sold over the past 35 years. The show doubles as Blum’s 50th birthday party, which makes sense given that Blum errs on the side of fun not formality. “A kid comes into my studio the other day and he looks around and says, ‘So you do kids paintings for adults,’” Blum says. “I thought, ‘Hey, that’s not a bad way of putting it.’” Blum indeed started as a cartoonist, offering his first works in 1986 for Stuff Magazine when he was a student at the Museum School of Fine Arts in Boston. Even then, Blum only painted people’s faces above the eyes. He’s since branched out to putting things on top of people’s heads. And sometimes he paints people’s noses. And once in a while an upper lip creeps into one of Blum’s instantly recognizable works. “It started out as a funny way to paint people, but then a family commissioned me out of the blue to paint them with their favorite food on top of their heads, so that’s where that came from.” Blum’s initial success came when he lived in Washington, D.C. after college, cranking out forehead paintings of Bert and Ernie and selling them, along with many others, at the Eastern Market. When he finally decided to move on from painting the candy-colored “Sesame Street” characters, it sent such shockwaves that one local paper declared, “Blum breaks up with Bert.” Blum moved to New York in the late 1990s and branched into more foreheads: rabbis, animals, famous people. But he still personally Continue Reading