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Archive for November, 2009

Musical Monday: Memories

Before she became the queen of 80’s pop-R&B, Whitney Houston provided vocals to a group called Material for this song in 1982.   Shortly after, Clive Davis signed her to Arista Records, and she became the legend we know now.

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One-person, multi-character stage pieces aren’t the easiest to sit through.  You have moments of lightness, sadness, humor, pathos, and pause (during each transition).  Anna Deavere Smith has been a beacon of leadership in bringing such pieces to light.  Her previous more well-known shows, Fires in the Mirror (about the 1992 Crown Heights rioting) and Twilight: Los Angeles (about the 1992 Los Angeles rioting), were about how people reacted to moments and looked at the diversity of honest reaction.

Smith’s method is to interview a wide range of people, from conventional to celebrity to surprising choices.  In Let Me Down Easy, Smith turns her focus on death, dying & health care.  Rather timely, of course, but her research goes several years back (as some of her recounts are dated a few years ago and some of her subjects have passed away).  She’s a gifted writer, able to create a tapestry of disparate experiences into a single, cohesive stage piece.  And her performances draw out so much more than words, it’s almost astonishing at times as she disappears into her subjects.

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Humpday

Humpday’s premise is what gets your attention.  Two old straight guy friends, after a night of drinking & who knows what else (seriously, they don’t give too much specifics there), decide to make an art porn film for a local newspaper’s art porn festival.

The film spans about two days’ time, starting with the reunion of the two friends to the premise-defining moment.  Director Lynn Shelton moves the story along quite easily, if somewhat indulgently with an overabundance of closeups.  The audience isn’t told these guys are conflicted about their drunken decision, but the actors draw out their hesitations.  Given that this isn’t exactly a top-line production, some shaky camera work is forgiven – at least by me.

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Il Trittico is a difficult night at the Opera.  Essentially, Puccini had three ideas, but none long enough to extend into a full operatic experience, so he put three one-act pieces together.  Il Tabarro, easily the darkest, starts the evening, followed by the harrowing Suor Angelica, and the finale, the lovely, light Gianni Schicchi concludes the evening on a high note.  What makes them difficult is that easy has such different emotions & performance styles, audiences have to essentially put their faith in the quality of the music to override everything.

The Met’s production is one of their classics.  The scenery work is tremendous, and the Met tried something new this year.  Most opera companies have different lead performers throughout the pieces, but this time around, the Met used the wonderful Patricia Racette as the lead soprano in all three pieces and the dynamic Stephanie Blythe as her mezzo co-star.  Racette is known for her dramatic skills and lovely tone, and lived up to my high expectations.  Blythe is one of my favorite performers in the Met stable, and she was equally magnificent, even if the roles weren’t enough for her talent.

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First things first:  Yes, both Hugh Jackman & Daniel Craig look really hot onstage together, but, no, they do not take their clothes off.

Like most theatre queens, I bought tickets for this show the day they were available online.  The simple concept of these two men onstage together was too good to pass up, regardless of the vehicle.

I saw Jackman’s Tony-winning performance in Boy From Oz, and he’s a very likable and dynamic stage performer.  I’d heard good things about Craig’s performances.  So, given all of that (and the fact that they’re incredibly attractive), I was excited.

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Rounding out the Lambert story

So, thankfully, he’s standing up for himself and calling out the hypocrisy after Janet also played with her dancers. I had no issues with the performance, even if I’m not interested in his music.  He did an interview on CBS.  Note that ABC hasn’t really been able to deal with it and should have had him on regardless of his performance.

Since I can’t get the darn thing to embed, here’s the link:  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=5772038n&tag=api

Go on girl!

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Please leave now.

OK, that might be harsh, but that was my feeling about a third of the way through the first act of the Roundabout’s revival of Bye Bye Birdie.  Truth be told, I wasn’t entirely interested in seeing this show, but being the ardent theatre queen I am, I relented and bought tickets (at a discount, thankfully).

The NY Post’s Michael Riedel, he of the mud-slinging and gossip-hunting “critiques”, wrote early in the rehearsal cycle about problems with the show.  Then, Ben Brantley promptly slammed the show in his review.  I wasn’t really expecting much, but did I get a lot to write about when I saw the show.

Bye Bye Birdie is a dated show.  Not even in terms of pacing or dialogue tone, which I expect from all revivals.  This show has not aged well.  It capitalized on the rise of “youth culture”, Elvis, and the early stages of the sexual revolution – all of which seem trite today.  Unfortunately, the earnest mentality the show showcases isn’t just out of date, its childish.

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