Archive for the ‘Actresses’ Category


Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical

October 8, 2013

“I am prepared to hate this show, ” is what I said  to my friend as we took our seats at Paper Mill Playhouse for the performance of “Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical.”

“Me, too.” was the response.

Admittedly, not  a great attitude to bring to a show.  But I don’t like the movie “Honeymoon In Vegas,” dragged down by some stiff  performances and missed potential for comedy.  If this musical was going to be a rehash of Nicholas Cage, James Caan and Sarah Jessica Parker 20 years later and with a few songs tossed in, we were in for a long night.

But I was attending the show as research for anticipated cast interviews.  I need to bring an open mind and I was curious  how they would take the film’s storyline and turn it into a musical.

It turned out be the most surprising evening in all my years covering entertainment. Not because the producers tried to reinvent the genre, make a social statement, be self consciously artistic, or stray from the story’s basic boy loses girl-boy gets girl plot.  It was a surprise because the musical (with book written by Andrew Bergman who also wrote the screenplay) achieves what the movie did not:  it embraces the absurdity, goes balls to the wall for laughs, creates a tender moment without leaving the audience suffocating in vat of schmaltz.

At it’s core, the story is pretty preposterous. So why hold back? I’m delighted to say, “Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical” does not. It is hilarious, action packed, with first class musical performances.

“Honeymoon In Vegas The Musical” stars audience favorite Tony Danza as Tommy Korman (the James Caan part in the movie),  the impossibly energetic Rob McClure who brings his substantial gifts for song and physical comedy to Jack Singer (the Nicholas Cage  movie role), and  includes outstanding performances by Broadway veterans Nancy Opel and  Matthew Saldivar, and a 14 piece orchestra that is refreshingly on stage and an integral part of the show.







ON THE SCENE: Southside, Lampanelli, Grey. Wrapped

October 3, 2013

Thanks to everyone for the observations, compliments and all around great feedback on this past weekend’s episode of “ON THE SCENE” with Southside Johnny, Lisa Lampanelli and Joel Grey.

This New Year’s Eve Southside will return to the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, New Jersey for his annual concert. And the show has some special meaning attached: it will be one of the kickoff events to mark New Jersey’s 350th anniversary.  Music has played a huge part in that history, so it’s fitting a concert by a Jersey born and bred artist starts off the year of celebration.

Follow my twitter feed @JohnBathkeLive for continuous updates about interviews that I am doing, and when the next show will air. We’re a recurring special presentation of News 12 New Jersey, so I”m not on every weekend. But we make the weekend that we are on, count!


Joan Rivers, Jewel, Glen Burtnik: ON THE SCENE

April 6, 2013

Tune in this weekend, April 6 & 7, for an all new ON THE SCENE on News 12 New Jersey at 11 AM, 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM each day.

This is one of my all time favorite episodes. I interviewed Joan Rivers at her Manhattan apartment. We had a conversation about complicated mother-daughter relationships, her enduring comedy career and who makes her laugh. This is not an interview of punchlines, but about real emotions and I think everyone watching will discover something new about Rivers…even after all her years in show business.

The interview with Jewel was done backstage at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood where she launched her 2013 national tour. Jewel donated items to raise money for a New Jersey charity helping Sandy victims, and she and I talk about her own ordeal with homelessness as a beginning artist…and how that’s helped her to identify with people in New Jersey who lost homes to the storm.

And my Glen Burtnik interview morphed into a profile of a songwriter and his song, and I think it’s fascinating. Glen co-wrote “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” with Patty Smythe over 20 years ago. It’s a heartbreaking rock ballad. But the lyrics never meant that much to Glen…till his divorce years later. And suddenly, that song became almost impossible for him to sing.

Watch, and let me know what you think of the show.


Lewis Black, Jim Norton, Peter Max & MANY More ON THE SCENE

December 22, 2012

Sunday is the last shot to catch ON THE SCENE: The Best Of 2012. It’s a collection of clips from some of our most interesting celebrity interviews of the year including Lewis Black, Jim Norton, Bernadette Peters, Chris Botti, Joe Pantoliano,  Peter Max and more.

Watch News 12 New Jersey Sunday at 11AM, 1:30PM or 3:30PM.

Enjoy the show and here’s to an amazing year of interviews in 2013!



ON THE SCENE Best Of…Ready To Roll

December 18, 2012

Two days, holed up in a dark editing booth and now ON THE SCENE the Best Of 2012 show is ready to see the light of day.

We cut and culled until we made it to seven of our favorite artists featured in our show during 2012. And we took the very best excepts from each of those interviews and put them in this year-end special.

With one exception: Bernadette Peters. A good portion of my original interview with her this fall never aired and so a brand new piece with her is in this show.

So tune in News 12 New Jersey this Saturday and Sunday, December 22nd and 23rd at 11AM, 1:30PM and 3:30PM each day.  The show includes Joe Pantoliano, Peter Max, Chris Botti, Lewis Black, Jim Norton, and Rob McClure who stars at Charlie Chaplin in “Chaplin” the Broadway musical.


ON THE SCENE: Evolving Like An Artist

August 15, 2012

The other day I tweeted how I hoped people watching would take special note of my interview with the actor Joe Pantoliano in this weekend’s ON THE SCENE encore. (News 12 New Jersey, 8:30am, 11:30am, 4:30pm August 18th, 19th).

This is an uncommonly personal, revealing and at times hilarious  interview about his battles with mental illness and growing up in a (highly) dysfunctional mob family. Our walk through his neighborhood in Hoboken, New Jersey opened everyone watching to Joe’s world in a most unique way.

I also learned a lot from doing this interview. And I’ve made a decision that ON THE SCENE will again evolve as it has numerous times over its seven incredible years. We will be going even deeper into the experiences and pivotal moments of the artists we interview. Because I see how so many people watching will benefit.

Actually, the change began a year and a half ago with my interview with Darlene Love, then at a pivotal moment in her life. She found out just a couple of days before the interview that she would be inducted into  the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame. In that interview, producer Ivy Charmatz and I came up with a list of questions…and a structure…that would take Darlene back over several other pivotal moments in her life  (falling on hard times and working as a maid, getting ripped off by producer Phil Spector)  that led her to where she was on the day we met.  Watch it on the credits page of my website.

So in the coming episodes look for more of this pov and let me know what artists you’d like to see me interview.


Darlene Love Recovers From Heart Attack

July 28, 2012

Rock singer Darlene Love suffered a mild heart attack while performing at an Asbury Park, New Jersey nightclub and is said to be doing well after stent surgery.

If you’re just becoming aware of Love (“He’s A Rebel”, “Christmas Baby Please Come Home”) by catching reports online about her heart surgery, check out this emotional and revealing interview with her conducted just days after she discovered her dream of being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame was about to come true


Covering The Death Of Whitney Houston

February 16, 2012

I have spent this week covering the death of Whitney Houston from her hometown of Newark, New Jersey, which is next door to the city where she grew up, East Orange.

Here I am getting ready for a live report from New Hope Baptist Church where her funeral will take place. This is where it all began for Houston singing in the church choir.

John Bathke Covers Whitney Houston's Death


ON THE SCENE Show Times Announced: “Red” and Peter Max

February 5, 2012

Here I am this Sunday morning having breakfast with Bob Ari and Randy Harrison. It’s very intimate, just me and the two actors from “Red” whom I’ve been writing about since my recent interviews.


The only thing is, neither of them knows we’re together.


That’s because I’m starting my day sealed in a tiny edit suite at the tv station,  coffee at my side, seated in front of a computer and two HD monitors where I’m screening the interviews with Ari and Harrison, the rehearsal footage,  and the performance, all of which we shot this past Thursday at George Street Playhouse.


I’m struck by how much thought each actor has put into his role and the connection they seem to feel to Mark Rothko’s paintings. The late abstract expressionist is the subject of “Red.” Ari plays Rothko and Harrison portrays an assistant hired to help him complete a set of murals.


Harrison said to me about his character Ken, “I loved how much he grows, how much the character transforms in the course of the 90 minute play…And I definitely think as a young artist, although I’m not that young anymore, I feel like I’ve gone through very similar experiences in different relationships that I’ve had with different acting teachers and different directors.”


“Red” is a battle of artistic wills as the younger artist comes into his own, while enduring browbeating and tirades by Rothko.  It’s tense, non stop drama as Harrison points out about the two-character play.


“It’s starting to feel like going into a boxing ring…there’s no time for breathing, no time to get off stage.”


As for Ari, he saw the Tony Award winning production and says he immediately wanted to play Rothko.  “I saw this play on Broadway with Alfred Molina and I looked at it and said, ‘this goes on the bucket list.’ This is a part I have to play before I kick.”


But would Ari have liked the man he’s playing? “I wouldn’t have liked to be his assistant but I would have liked to have been a dinner guest or friend. But yes, he’s portrayed as sort of a monster.”


That’s just a taste of what we’ll be talking about next weekend. And in the same show, we’re running my interview with Peter Max, another iconic American painter to emerge in the 20th Century, as Rothko did. (I”ll be writing more about Max in the coming week). So in that way this is truly a special ON THE SCENE.


Please tune in Saturday, February 11th and Sunday, February 12th to News 12 New Jersey at 8:30 AM, 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM both days to catch this episode of ON THE SCENE.

Also, I’m  hearing from Randy Harrison’s devoted fans around the world and I assure you, video will be posted on (including his comments about “Queer As Folk”) early in the week following this episode’s debut so you won’t be left out! I’ll announce that on the blog so check back, then. I appreciate your interest.












Artists, Stars And John’s Reflections ON THE SCENE

December 31, 2011

I know the year is winding down when all the “year-in-review” pieces are on the news. You know, the compilations of the deadliest storms, salacious sex scandals, most outrageous political gaffes and hottest celebrity weddings.

So I figured why not do one of my own revisiting the best arts and entertainment interviews for ON THE SCENE. No murder, no torture. Unless you count waiting an extra 35 minutes in a stifling theatre dressing room for Richard Belzer. 99 degrees, lousy air conditioning, yeah, that was torture.

But during the edit session last night I was reminded why the show touched so many lives this year and how it brought unique experiences to our audience.

When I saw again the tremendous talents whom I had the opportunity to interview: Darlene Love who poured out her heart describing her bumpy journey  to becoming a Rock ‘n’ Roll icon; Christine Ebersole reliving the moment she stood up for herself against Hollywood agism and packed her bags to start a new life in New York theatre; painter Bojana Coklyat surviving a double organ transplant to paint again.  (All of these pieces can be seen in their entirety on

I’m thinking also about photographer Timothy White and his fascinating stories about shooting Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford and Elizabeth Taylor. And how Rita Rudner kept going and our interview stretched more than twice the agreed upon time because she felt that I had “really done my homework” to prepare.

And there were Tyne Daly and David Hyde Pierce who did their only tv interviews with ON THE SCENE for the debut of the musical “It Shoulda Been You” this fall…and by next fall the show is scheduled to open on Broadway.

And dance legend, Judith Jamison, of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater came to show us how dance can turn around troubled and deprived young lives when I interviewed her about Ailey’s Newark, New Jersey dance camp.

So for me this ON THE SCENE year-in-review celebrates our audience who tune in looking for everything from artistic enrichment to a few minutes of the famous dishing celebrity stories. And it celebrates the artists who say “yes” to being interviewed for the show. ON THE SCENE is the rarest and most precious of things in television…a local arts and entertainment magazine show. Check around the United States and you will see that a show like this is almost impossible to find on commercial television.  By appearing on our show, artists are perpetuating coverage of their craft at a time when we risk losing that altogether.

ON THE SCENE is my passion project. I know that I have a good chance of having a happy new year with the show to throw myself into. And I invite you: come join me!