Tuesday, December 18, 2007
A Bronx Tale
The first rule of writing a one-man show, of course, is to have a damn good story to tell. Chazz Palminteri's Bronx childhood has that from the start. His autobiographical romp takes us through a witnessed murder, an unlikely bond with a dangerous mobster and a perilous interracial romance. It also gives us the now well-known date test that, thanks to the advance of automatic car door locks, is no longer relevant, but I digress. While I wouldn’t call Palminteri’s characterizations one-note, there’s just not enough differentiation there to propel the basic underlying conflict between the two centers of the show: Palminteri’s working-class hero father and the smooth gangster Sonny. At times, it’s a bit like listening to a book-on-tape, albeit a darn interesting one.
Is He Dead?
Playgoers, be warned. The dusty relic now on display at the Lyceum Theatre is full of stock characters from the ethnic stereotype warehouse, contrived plot devices and groaners that even Fozzie Bear wouldn’t incorporate into his act. Case in point: German Stereotype Character, after causing his companions to recoil in disgust at his hunk of limburger cheese, pulls a sausage out of his trousers, noting “The wurst is yet to come.” So why is this show so darn entertaining? Credit the fine cast, led by Norbert Leo Butz as Jean-Francois Millet (based on the real Millet about as much as the real Sam Walton was represented in "Walmartopia"), a down-on-his-luck artist who, at the urging of his aforementioned stereotype-laden cadre of pals, decides to fake his own death to jack up the value of his paintings and reappear as his own sister to collect on the estate. “Is He Dead?” is slow to get rolling, but in the hands of Butz and a talented ensemble that includes John McMartin, the chameleonic David Pittu and Marylouise Burke—so delightful as a dotty old spinster that I’m finally ready to forgive her for that bizarre performance in the revival of “Into the Woods” a few years ago—you’ll find yourself sheepishly laughing with, not at, this show. Like a fine team of paleontologists, adapter David Ives, director Michael Blakemore and the cast have taken a few ancient bones and given us a clear picture of the original, charming beast.
Had the Internet existed in Shakespeare’s time, I can only imagine the legion of angry Internet nerds pounding out scathing reviews following the premiere of “Cymbeline,” a twisted, confusing show that requires a flowchart even to get through the prologue. And then Jupiter comes down and fixes everything, helped by a step-by-step deathbed confession by one of the chief villains. In other words, a copout akin to “a wizard did it.” Still, like the first time I saw a production of the, to put it mildly, much less optimistic “Titus Andronicus,” I couldn’t help feel a little camp appreciation of this wacky work, particularly in the form of the lush production helmed by Mark Lamos at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre. The costumes, by Jess Goldstein, are gorgeous and are especially dazzling amongst the minimalist set—rows of gold columns to indicate a forest, for example. A lot of the acting is over-the-top, as it should be, but there’s also some very human performances to be found. Michael Cerveris anchors the show as the exiled groom Posthumus, John Pankow brings a quiet dignity to the proceedings as Posthumus' servant and David Furr and Gergory Wooddell. Martha Plimpton also continues her ascension as a go-to stage darling as the royal Imogen, whose verboten romance with Posthumus drives the action. And Phylicia Rashad and Adam Dannheisser are so much pompously hissing fun as the wicked mother-and-daughter team set out to usurp the kingdom that you’ll almost feel bad for laughing as Dannheisser’s disembodied head is dangled around the stage like a prop lantern.
It’s hardly a spoiler, I suppose, to reveal in the first sentence of this review that the mysterious Mr. Lockhart, played by Ciaran Hinds in the production of Conor McPherson’s latest now playing at the Booth Theatre, is the devil himself. Even Sharky (Robert Morse), the very man whose soul he’s come to claim in a game of cards, doesn’t seem that surprised by it. Such is McPherson’s brilliance, though. He can so delicately weave in the Irish supernatural with his tragically pathetic characters that I’d probably be willing to overlook it if Jupiter popped in to help out with matters. Set appropriately enough on Christmas Eve, however, this devil has come to earth in a wholly human form and melds in with McPherson’s equally florid and conversational dialogue.. His description of hell is one of the finest original speeches to be seen on Broadway in some time. The rest of the cast is superb, too. Morse gurgles with reserved frustration that makes one fearful of the eventual explosive climax. Conleth Hill is tragicomic gold as a hard-luck oaf, and I’ll also prematurely make the call that Jim Norton, as Sharky's carefree yet ailing brother Richard, will be the man to beat in the supporting actor in a play Tony race this year. Do these characters sound familiar? Yes, “The Seafarer” is typical McPherson. Replace the devil character with a young woman, in fact, and one could pretty much perform the show in perfect repertory with “The Weir.” But it’s definitely on the higher plane of typical McPherson, which is not a bad thing in the least.
Cyrano de Bergerac
This isn't so much a review as a cautionary tale. Never forget about 7 p.m. Tuesday curtains! I had just gotten back from Washington and was relaxing at my apartment, thinking I had time for a little rest and a quick bite before the show tonight. At just a little after 6:40, I glanced at my ticket and realized my error. Somehow, I managed to get from Washington Heights to the Richard Rodgers Theatre in about 20 minutes and missed only about a minute of the action. But I hate latecomers -- even when they're me! Oh, OK. Here's a quick, one-sentence review: Kevin Kline is his usual excellence, Jennifer Garner exceeds expectations and finally seeing Daniel Sunjata made me realize just how much I regret not seeing "Take Me Out" when I had the chance.
Monday, December 17, 2007
My schedule as of late, however, has made me put it all on the back burner. Just last night, someone whom I had been chatting with and who seemed like he might have a little potential suddenly bumped me to the reject pile largely because, I presume, I’m so hard to nail down nowadays. Dropped before the first date even had a chance to happen! As I alluded to in an earlier post, if Mr. Right had come along at any point in mid-November, I would have had a window of maybe two or three days to fit in a single date with him by the end of the year.
As evidence, I’m putting up this very blog post from a hotel in Bethesda, Md., where I just arrived tonight and will be leaving tomorrow following a brief business meeting.
All this made me realize: Do you know when the last time was that I had an actual date? Try around Halloween.
So I’m wondering – is my not dating right now a neglectful act? If it were all work causing this, it would be a no-brainer, but a lot of this hectic schedule is stuff I truly enjoy doing: traveling, seeing shows, visiting family and, of course, the chorus. And those two or three days I had in that dating window I really needed to fuel the introverted side of my personality. It's not as if I feel like I'm missing anything -- until people tell me that I am, that is.
Honestly, I’d rather not try to date if I don’t have the time to properly cultivate a good relationship should it come along. Self-centered? Perhaps. But I never jump into relationships quickly, and I’d rather not waste time spinning my wheels if it means cutting time out of things I enjoy doing. My usual philosophy on dating has been to give anyone a shot or two, even if they don’t seem my type, just to see what happens. But now, consider my bar officially raised. Or at least mounted. I just can’t decide if this is a mature or immature decision at this point.
And besides, that one guy who just sent me his “relationship essentials” is kind of cute.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Really, I always hate the day after a performance, especially one for which I truly enjoyed preparing. Such a crash! Our new director, Charles Beale, did a really great job putting this one -- our annual holiday concert at Carnegie Hall -- together. Admittedly, some of the song choices had a lot of us saying "Huh?" at the beginning of the rehearsal process --"You're the Voice"? That Heart song? Really? -- but it really blended into a lovely, coherent program, if I do say so myself. Angels and peace were the motif throughout, and it really spoke to some personal stuff with which I'm dealing right now, not to mention the crap that's going on in the political landscape right now. (I'm ready for my quarantine, Mr. Huckabee!)
I'll especially cherish the memory of working with Kelli O'Hara. She was a real workhorse for this concert, doing four numbers in a row in the first act as well as a surprise appearance in the second. She told us it was a special occasion for her as well, as a friend of hers who has since died had been in the chorus a few years back. She and bari/bass Robert Osborne were stunning on the Gerald Finzi cantata "In Terra Pax." I wish I'd slipped in my voice recorder for a bootleg, but those Carnegie folk are pretty scary about that, and I didn't want to risk getting caught and getting the chorus stuck with a heavy fine. Even if I had, the organ would have been overpowering from where I was standing, anyway.
Beyond that, I wouldn't be so presumptuous as to review my own performance! I will say, however, that there's no feeling like walking out to an applauding, packed house at Carnegie. Last year, my first concert with the chorus, I was really too overwhelmed to appreciate the experience. This year, I savored every moment.
So, since I can't plug the concert, buy our recordings! Even though I only participated in one of those recordings.
OK, enough of that. I'm falling behind, so I have a lot of reviews to get through this week as well as photos from Budapest. And a silly little detail called "work."
Friday, December 07, 2007
The name probably doesn't ring a bell, but anyone who's ever watched a White House press briefing in the last several decades has seen him. Or any regular watcher of "The Daily Show," for that matter. He's the old goat who always rattles off some tinfoil hat question that whomever is handling the conference quickly bats away.
For anyone who's ever attended a City Council meeting, think of him as the zany lady who always sits in the front row, reeking of McCormick Gin and cat litter, and has a 15-minute diatribe prepared on the city's coyote problem or some other matter that's conflated to a crisis in her head only. The one to whom the mayor always nods politely to after the speech but would run like hell if he ever saw her on the street.
At any rate, World Net Daily is up in arms because White House spokeswoman Dana Perino brushed off the "questions" about AIDS that Kinsolving had prepared in honor of World AIDS Day. Here's the exchange:
KINSOLVING: "Two domestic questions. The Media Research Center – with the Centers for Disease Control's statistics that HIV/AIDS in the U.S. is still a great deal higher among men who have sex with men �"
PERINO:: "Let's move on to the next question. I'm not even going to dignify�"
PERINO: "I'm not, Les, unless you want to just move on altogether. What's your next question?"
KINSOLVING: "All right. In major cities like Washington, Chicago and San Francisco, there are reports that gay bathhouses facilitate�"
PERINO: "Okay, Keith, go ahead. Les, it's inappropriate�"
KINSOLVING: "AIDS isn't that�"
PERINO: "Just stop it, stop it."
This is actually interesting for what it says about both the actors involved. Kinsolving absolutely hates homos to the point that he'd like to see them in ovens. Meanwhile, Perino is stuck with that White House policy to talk about AIDS without ever, ever mentioning the gays. And World Net Daily spins the whole thing to say that the White House has banned questions about AIDS altogether. No, they just don't want to listen to a senile nut rattle off Brent Bozell's doctored statistics about it. And they don't mention the gays EVER, except in cloaked language about marriage amendments.
Synchronize your bigotry, guys. It's embarrassing when you show up to a party in clashing outfits.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
1. When I was four, my sister made me learn her twirling routine as she tried out for the drill team. The music was...gosh, I can't remember the name of the song. It was used in an 80s movie--I can't remember which one--and it had no lyrics. That song used in the SNL sketch about the male synchronized swimmers. Long story short, sis didn't make the team, thus ending my twirling career.
2. I learned to eat beans only a few years ago. For most of the rest of my life, I wouldn't touch them. This included almost every type of bean outside of soy.
3. Although I've been a pretty consistent blond in recent years, I used to dye my hair all sorts of colors. My favorite was red, which I did when I was in "Dancing at Lughnasa."
4. I mentioned this in a blog comment before, but presidential hopeful Ron Paul was my mother's obstetrician and was supposed to deliver me. I was several weeks early, however, so he was out of town when I was born. Paul was also my sister's obstetrician several years later and actually was on hand to deliver my nephew. When I was in the Cub Scouts, I also got to swim in Paul's swimming pool.
5. I can name all the books of the Bible to this day, thanks to an annoying summer church camp ditty from years ago. I have to hum the tune in my head as I do it, though. And I can't name the apocrypha. Not in order, at least.
6. I was supposed to have been a featured extra in the film "Powder," but an unpleasant high school principal blocked me from doing so with nasty threats.
7. My first major writing project was a book I wrote in the second grade about the digestive tract. It was from the point of view of a roast beef sandwich. You should've seen my illustrations, particularly the chyme with the smiley face on it.
Monday, December 03, 2007
Apparently she found it stored away during a cleaning kick and decided to add it to the home decor. OK. So I'm told it's some sort of good luck charm to have a witch in your kitchen. But look at that thing REALLY closely. See if you notice anything unsettling about it.
Good luck indeed. And no, that Special K behind the witch isn't for a rave.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Between business trips, a choral retreat and holiday visits with family members, I've figured out that I will be actually sleeping in my apartment a grand total of 15 nights for the rest of this year. I'm sitting in Texas right now, in fact, about to go to bed so that I can wake up and fly to Budapest tomorrow. If I can get out, that is. The weather in Houston really bites this weekend.
So expect my blogging to be more sporadic than usual the next few weeks. But at least know that when I do write something, it's because I really have something to say.
Sunday, November 18, 2007
It's largely because of the music. Yeah, I'm one of those annoying people who doesn't mind mixing in a little holiday music on his iPod shuffle year-round. But I'm convinced the people who hate holiday music are those who don't listen to it right. They either get stuck on on of those all-holiday radio stations that play the same flat versions of the standards over and over again -- Just what IS so funny to Bruce Springsteen at the end of his "Santa Claus is Coming to Town"? And don't get me started on the cruddy Christmas shoes song, or the one where Dan Fogelberg drinks beer with an old flame in a supermarket parking lot -- or, even worse, they just judge by department store holiday muzak.
Nay, I say! Here's 10 holiday songs that I can't live without, in no particular order:
"That's What I Want for Christmas," as sung by Nancy Wilson
The radio leans toward the Dixie-Chicks-lite group sheDAISY's version of this song, but there's no holiday song around that's better suited to the sultry Miss Nancy.
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," as sung by Doris Day
The Judy Garland version is just too obvious, so Day's is a nice alternative. And, unlike most non-Garland versions, this one sticks to the original, depressing lyrics. Oh, crap. I'm going to get that "speaking of Judy Garland..." message in my comments now.
"Jingle Bells?," as sung by Barbra Streisand
This one gets a little radio play, but not much. Absolutely hilarious and a wonderful reminder that Barbra doesn't ALWAYS take herself so seriously.
Ding Dong Merrily on High," as sung by Julie Andrews
The recording is kind of hard to find now, Dame Andrews' Christmas album -- given away at Hallmark more than a decade ago -- is one of the best. This is probably the most showy piece for her on the album.
"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," as performed by Linda McKechnie
McKechnie isn't well-known outside of the church musician circle, but she's really quite a fun arranger. Her usual gimmick is to take a classical work and wrap a hymn tune around it. It's stunning how well they intertwine sometimes. This is one of those cases, in which the old carol is mingled with "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies."
"Gloria," as performed by the Boston Pops
I didn't know this Randol Bass composition until last year, when I performed it with the chorus. Quite a fascinating piece, using a lot of irregular meter, actually. Of course, it's also available on the chorus' "Holiday Homecoming" album. Plug!
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" as performed by The Carpenters
I'm hard-pressed to pick just one song of The Carpenters' holiday canon, as those are THE holiday albums for me. While everyone might gravitate toward "Merry Christmas, Darling," I prefer this standard in all its Carpenter cheesiness.
"I'll Be Home for Christmas," as performed by Connie Francis
She sings it just like she sang "Where the Boys Are." And, uh, pretty much everything else. 'Nuff said.
"Please Come Home for Christmas," as performed by Anita Cochran
Again, the song itself its in fairly regular rotation on the radio. But they play only the dull-as-Dishwalla version by The Eagles or the version by love-him-or-hate-him Aaron Neville. Listen to a country-fried version, though, and you'll never want to hear it any other way.
"What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" as performed by the O'Jays
It's probably blasphemy to pick their version when both Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald have versions. But this is shrieky doo-wop at its best, folks.
There you have it. Most of these are on iTunes, except for Julie Andrews, I think. Still not convinced? Perhaps as December gets closer, I'll put together the 10 absolute worst holiday recordings I know.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
This week? The place is shut down by the health inspector. Sewage problems, live mice, tons of cockroaches -- you name it, they found it. Nummers.
Honestly, even if I were a Saudi prince, I can't imagine myself eating these overpriced publicity gimmicks. Remember the famed $1,000 pizza from earlier this year? The one with six kinds of caviar, fresh lobster, chives and creme fraiche on it? Way, way too busy. Your tongue wouldn't even be able to distinguish the different caviars. The common cook's rule of limiting your pizzas to about three ingredients is there for a reason.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Lazy union people. I wish I could just not show up for work when things don't go my way.
Guess what? You can! Not in a union? Try to organize a wildcat strike. Or better yet, why not just use one of those wonderful sick days, personal days or vacation days you've no doubt been accumulating? You know, one of those things you probably wouldn't even have had unions never existed? You'll even still get paid!
If people don't like their job, they should just go find a new one instead of whining about it all the time.
Yeah. That's really easy to do. Everyone who makes this argument hereby loses the right to ever complain about any aspect of his/her work again. And that would make them one of those people who just prattle on about how wonderful his/her job is. And nobody likes those people.
It's pretty selfish for them to go on strike considering how some people have planned trips in advance to see shows.
Yeah, um, if there wasn't any hardship, it wouldn't be a very effective strike, would it? Sad to say, but all travel planning entails some risk. Whether it's Hurricane Bertha canceling your Caribbean cruise or Grandpa Gus having a massive stroke the day before your flight to Tripoli (I just learned Americans can go there again. Cool!), crap happens. Hell, when I went to Yellowstone, it rained the whole time, and I didn't get to ride a horse for the first time. I cried. Of course, I also was 9 years old. At least in this case, you get almost a full refund.
And on the other side:
The media spends far too much time talking to tourists with canceled tickets and not nearly enough time talking to the people this strike is really affecting.
Yes, because those angry tourists are easy to find and usually more than willing to talk. I once covered a strike in which a certain party complained that their side wasn't making it into the stories -- and then would provide me a one- or two-sentence canned statement to state its position. Simple entropy, folks. The loudest and most accessible people will always get the best coverage.
In New York, $150,000 a year barely qualifies as middle class.
Then I am beyond poverty stricken.
You insensitive jerk. I really do have a Grandpa Gus, and he just died last week.
Oops. My condolences.
Friday, November 09, 2007
I can't resist, so here's one more. I actually shot one more, but the video quality is so bad, I'm too embarrassed to post it. Yes, it's possible to shoot with worse video quality than what you're seeing here!
At any rate, this was during the electronica set of the concert, a performance of "Skin Trade." Sorry the camera moves around so much, but I was dancing at this point. You also get a fab view of the video camera the girl in front of me was using.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Ushers were oddly complacent during Duran Duran's performance at the Barrymore Theatre. They made sure nobody brought beer back to their seats, but in regards to photography, it was a free-for-all. The girl in front of me had an actual video camera out for the entire second act.
Well, when in Rome...
I'll have more on the show later, but here's a little video I shot from the rear mezzanine. Enjoy it until YouTube inevitably takes it down.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
It was a crew of typical er, mature Long Island ladies. I couldn't really describe their appearance because I didn't look behind me too often. But I could pick any one of them out of a lineup if they opened their mouths.
Even before the dazzling duo appeared onstage, the opening clip montage was enough to provoke squeals of delight. It was kind of like the dead people reel during the Oscars. Who could get the biggest gasp? Steve Allen? Judy Garland? Bob Hope?
Nay, but that nothing compared to the nonstop chatter once Steve and Eydie started the show. I swear, it was like Hannah Montana herself was up there and I was a Brownie den mother. Or whatever they're called. Each song was followed by shrieks of "I LOVE YOU STEVE! YOU'RE FANTASTIC EYDIE!" And so on. Meanwhile, the songs themselves provoked orgasmic ohs of delight. I was expecting a pair of support hose or a bladder pad to fly past my head toward the stage at any minute. This was their Woodstock, dammit. And as seemingly annoying as it got, my companion and I agreed that it was just too funny to be truly annoying. Hell, I hope I keep passion for something...anything...going that long into my life.
Speaking of which, I just realized I've been quite neglectful in adding said companion to my link list. I've rectified that now.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
How current is this? I'm actually writing about a show on the day it opens, just like a real reviewer! Yeah, and my ego needs the boost, because once again, Tom Stoppard has made me feel woefully inadequate. But here goes anyway. Rufus Sewell is absolutely stunning in his journey as Jan, a Czech native who returns from his studies in England with a love for the rock music the increasingly oppressive Communist regime finds dangerous and subversive. Brian Cox also is a powerhouse as Jan's mentor Max, who clings to the Communist party in England even as he sees the worldwide execution of the political philosophies' ideals betrayed by those who are spreading it. Both master Stoppard's usual delicious language. Yet, the stories that surround them just left me a little cold. Like "The Coast of Utopia" trilogy, Stoppard runs through the vignettes in Max's and Jan's lives at breakneck pace. This worked in "Utopia," in which we were dealing with historical figures. Here, however, these characters are all the invention of Stoppard, while the actual historical figures--Syd Barrett and Vaclav Havel the most prominent--largely remain offstage as catalysts to their development. The play too often feels like bullet points painting the life of two fictional characters. Beautifully written and acted bullet points, but bullet points nonetheless. Still, there are worse things to sit through than a Tom Stoppard Power Point presentation. And this one comes with really cool musical breaks in between scenes.
Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas
I missed this little spectacle last year, but--in my quixotic quest to see everything that opens on Broadway this year--I decided to give it a visit. And, to no fault of its own, it had two strikes against it before I even planted myself in the seat: I've been out of the target demographic for this show since Ronald Reagan left the presidency, and it's a bit difficult to get into the holiday spirit one day after wading my way through the Halloween parade crowds in the village. Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, the show didn't give me quite the toothache I was expecting. Sure, adults will be checking their watches from about the first time sweet Cindy Lou Who ballads the first crack in the Grinch's crusty facade. But as the title character (that's the Grinch, not Dr. Seuss), the grumbling, growling Patrick Page is just about enough savory to counteract the gooey sweet that was inevitable in fleshing out the Whos enough to make a 30-minute TV special stretch to and hour and a half worth of material. In fact, it might even be enough for you not to complain too much about getting the foamy snow stuff blown into your hair at the end.
Steve & Eydie at the North Fork Theatre
"You're not old enough to remember Steve and Eydie," one patron remarked to me as I walked into the snappy duo's concert this afternoon in Westport. Well, yes, madame, I'm also not old enough to have known Giuseppe Verdi personally, but that doesn't stop me from going to the opera. What's more, I lived in Atlantic City for more than a year, so I saw my share of casino billings that had me asking, "They're still alive?!" And I've seen my share of faded acts that just made me sad. Listening to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, however...well, if I closed my eyes, I could have sworn I was listening to one of their old recordings. Gorme's knee problems made it a little more difficult for her to get around, but she can still perform "If He Walked Into My Life" with the best of them. And Lawrence, good heavens, looks and sounds no different than he did on the variety show clips from decades ago that they showed prior to the performance. Add in an incredibly lush orchestra to put in that extra pizazz, and you have more than enough reason to justify having to trek out to Long Island. Yes, my name is Mike, I am an old soul and I had a fantastic time this afternoon.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Yes, dear. I have a message for you. What was it? Ah, yes! Go to hell.
That is all.
Oh, and happy Halloween everyone! Hope your costumes were great. I apparently dressed up as an American vandal in Singapore.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Mel Brooks and the creative dream team behind the record-setting musical version of "The Producers" is back on Broadway, and along with their own impressive Tony total, they've put together a cast with -- a what I think is an unprecedented -- four Tony winners, not to mention a multiple Emmy winner, in their musical version of Brooks' "Young Frankenstein." Still, despite all the special effects lightning onstage, there's just never the right electricity to give life to this primeval soup of fine ingredients. Granted, Roger Bart, who plays the title role, is currently sidelined with a rather serious injury, which no doubt throws off the balance of the show greatly, even though understudy Matthew LaBanca is giving a solid performance in his stead. Even with that in mind, however, the biggest problem with "Young Frankenstein" is that it's just more of the same. Really, how many times can the Jerome Robbins "Fiddler on the Roof" choreography be parodied? There are plenty of fun moments, many involving the always wonderful Andrea Martin as Frau Blucher. And Brooks' music is still appealing even in its repetitive simplicity. But unlike "The Producers," which strung these gags along to several "wow" moments, there's no such point in this show. Perhaps the famous scene in which the Monster (Shuler Hensley) performs "Puttin' on the Ritz" was meant to be that moment. But unlike "Springtime for Hitler," which was wonderfully reimagined to fit in with the musical, the moment here isn't that radically different than what is in the film. While it might be fun to see a favorite moment like that recreated in person, it's pretty hard to justify the bloated ticket prices they've set for this show.
Yeah, I've already reviewed this show. I'm revisiting it only to admit that I was wrong, wrong, wrong. A friend of mine got me onstage seating for the show this weekend, and it was a blast. Back when I reviewed it, I assumed "Xanadu" would already be halfway across the River Styx by now. But it's doing respectable business, and I say bravo to it. Not only was I wrong about the show's prospects, I was also dead wrong when I attempted to correct its mythology (and I'm surprised no one called me out on this in the comments). Paris did indeed kill Achilles, not Hector, as I tried to say. Jeez. I was a grump when I wrote that review, so consider this a slap to June Mike!
Also another fun fact: With "Young Frankenstein" in my Playbill collection, I now have one beginning with every letter of the alphabet, except for Z. Time to bring back "Zanna, Don't!" or "Zorba," folks. Or perhaps someone can write a one-person show about Zero Mostel or Zsa Zsa Gabor. I don't know whatever happened to my Playbill of "Zorro: The Musical," though.
Oh, and speaking of pointless miscellany, yet one more song is gone from the theme song candidates: Krisanthi Pappas' "Pure Imagination" medley. Gosh, I'm rooting for Jessica Molaskey now.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Then, I moved here and noticed the deep-seated contempt so many long-time New Yorkers had for the man. That made me take notice. After all, I disliked George W. Bush long before he had the chance to show his true colors in the White House.
Now that ambivalence is gone. He's crossed the line into the unforgivable. Most egregious was his decision to kiss the butt of Family Research Council executive director Tony Perkins -- who, by the way, has some ties to white supremacist groups in the not-so-distant past -- by coming up with some bizarre circumstance under which he'd support a federal marriage amendment. The other was his equally bizarre decision to root for the Red Sox. He explained that one away by saying he'd always support the American League team in the World Series, unless, perhaps, the Mets were involved. You hear that Houston, St. Louis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Washington, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Miami and the sad half of Chicago? He automatically hates your teams.
Seriously, though, do you know how much of a spit-in-the-face it is to Yankee fans for him to come out for the Red Sox? Giuliani had better hope his next appearance at a Yankees game isn't on Bat Day. And I wonder what that gay couple -- you know, that one who took him in after one of his many marriages failed -- thinks of his sudden support, albeit tepid support, for a marriage amendment? Politicians pander. I know. But these turncoat moments are so egregious that I'll bet even Mitt Romney's embarrassed for him.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Tired of seeing films adapted for the stage? Well, how about seeing a film that never even got made adapted for the stage? Honestly, I had no idea that "The Farnsworth Invention," Aaron Sorkin's new play about the race to invent television, now in previews for its Broadway debut at The Music Box, was adapted from an unproduced screenplay until I read up a bit on its later, but the production is so cinematic, I'd already made that guess. The Andrew Lippa-composed relentless underscoring, the huge number of characters and the vignette-style scenes are some of the obvious signs that this is a medium-out-of-water experience. Still, as a former broadcast major in college, it's a compelling story, although I imagine it might be rather tedious for some. The two leads in the cast--the heretofore criminally underused Jimmi Simpson as brainiac inventor Philo Farnsworth and Hank Azaria ruthless businessman and NBC founder David Sarnoff--are more than up to the task here. The big problem comes from the rest of the cast. No one is particularly bad; some, in fact, are quite good. However, most of the 18 or so supporting members play multiple roles to flesh out the more than 100 characters in this show. And some of these characters appear so briefly, it's a bit confusing to see one of the guys funding Farnsworth's research suddenly working for Sarnoff in another scene, or to see Sarnoff barking orders at the young actor who was only recently playing his childhood self. What's more, the script relies entirely too much on narration, and the fact that our two narrators establish themselves as not-too-trustworthy from the get-go makes it even more problematic. Even so, this "Rashomon" of television history is worth checking out for anyone who isn't put off by quite a bit of technical babble. Also, in technical and pacing terms, it was in great shape, particularly considering it was the third preview.
Die Mommie Die!
Housed appropriately enough in the same theatre that brought us "Evil Dead: The Musical: last year, Charles Busch's 1999 play is finally here for New York viewers. With melodramatic mugging, intentionally cheesy effects and suggested incest-o-plenty, fans of Busch, and "Evil Dead" for that matter, won't be disappointed. While it's always fun to see Busch bring one of his anti-heroines to life--in this case, faded chanteuse Angela Arden--the real discovery here is "As The World Turns" star Van Hansis as Arden's dopey, psychopathic, nymphomaniac son Lance. No, I'm not just saying that because he's cute. Hansis does the best job here of keeping up with the show's over-the-nature, without which, the "in a good way" that follows "bad" would disappear.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Oh, and I also must give special credit to the Californian who found this spot with the Google search: "Would Tom Cruise love to get a hangover in Iraq if a car bomb went off while he was on marijuana." I can only assume you read the same news story that I did. Or you're really, really disturbed. Either way, bravo.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
To Mexico (favorite key words: David Beckham, Britney Spears, Hitler, gay)
Actually, I'm not sure which gay sign hit first for me: the love of Beckham, or the love of Britney. But I'm pretty sure Hitler wasn't a catalyst in that awakening.
To Colombia (favorite key word: gay)
I'm single, boys!
To Chile (favorite key words: gay, homosexual, Nazi)
I'm really, really single, boys! And I watch "The Sound of Music" every year.
To Italy (favorite key word: Viagra)
Sono singolo, uomini. And very patient.
To Germany (favorite key words: Hitler, Viagra)
Um, guys? You might want to broaden your horizons. And that might help with the other problem, too. Just sayin'.
To the Czech Republic (favorite key word: dolly buster)
What the hell's a dolly buster?!
To Slovakia (favorite key word: dolly buster)
Well, whatever it is, could it be the key to once again creating a reunified Czechoslovakia?
To Iran (favorite key word: IAEA)
Um, guys? See my above advice for Germany? That applies here, too. Just sayin'.
To the Philippines (favorite key words: terrorism, homosexual, love)
Oh, I'm, uh, not single anymore. No, it wasn't the terrorism thing. It was that last word.
To Pakistan (favorite key words: jihad, terrorism, IAEA, Taliban)
To the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (favorite key words: like they're gonna tell)
I'll soon be posting photos from my visit to Islamabad!
To Ireland (favorite key words: Kate Moss, hangover)
Actually, guys, I'm not sure that's the right word for cocaine after effects.
To my fellow Americans (favorite key words: hangover, burrito, Iraq, Tom Cruise, love, Botox, Car Bomb, Marijuana)
See, any one of these things -- except Iraq -- could probably be found at a Taco Bell at 2 a.m. God bless the U.S.A.
And finally, to our neighbors to the north (favorite key words: burrito, Iraq, Taliban, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Car Bomb, Marijuana)
Wow. Pretty much the same fun as the U.S., but without the hangover. Damn your superior health care system!
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I had what my mother would call a panic moment today, when I had a lovely letter waiting for me from conEdison. It seems the temporary owners have not paid an almost $900 security deposit on the bill. Brava! What frightened me was the warning the they would be cutting off power in November should this not be rectified. I was actually on the line waiting for a conEdison customer service rep, ready to demand to know how they could cut off my power when I've been paying my bills on time, when I read the letter closer. They were just talking about power in the common areas of the building. So, our security system might not be working anymore, and I might be climbing six flights of the stairs in the dark, but at least I'll have power when I get home.
This, however, does not bode well. Combined with the impossibility of getting anyone to come out for repairs, I'm thinking the end of my lease might be time to cut and run. Anybody got any good apartment leads?
Monday, October 15, 2007
He's doing fine, thank goodness. But just the mention of heart attacks--even when it's not a family member or someone who share my name--gives me chest pains. For some reason, I fear that worse than any other disease you can name.
There was a time, in my early 20s, when I was just convinced I had heart problems. I used to get frequent heartburn, and I heard some news anchor talking about his own heart problems, and how it had initially felt like indigestion. That summer, I made several unnecessary trips to the doctor, when I learned that with some doctors, all you have to do is point, and they'll write you a prescription. He put me on heartburn medicine, which made me absolutely miserable and unable to eat right. I'd get so anxious before appointments that my blood pressure would read artificially high, something I inherited for my mother. Of course, this was also what inspired me to start working out regularly at a gym for the first time, which, of course, was the one good thing out of all this.
I later figured out, through my own trial and error, that the heartburn was caused by me eating and drinking way, way too much dairy. I cut back on that, and everything was fine after that. Why could I figure that out, and my pill-happy doctor couldn't?
At any rate, I managed to get over all this--without therapy, no less. I even inadvertently got myself confirmed with an EKG and a heart scan a few years ago when doctors wanted to check for heart bruising after my last car wreck, and everything checked out fine. Even better, my cholesterol at my latest check was only 160. Of course, that's 10 points higher than what my cousin's was.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
As a fan of Theresa Rebeck's work, I'm a bit confused as to why her Broadway debut ended up being this show, a watered-down version of, or perhaps ode to, David Mamet's "American Buffalo" now playing at the Biltmore. Fortunately, a stupendous cast makes it worth the trip. All five are excellent: plucky Alison Pill as the desperate girl who inherits the rare
Will Durst: The All-American Sport of Bipartisan Bashing
Reviewing this show is rather pointless, as it closed today. And that's a shame. Like the boxing imagery that surrounds his show--he appears on the Playbill wearing boxing gloves, and a pair also appear on the bizarrely decorated set, the centerpiece of which is a chair made of old newspapers--Durst uses, er, used a great rope-a-dope strategy in his political comedy act that played at New World Stages. He starts with a series of soft jabs at our president, even those famous Bush-isms that we've all heard hundreds of times before. But the punches get harder and harder, until the final power uppercut -- a rapid-fire barrage of adjectives describing all the horrors we the people have been subjected to during the past seven years. Even though there were a few equal time jabs at obvious targets like Hillary Clinton and PETA, I just hope some Bush fans weren't fooled by the title and unknowingly wandered into... What am I saying? I hope they WERE.
Not being anywhere near fluent in Greek, it's rather difficult for me to offer an intelligent review of the National Theatre of Greece's production of Sophocles' "Electra," now playing a limited run at New York City Center. "It was pretty to look at and listen to, and I enjoyed it" is about all I can say. I can say, however, that the audience gets an F. Good grief. These were the most distracting group of folks with whom I've ever had to share a theatre. There were a lot of empty seats in the center, so as the show began, there was a mass exodus from the sides toward those seats. As a result, for the first 20 minutes of the show, I was subjected to--outside of the usual latecomers, candy unwrappers and dolts who can't turn off cell phones--way, way too many people wandering to different seats. Some of these were old folks who can barely get around in the light, so it was a long trip for them. And not a one of them seemed to be able to get out of their seat with letting it slam loudly as it sprung back into place. Awful, awful people. Thanks for giving Europe yet another reason to hate us.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
There are reasons people support Republicans
Glenn Kamprota writes of the GOP, “With its mismanagement of Iraq, Katrina relief, the budget and Social Security ‘reform,’ as well as its demonizing of gays and immigrants and hypocritical hysteria over family values, the GOP might very well have deserved what it’s getting.”
Demonizing gays? You mean the same gay agenda (read hysteria) that is trying to ram their lifestyle down everyone’s throat no matter our beliefs. Or the (illegal) immigrants who take the jobs (many which Americans would take), don’t pay taxes, send billions to Mexico and clog up the health system. I used to be a Democrat before they turned to the far left. I never loved the big busines GOP, but at least most of them are against abortion, gay militants and trying to keep some family values.
The GOP will get my vote unless a good third party should arise.
Paul Pousson, Angleton
You know, I could mention that in three mere paragraphs, Mr. Pousson -- who it seems used to love Democrats until they started to get to chummy with the fags, Mex'cans (and not said here, but presumably, the uppity blacks) -- managed to misspell both the name of Glenn Krampota (great guy, by the way) and the easily-fixed-by-spellcheck word "business." Or that Mr. Pousson -- a red-blooded, non-immigrant name if I ever heard one -- uses "gay agenda," a singular noun that doesn't fit with the later plural possessive pronoun "their." Or the absolute idiocy of basing a vote on the things that the GOP, when you look at it, haven't really done a great job of making progress on, anyway.
But I won't mention those things. What I will mention is the unintentional hilarity of the last sentence in the middle paragraph. There are two ways to interpret it as written. Either the Republicans are all gay militants who are trying to preserve family values while fighting abortion, or the Republicans are against three things: abortion, gays and the preservation of family values. Keep your compound constructions parallel, kiddies. Grammar lesson for the day.
Perhaps I'm being too mean here. After all, Mr. Pousson isn't a professional writer. So let's look at someone who is. Ann Coulter -- whom we recently learned is a perfected Jew, or Jewess, as she would probably say -- doesn't care much for Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee. In fact, Huckabee and Thompson both had the audacity not to hate Bill Clinton so much they smell the stench of his cologne while they sleep at night. Says she:
Huckabee teamed up with that guy to talk to children about healthy eating habits. Ironically, the obesity campaign kicked off almost exactly nine years from the very Palm Sunday on which President Clinton used a cigar as a sexual aid on Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office.
Ann, how, pray tell, is that ironic? A coincidence, perhaps, but where is the irony? Did C. Everett Koop recently publish a paper indicating that cunnicigarus causes weight gain? 'Cause otherwise, I'm not getting it. I know the word has been diluted of all meaning by pre-teens blogging on MySpace -- "I went to see 'Bratz,' and my BFF Lindsey was there that day, too! Isn't that ironic?????" -- but William Safire would totally kick your ass if he ever stooped to reading WorldNetDaily or the handful of podunk papers that still carry your column. Healthy eating habits, by the way, means actually eating something every once in a while. Try it sometime!
OK, now I have to go scour this post for errors. That's the one danger in writing something criticizing others' grammar and language. If you made a mistake while doing so, that would be, like, ironic.
Oh, and one more song down on the theme song situation. No Liszt's "Liebestraume." Darn it.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
When I reported the phone missing, the dispatcher told me I had two options: Wait until the phone was returned to headquarters so they could messenger it to me, or I could have the driver return it to me, paying for the ride as if the cell phone were a passenger. Once the driver was contacted, however, he returned it to me, at my apartment, directly, and didn't charge me a dime.
I knew I had to give him something. Unfortunately, I wasn't carrying much cash last night. I gave him $10, which is about the same amount as the tip would have been. I also tried to give him a nice bottle of wine I picked up in San Francisco, but he said he didn't drink. I also shot off a nice letter to his company commending him for what he had done. I wish I could do more, but I'm at a loss as to what.
But as his lasting legacy -- I've finally added a counter to my "dumb people" blog post label.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
First, I've discovered I have no memory for phone numbers anymore. None. I know three numbers by memory that are stored in that phone: my parents, my sister Cheryl and my friend from Houston *and San Francisco travel companion) Kristina. Not included on that list are some close friends, two other sisters and my own home phone number. That's right. I've never even committed my home phone number to memory. When I called the car service to see if I could get my phone back, they asked me at what number they could reach me. I blanked and had to give them my work number.
What's more, if I had to get a new phone, I would also lose a long list of phone numbers of people whom I never want to talk to again -- see any of my date stories on here for an example. The chance of those people popping out of the woodwork again to call me is pretty slim, but it's not as slim as the chance of me actually recognizing the phone number should that happen. That's why I never erase a phone number.
That's not all that's stored on that phone, either. There are tons of photos I've never backed up. Most of them are garbage, anyway, but there are a few of a, let's just say, delicate nature.
My subway ride seemed a lot longer this morning. The Yahtzee game I have on it is mindless and not very challenging even on the hardest setting. Yet, that mindless activity keeps me distracted and prevents me from making eye contact with the crazies on the A train.
I also no longer have any judgment of time. Ever since I was a kid, probably because my wrists were so small, I never wore a watch. My cell phone became my watch. I almost had to ask a stranger for the time this morning.
Fortunately, the driver has found my phone, and I should be getting it back soon. Perhaps even tonight. But how terrifying how much I rely on that little device. And if had been my iPod that I had left behind, I'd have called in sick today.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Too bad I missed the Folsom Street Fair festivities. Actually, not really. This same friend and I took a trip to Provincetown a few years ago, and unbeknownst to us, we went during Bear Week. At the same time, the Rosie O'Donnell cruise was in town. So, the crowd was mostly men in leather and lesbian couples with strollers. Fun times! But bears don't find me particularly attractive, and coupled lesbians were equally uninterested in my friend, so, that was a bust.
Back with all the news on Tuesday!
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Unfortunately, I also had to delete one. I won't even say which one. This was a rather large blog that didn't even know I existed, so me even mentioning it is about like somebody saying "I'm going to boycott McDonalds. That'll show 'em!" But this is my podium, so I'll bitch anyway.
The reason for the deletion was not even for anything the blogger him/herself particularly had done. However, posts about the whole Folsom Street Fair/Miller ads situation, which I don't even feel like addressing myself, gave way to some of the nastiest, most homophobic comments I've seen since, well, Ja Rule, I guess. One commenter went so far as to suggest that there was no need to worry about the people in the ad in question, because they'd all be dead of AIDS next year, or something like that. Strangely enough, this blog was one that went on and on about DailyKos commenters being over the top and was calling on freaking Democratic politicians who have nothing directly to do with Kos to revoke them. Yet the AIDS comment and several like it sat untouched for days. And there was no recourse to flag such nasty comments. So, bye, babe.
Seriously, if anyone REALLY wants to figure out which one, it's not that hard. I did a post long ago about all my links. Mazes on TGI Friday's placemats are tougher to crack.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Just tell me: Is it enormously cruel that I bought and stuck it straight in my bedroom? I pretty much yield the living room television to my roommates. If I put the box on that TV, then we could all share it -- but I would rarely get to use it myself. And I do kinda pay the cable bill myself. So it's mine, mine, mine.
They don't even know I have it. I brought it in after rehearsal last night, about 11:30, when they were both in bed and quietly installed it. I just hope they don't notice it. Or read this blog post.
Monday, October 01, 2007
Having sisters at least 10 years my senior, and even more permissive brothers-in-law, I started watching horror movies at quite a young age. I think I was 7 when I saw "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" for the first time. Those really didn't affect me.
Why is it, then, that some otherwise harmless things used to scare the crap out of me? Take this Disney interpretation of an 1890s slideshow presentation. It absolutely terrified me every time it came on, especially that blue/green dead dude near the end. I was equally afraid of the animated version of the musical "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown," because of one scene in which Charlie Brown is late in feeding Snoopy, and Snoopy imagines himself turning into a dog skeleton.
My sisters used to have a lot of fun with that one. They'd cue up the tape of it right to where that scene was and turn it on when I was in the room. They used the threat of "Snoopy bones" to get me to do, basically, whatever they wanted.
I remember my nephew, who is now 15 and would probably love to have this story published, used to be equally afraid of his Barney and Friends tape that had some sort of king character in it. Do all children have these irrational fears? I guess mine both tied in to death, but still...
A fun fact, by the way. The bass singer in this Disney short is none other than Thurl Ravenscroft, better known as the voice of Tony the Tiger and the guy who sang the Grinch song. Really, whenever you see an old Disney cartoon with a basso profundo part, it's probably Thurl.
Oh, and looking at the YouTube comments on that short, is there some sort of fetish attached to seeing cartoon characters cry? That would be a new one on me, but nothing would surprise me anymore.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Yes, Blue October, my favorite Houston-based band--OK, the ONLY Houston-based band I really like--was in the city Wednesday night, performing at the Nokia with Yellowcard. This was my third time seeing them. My college roommates introduced me to their music at a concert at Fitzgeralds in about 1998 or so. Yikes, almost 10 years ago! I saw them several years later at, I think, Numbers, about the time History for Sale was coming out. And this was my first time seeing them outside of Houston.
I really had lost track of them in recent years and was much more familiar with their older stuff, but no matter. I've always wondered why they haven't caught on to more widespread appeal when many less-deserving bands have, but even so, I was quite pleasantly surprised with their fan base here -- particularly since the crowd who were there for Yellowcard was making me feel damn old.
Although I was really familiar only with two Yellowcard songs, I gotta admit they put on a good show, too. The worst thing about Blue October concerts in Houston is that you had to sit through some awful bands to get to hear them. The first time, it was some angsty, pre-emo girl whose band featured an alto flute that suddenly launched into "The Hustle" mid-song. She was sweet enough to dedicate one song to her dad, who had showed up to support her, although the song was mostly about how horrible he was. At Numbers, it was some band of chunky frat boys who tried to turn "...Baby One More Time" into trance rock. Think Me First and the Gimme Gimmes on barbiturates.
Oh, and speaking of Yellowcard, tell me if this is gross. At the end, per usual, they tossed every expendable item onstage out to the audience: towels, guitar picks, water bottles, et al. I caught one of the lead singer's, Ryan Key, water bottle. It was half-full. I'd pushed my way up to a good spot, and I was thirsty. Leaving that spot would mean it would be filled with drunk Jersey girls. Do the math. Hey, he's cute, and I've swapped spit with worse.
Honestly, I need to get to more concerts, or at least, more concerts that don't feature a 60-something-year-old woman singing "Evergreen" in Madison Square Garden.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Today, he's terrified of the potential ramifications of passing the Employee Non-Discrimination Act:
In layman's terms, said lawyer-speak means, if ENDA becomes law (and I am in no way attempting to inject humor here), (Mike's note: Good, because if you were, you failed miserably) the branch manager of your local bank could, without fear of penalty, come to work looking like "Boy George in Liza Minnelli 1980s drag makeup, complete in his working girl commuter-friendly disco sneakers." And there wouldn't be a thing the bank could do or say about it – no matter how offended its customers might be or how uncomfortable it would make the other employees.
Passage of ENDA means that the surgeon scheduled to perform your operation could decide to do same in his blond wig with full mascara and his Playtex plus-size bra, and there wouldn't be a thing the hospital could say or do.
It means that your child's second-grade teacher could decide she was going to dress like a man, complete with makeup to simulate facial hair, and the school would have no recourse. And it goes without saying that the owner of a local Bible bookstore would be powerless to prevent a homosexual employee from holding hands with his or her homosexual lover within the workplace. Any attempt to prevent said behavior would result in immediate litigation.
Now that he's sufficiently frightened Bertha Sue from Peoria into think that Varla Jean Merman is going to dropkick Mr. McFeely out of the way and start showing up every day with her special deliveries, allow me to inject a little rationality here. ENDA means NONE of those things.
You see, Mr. Massey, corporate America, school districts and hospitals have these crazy things called dress codes. Just like the bank branch manager isn't showing up to work now in orange crocs, tattered sweatpants and a "No Fat Chicks" T-shirt and the surgeon isn't performing vasectomies in a top hat and tails. People are expected to dress a certain way for certain jobs, and ENDA wouldn't change that.
Massey is purposely melding campy drag acts with transgendered people when, in reality, or at least in my experience, those are two circles of a Venn diagram that have very little overlap. Most transgendered people I have known have dressed rather conservatively, in fact.
Nor would ENDA give Steve and Andrew the right to start groping in front of a shelf full of Joel Osteen's latest self-help advice book to the horror of Christian bookstore patrons. Workplaces are allowed to have rules against public displays of affection, and ENDA wouldn't change that.
I can't decide whether Massie is just a moron, or he assumes anyone who reads his column is a moron. Or both. Whatever. I'm done now, anyway. I'm at work, and it's really hard to type with these Lee's Press-On Nails on my fingers.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
I'll have to give this to Joe Mantello-helmed revival of this Terrence McNally bathhouse farce, now in previews at Studio 54. I've never had as big of a chuckle reading Playbill bios as when I came across one for an actor playing one of the many nicely sculpted denizens of "The Ritz." The bio proudly boasted of "movie-star good looks" and a few print ad modeling jobs -- and not a single theatre credit. Fortunately for him, the ensemble's purpose here is little more than looking good in a towel, and he did fine with that. But, of course, we'd expect a bit more than that when we were paying to see a Broadway production when we could get the same in, say, an issue of Men's Health, yes? Well, there are a few other things to appreciate about "The Ritz," but sadly, the play just hasn't aged well. The story centers around a rather amorphous feud between a man and his mobster Italian in-laws, when a deathbed wish from Papa puts Gaetano Proclo (Kevin Chamberlain) on the run and hiding in a gay bathhouse in New York. A fish out of water. Let the laughs begin! The broad stereotypes have a little bit to offend everyone. Gays? Every one possible, including a mincing sex fiend (Brooks Ashmanskas, who would be a natural if they ever do a one-man show about Paul Lynde) and bizarre fetishists. Italians? Those groups who protested "The Sopranos" for defaming Italians would be begging for another season by comparison. And Puerto Ricans? Um, Rosie Perez is playing a role based on a character Rita Moreno -- the role's originator -- used to do at cocktail parties for laughs. Enough said. Actually, Perez, though hard to understand at times, has one of the better and more inspired moments in the show, in a purposefully bad musical medley at the end of Act I. Whipping herself to the opening riff of "Jesus Christ Superstar" while singing "Sabbath Prayer" from "Fiddler on the Roof"? Brilliant. Chamberlain also makes an amiable straight man, in every sense of the word. But, for a farce, there just isn't enough manic energy onstage to keep some of the rusty groaners in the script afloat. Perhaps the pacing will improve before opening. But if not, hey. It's a chance to see porn star Ryan Idol onstage. He even has a line. Something about Crisco.
Here's a bit of irony. The Roundabout's other production now in previews, "Pygmalion," is about three times as old as "The Ritz" and already ingrained into any self-respecting theatre queen's mind, if for no other reason than repeat viewings of "My Fair Lady" on Turner Classic Movies. Yet, even on the first preview, the production, under the direction of David Grindley, seems as fresh as "The Ritz" seems stale. A lot of the credit goes to the star, Jefferson Mays, whom Grindley also directed in the stellar revival of "Journey's End" last season. I think Mays performance is going to produce some fairly divergent opinions, but I rather liked his Henry Higgins: a youthful, petulant brat who seems just a few steps from sucking his thumb when things don't go his way. Yes, we all love the Rex Harrison interpretation of the character, and Mays is still the same pompous jerk but adds an utter void of social grace that I've never seen in the character before. Another "Journey's End" alum, Boyd Gaines, is a nice foil in the better behaved but still child-like Pickering. And Claire Danes, making her Broadway debut as Eliza Doolittle, is already in pretty good shape in regards to accent and characterization. The show's also buoyed by a great design. Jonathan Fensom's sets and costumes are gorgeous, particularly the opening rainstorm tableau. That's not the rain in Spain, by the way. That scene's not even in the show.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Before that, however, I do have throw out a quick few words of praise for the Public's outdoor concert series. Or, the first concert in that series, at least. Yup. Lesley Gore's still around. Out and proud, in fact. And you wouldn't believe the number of people who responded, when I told them I was seeing her: "Isn't that Al Gore's daughter? She sings? Is she going to talk about global warming?"
Philistines. Lesley Gore was Britney when Madonna was still in kindergarten. Probably one of the last people to still sing hit songs about class rings and such. And the bubble gum might have been sitting underneath a chair for a while, but it's still just as chewy and flavorful as ever. OK, that was a little gross.
Anyway, the Public helped Gore put out her first album in decades a few years ago. You can still hear traces of the old Lesley's voice, but it's really involved into something remarkable to hear: much deeper, rather husky but still able to sustain quite well. Her newer stuff is smoky jazz that juxtaposed remarkably well with her peppy, innocuous hits of the 60s, which she didn't shy away from at all. She even sang "Judy's Turn To Cry," the sequel to "It's My Party" and a song she said she didn't even care for when she first released it.
Also fun was Jill Sobule. Yeah, another name that usually got me blank stares. Remember "I Kissed A Girl"? "Supermodel" from "Clueless"? Yeah, her. Well, aside from those -- and she didn't even perform the latter, while Gore joined her on the former -- she has a repertoire of some really lovely songs with some brilliant lyrics, particularly "Mexican Wrestler."
Anyway, it gave me some downloading ideas. Speaking of which, I've already lost two more songs from the theme list: Rufus Wainwright's "Crumb by Crumb" and the Willie Nelson/Kimmie Rhodes duet "Love Me Like A Song." Pity. I liked those.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
In his latest bleatings, homobigot pastor Jesse Lee Peterson comes down hard on the self-proclaimed "prophetess" Juanita Bynum. In a story that slipped under my radar, Bynum apparently was badly beaten by her fellow minister husband, Rev. Thomas W. Weeks III, in an Atlanta hotel parking lot.
In his misogynistic dissection of the story, Peterson gives one sentence to condemn Weeks. The rest of it is devoted to attacking Bynum for daring to use this incident to raise public awareness of domestic violence. Says he:
And if Juanita were truly a woman of God, she would not use her marital problems for personal gain – or use the media to destroy her husband.
At her press conference, Bynum stated, "My focus is not the marriage. My focus is to accomplish a new purpose [domestic violence cause] that God has given me."
Bynum then attended a fundraising event for Barack Obama where she planned to discuss her domestic abuse concerns with the candidate. Oprah Winfrey hosted the event at her estate in California.
And why would a woman of God go to the government, especially to a liberal Democrat like Obama, to address a spiritual sickness?
I'm sure it won't be long before we see Bynum on "Oprah" dressed in pink and with just the right lighting to make her appear soft, vulnerable and innocent.
I suppose Peterson thinks it would have been marginally better if she had gone to, say, Fred Thompson or Rudy Giuliani, because there's two guys who know how to treat a woman right. But, I digress. Peterson then goes on to belittle the problem of domestic violence, which he ultimately concludes is just because dames are getting too damn pushy. You know, not being submissive and all.
Now, in my limited exposure to her, I am NO fan of Bynum. Her wedding was typical TBN excess--a network that's purpose seems largely to snatch grocery money from gullible poor folk--and her shrieking sermons usually had their own elements of homophobia in them. But trying to call attention to domestic violence is one thing for which she should be applauded, and if her husband followed the woman-shut-your-mouth attitude of Peterson, it's not really that surprising he thought so little of her as to beat the crap out of her.
Next up: I explain how Benny Hinn really did get those people out of the wheelchairs!
Monday, September 17, 2007
I mean, I thought it was easy. I made my first ever trip to Target in the Bronx -- quiet an interesting little mini-suburbia they have there, consequently -- and found a decent VCR/DVD combo for about $70. Not bad, I thought. It had all the features I wanted, which isn't much. Or, so I thought.
As I got home to set it up, I realized there was no place to plug the cable into it. What's worse, my television in my bedroom, which I got for about $30 off of Craigslist, is so old that it has no place to plug the A/V lines into it. In other words, I had a useless $75 piece of metal sitting on my bed.
Thanks to the local Radio Shack, I found a little modulator thingie that let me plug the cable from the television and the a/v cables from the VCR/DVD player into it, so it works now, at least. Add about $25 for the modulator, plus $10 for a new cable to connect my cable box to the VCR, and the $70 VCR is now closer to $110. And -- and take note, hack comedians who still make jokes about how hard it is to program a VCR (Jay Leno, looking in your direction) -- there is absolutely no programming feature on it. So, I can watch tapes, but that's about it!
I'm still not sold on getting the DVR service, though. I'm finding out that I can live without taping things when I'm not home. All it ultimately does is encourage me to watch TV. Fight the power!
Oh, and I'm one song closer to a theme song, as thankfully, "I Wanna Be A Producer" came up and is subsequently off my list (and my iPod).
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
We need to go step to MTV and Viacom, and lets talk about all these fucking shows that they have on MTV that is promoting homosexuality, that my kids can’t watch this shit. Dating shows that’s showing two guys or two girls in mid-afternoon. Let’s talk about shit like that! If that’s not fucking up America, I don’t know what is.”Yeah, Ja. Those dating shows are pretty insipid. But, as far as I know, those contestants haven't been arrested for beating up a DJ in Nigeria, played a part in shooting a rival rapper, gotten arrested for gun possession nor called their fellow collaborators a bitch. Well, maybe they did do that last part. But, whatever. Go on back to spreading the Gospel of Jesus, peppered with the word fuck every few minutes, and working for Murder, Inc., and your liquor and online gambling enterprises. You're a moral beacon to us all!
Up to this point, Ja Rule was best known for feuding with a bunch of people, grumbling a few things under Jennifer Lopez's vocals and putting out a bunch of songs no one has thought about in several years. He's also rumored to be starring in the family-friendly flick "Saw IV."
Enjoy your new friend, Sandy Rios! Perhaps he can rechristen the group Concerned Women For Not Fucking Up America.
In other news, the homophobic 50 Cent--the aforementioned rival rapper, in fact--was outsold by Kanye West, who has made it a point to speak out against homophobia in hip-hop. Let's hope fiddy keeps good on his promise to retire.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Another sign of my technology idiocy: I didn't realize until this weekend that my camera has video capabilities. And here I've been shooting grainy cell phone videos all this time!
Here's my virgin video from the camera: a gorilla at the Bronx Zoo from this past Saturday. He's tired! Or she's tired. I didn't zoom in close enough to find out.
Friday, September 07, 2007
I am the quintessential late adopter. You know how much I paid for my DVD player? Nothing. I got it for free from a friend who had bought a new one. You know how much I paid for the decidedly non-flat television in my bedroom? Forty dollars. I got it off craigslist from some dude in the Upper West Side. I even tricked my former roommate into carrying it up the six flights of stairs to my apartment. My iPod mini still works just fine, and I'm not getting rid of it until somebody either gives me a better one or until it drops dead.
But, see, now I'm in a bit of a quandary. Alas, last weekend, my very ancient VCR finally broke. So, what do I do? Finally call Time Warner and agree to get their DVR service? Or shell out the $100 for a VCR/DVD combo? I do still have a lot of old tapes of stuff I've recorded over the years, but honestly, they take up a lot more space than their value in the number of times I actually watch them. Then again, some people pay ridiculous amounts for old recorded shows, particularly if they still have the commercials.
Either way, I'd better figure it out quickly. I have no idea what's happening on "Days Of Our Lives" right now!
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
So why was I not as forgiving with Ann Coulter and Isaiah Washington when they used the word to a much broader outcry? It's not because I'm particularly a fan of Lewis. He was fine but not outstanding in a production of "Damn Yankees" I saw years ago, but his movies have always annoyed the hell out of me. But every once in a while, I let the "leave the poor old man alone" defense stand.
Perhaps this is because of my grandmother. Gaga, as we called her (thanks to my oldest sister), died more than 11 years ago, but she was the only grandparent I ever really knew. She was already in her 60s and somewhat feeble by the time I was born, but I always knew she was a powerful woman. Her husband, my mother's father, was a rather rough man by the limited accounts I've heard, and he died when my mother was only 12, leaving my grandmother to raise her daughter alone. She didn't run to another man. She worked and raised my mother on her own, which was pretty darn good for rural Texas in the early 1950s.
Gaga, however, was a product of her time and place, and in matters of race, would often say some jaw-droppingly awful things in that regard. Loudly. In public. Sometimes it was unintentionally funny. She used to call her cleaning lady her "colored girl." Near the end of her life, when she had to move in with my parents, she also referred to our cleaning lady as my mother's "colored girl." And my mother's maid was white.
Even the worst things she said, however, were not hateful at the core. Just ignorant. I never saw her treat anyone badly. In fact -- and I hope this doesn't sound like one of those "some of my best friends" comments, because that's not what I'm intending -- her physical therapist near the end of her life was black, and they became close enough to the point that she wept when she heard my grandmother had died.
Maybe that's why I'm fairly forgiving of Lewis. He's a goofy old man raised on Friar's Club roasts and smoky backrooms. He's said stupid things before, like saying that no female comedienne -- is that redundant? -- has ever been funny. But I don't think he's hateful.
Coulter had a long line of horrible comments behind her -- things like saying she had gay friends, but she knew they were going to hell and such -- when she said faggot, and she was proud of her remark. Washington hemmed, hawed, apologized, backtracked and went all over the map afterward. Lewis quickly admitted he was wrong and apologized. Good for him.
But I'm still turning off the TV any time "Cinderfella" comes on.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Follow me here. When I was in high school, I somehow got roped into going to some sort of student leadership conference that focused on the drug wars. This led to the creation of a somewhat pointless anti-drug school club, of which I was a charter member. A quick side irony: I know at least two other charter members turned out to be full-time smokers. But I digress. The sole tangible accomplishment of this organization, to my recollection at least, was to push the city in which the school was located to pass an ordinance making it illegal for people under the age of 18 to possess tobacco products. That made us quite popular amongst our peers, as you might guess.
Anyway, being directly involved in the media coverage surrounding that -- and for our town, any media attention was exciting -- was part of what led me to start exploring journalism as a career, rather than my choice at the time, veterinary medicine. And most journalists are smokers or smoker enablers. Therefore, I can place the blame for me ever taking a puff on a cigarette squarely on the blame of the people who most vehemently wanted me to never touch one at all. The moral: Tell your kids to smoke, and they won't.
This twisted logic brings me to my 200th post! Oh, and one more song choice gone today: Patsy Cline's "Tra Le La Le La Triangle." Thank goodness I don't have to type that anymore.
Monday, September 03, 2007
How about a bargain? I mean, I had already intended to turn pescetarian at the end of the year (making an exception only for the delicious turkey-based gravy served every year with the stuffing at Thanksgiving). So, if I'm cutting red meat out of my diet -- not that I eat that much of it in the first place, but whatever -- doesn't that allot me a poor health choice in its place? Kind of the same thought behind carbon offsets.
Anyway, to make a long story even longer, I had my first cigarette in quite a while on Saturday night. I don't even know what kind it was. I just know it felt freaking fantastic.
And now today, I have a shallow cough and a scratchy throat. One probably has nothing to do with the other, but OK. Point taken. I won't start smoking again. Not tobacco, at least.
Oh, by the way, one song down already for the 2008 theme, as the Bach Toccata/Fugue came up the other day. Which would have been a terrific song to smoke to, of course.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I mean, to hear Sean Hannity and the like having to talk about foot-tapping in restrooms is reward enough. Pages of editorial cartoons featuring toilet-bound elephant Savion Glovers is icing. Any speech that can juxtapose "Thank you for coming out" with "I am not gay, I never have been gay" easily beats "I am a gay American." And all this took place in a state in which you can't spell the capital without "boi."
Really, what do I care whether the dude resigns? It's not like the governor is going to appoint anyone better...oh, the governor. That's the best part. I didn't realize until today that the governor of Idaho was named Butch Otter. Wow. Two gay slangs for one! Here's a picture of him with either a potato or a very optimistic condom:
Funny thing about Butch Otter is that he appears to be neither.
Idaho. So much more than Ruby Ridge. Who knew?
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The candidate list is pretty short, as the only time I listened to my iPod on my actual birthday was during a brief morning workout. So, here they are:
"Beautiful" Jessica Molaskey
Well, it's really her version of "Beautiful Dreamer." A bit corny, perhaps, but not a bad choice.
The "Want Two" album is slowly growing on me, and this is a rather lovely song. And I guess New York is a sort of big black forest.
Well, not really. Actually, I'm not sure why that is still on my iPod. But there are worse choices. I do like to drink champagne until I puke.
I used to play this on the piano, or try, at least. Another lovely choice.
OK, don't laugh. You have to love Willie.
"Pilate's Dream," David Burt
How did I ever even make it through this workout with all these slooooooooow songs? I've never, consequently, dreamed I've met a Galilean. A most amazing man, perhaps, but I don't think he was a Galilean.
A little overly dramatic and dark, of course. This would have been a good theme for 2002!
Oddly enough, I think this is the most upbeat song on the list. And two lovers? At least it's not zero.
"Pure Imaginations Medley," Krisanthi Pappas
You have lived until you've heard a jazz version of the Oompa Loompa songs. But I'm more interested in getting a golden ticket and/or a golden twinkle in my eye.
All in all, not the most stimulating choices, but overall positive and optimistic messages. If nothing else, I'm taking that as the ruling out of a Duncan Hunter presidential victory!
Friday, August 24, 2007
Still, even though no one really looks forward to birthdays past the age of 21, I at least have a little more reason to appreciate it in adulthood than I did as a kid. The Aug. 25 date meant that although presents were coming, so was school (or, as Texas kept pushing the school start date further and further up in the early 90s, that school had already started). In fact, I had the distinction of being born on the first day of school, giving my youngest sister, who wasn't too thrilled with the aspect of losing her baby-of-the-family status, another reason to hate the day.
Now, however, summer is more of a nuisance than anything else. Sure, it's nice to get out to the beach or a pool for a few days. But mostly, it just means more sweat, more bugs and nightly block parties. Fall and winter bring better fashion choices, more holidays, lower electric bills and marginally fewer tourists.
So, at least now I can be comforted with my birthday by knowing I can box up the fan for another year. Except next year. I plan on being far, far out of the country for that birthday.