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Showing posts from 2009

The 2009 Kennedy Center Honors

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The Kennedy Center Honors were aired last night and what an honor it was to watch people I admired be admired by other people I admire! The 2009 honorees were (in alpha-order) comedy legend Mel Brooks, pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, opera singer Grace Bumbry, acting legend Robert De Niro and singer/songwriter extraordinaire Bruce Springsteen. Or, as Caroline Kennedy called them (in sitting order), “a piano virtuoso from the California hills whose inspired rhythms made him America’s herald of a new age of jazz; a good fella from the mean streets of New York who redefined acting and made movie audiences an offer they couldn’t refuse; the little girl from a St. Louis church choir who could hit high C and became the diva we cheered in the houses of grand opera; a mischievous boy from Brooklyn who provoked billions of laughs by walking loudly and carrying a big schtick; and a rocker from the Jersey Shore who composed his own musical universe and – across America and the world – became …

Rocking and Rolling With the Holmesies

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The two highlights of my day on Saturday really have nothing to do with each other, but I thought of this title for a post so I’m combining them anyway!
On Saturday morning, I headed over to the soon-to-close Rock Hall Annex in Soho. (The Annex closes on January 3; according to the website, “they” are looking into the possibility of making the Annex experience a bus and truck show. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not the Rock Annex will be rolling into a town near you.) The Annex is, as was expected, not nearly as extensive as the Rock Hall in Cleveland. It is newer, though, which means more technological possibilities to enhance the experience. The Annex sells tickets, or rather admissions, at fifteen minute intervals in order to control the flow of folks in the Annex. This is nice since the efficient use of space leaves little room for crowds.
Your first stop on the Annex tour is a small-ish waiting room with metal plaques lining the walls. The plaques are etched with the signature…

Media Morsels 12.25

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Catch Me, Eh?
As reported last week, Aaron Tveit is leaving Next to Normal. I had hoped that this meant that Catch Me if You Can, a musical adaptation of the eponymmous movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, was coming to Broadway. Turns out, it may stop in Toronto first. This is good. It means there's still life in the show. Toronto could be the official out of town tryout before the show heads to NYC.

21 Guns Now Available for Download
A few weeks ago I mentioned that the cast of American Idiot recorded the Green Day song 21 Guns and that it was available for streaming. (Glad that some of you listened and enjoyed!) It is now available to download, (from iTunes and other outlets) which means you can now add this amazing version of a terrific song to your playlist.

President Bartlet on Stage
Not really, just Martin Sheen. Sheen's going to be performing in The Subject Was Roses in LA in February. Really, though, I felt like sharing this because the picture of Martin Sheen t…

Up in the Air

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You can’t plan your feelings. Most of the time you can’t really control them, either. You can control or plan your reaction to things, but those pesky feelings arise whether or not you invite them; whether or not you want them; whether or not you acknowledge them. This is what came to mind while watching the fantastic Up in the Air, and it’s something that’s crossed my mind several times this week.

In the beginning of the week, a friend of mine was telling me about his relationship, saying that it felt like it was going somewhere good he wasn’t ready for it to go, despite his strong affection for this person. Then a couple of days ago I re-watched (500) Days of Summer (it’s now out on DVD). In the fledging era of their relationship, Summer tells Tom she doesn’t believe in love. She says she doesn’t want to be anyone’s anything. She’s just looking for something casual. The fates have different plans. Today, I watched Ryan Bingham (George Clooney) travel elite access through life, colle…

Crazy Heart

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Bad Blake isn’t all that bad, but he definitely ain’t good. Blake is a 57 year old former Country and Western artist whose star is fading. Reduced to playing bowling alleys and lounges while his protégé sells out amphitheatres, Blake is itching for something - maybe another drink, maybe another woman or maybe just another song. He’s worn and weathered and when we meet him, he’s only good on stage. Played to disheveled perfection by none other than The Dude, Jeff Bridges, Blake is a tribute to true artistry overshadowed by acts with nothing but glamour, glitter and gimmicks.

The first thing that struck me about Crazy Heart was the incredible cinematography and the beautiful shots of America out west. Canyons. Blue skies. Open road. It’s all captured in vivid color and epic expanse from the opening of the film all the way to the end credits. From those captivating opening shots of Blake driving to his next gig (he travels in Bessie, his old Chevy, with his guitar, amp and a great big c…

The Award Shows Are Coming! The Award Shows Are Coming!

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Critics Choice Movie Awards: (airs January 15, 2010 at 9pm EST on VH1)
I can’t genuinely speak about these awards because, for the most part, I haven’t seen the nominated films – yet! From now through the first couple of weeks in January, I’ll likely go on a movie-going blitz. Some of these films, though, have either already come out on video or will be out before the big show (read: the Oscars) so the list of what I’ll see in the theatres during this blitz is lessened a bit.

In the acting categories, I can comment on Meryl Streep’s performance in Julie and Julia. She was fantastic! Inarguably one of (if not the) best actors of her generation, Ms. Streep brilliantly brings Julia Child’s joie de vivre to the screen. Again, I haven’t seen her fellow nominees’ performances but based on what I know about their respective movies, I can safely say that Meryl Streep’s performance is the most light hearted.

In the best original screenplay category, I was thrilled to see that Scott Neustadter an…

Media Morsels 12.18

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Glee news:

It’s official! Idina Menzel is coming to McKinley High! Or maybe a rival high school – Glee creator Ryan Murphy isn’t sure. He is sure that joining Idina on the roster of guest stars will be Jonathan Groff and Kristen Chenoweth. This is awesome! I’d love to see an Idina-Kristen-Matthew sing off and Idina and Lea trading bars. Those two divas look alike, sound alike and both can kill “Don’t Rain On My Parade”! (Here's Idina at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors. Watch the "Sectionals"episode of Glee for Lea's version.)

Ay caramba! - Glee is going to Spain. Well, not the storyline but the program. Word came this week that a Spanish network is set to air the first 13 episodes (which are available on DVD on December 29!) of this glorious television musical.

Sing… Sing a song… - Murphy also spoke to The Wrap this week telling them that the back nine episodes that will begin airing April 13 will have even more songs per episode than the Road to Sectional batch. Zang!
Wh…

The Nutcracker

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The Nutcracker cracks me up. This family hosts a party at which the children are paraded about as entertainment; then a creepy looking godfather arrives with a little boy and presents Clara (or Marie, if you’re watching NYC Ballet’s version) with a Nutcracker doll. She falls asleep in the living room and has what, if she weren’t five, seems like an LSD-induced dream in which the creepy godfather spooks her, mice try to attack her but toy soldiers, led by the Nutcracker come to life, defeat the rodent army and then she and the Nutcracker (the little boy who came with the godfather) take off on a journey to Candy Land, complete with dancing candy canes and hot chocolate. It’s really kind of nutty but the lovely and memorable music and impressive dancing makes George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker a nice wintry treat.

I saw The Nutcracker this year having different expectations than last. Last year, I was seeing The Nutcracker performed professionally and in whole for the first time. Growing…

Media Morsels 12.11

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In an effort to post more regularly, I’ve decided to start posting Media Morsels, which will be little bites of “news” that I found interesting that week. In this inaugural edition, I’m dipping into the archive for a couple of the items to let you know about some goings on from two or three weeks ago that are worth mentioning. Future posts should be timelier. Let’s begin.

21 Guns recordingAs previously reported, the fantastic cast of American Idiot went into the studio to record their version of Green Day’s hit single (and number in American Idiot) 21 Guns. It was released last week and is one of the most beautiful recordings I’ve ever heard. The quality of the recording is really great – very clear with a good blend – but it’s the performance that it absolutely outstanding. Rebecca Naomi Jones has a gorgeously haunting voice; that’s juxtaposed with the sweetness from Mary Faber and the other ladies as well as the grittiness of the men’s vocals, including Billie Joe Armstrong. The f…

Circle Mirror Transformation

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Good news: The superb Circle Mirror Transformation will return for one month to Playwrights Horizons. Beginning December 15, this gem of a play will once again take over the Peter Jay Sharp Theatre, Playwrights Horizons’ smaller stage. This is a must see.

The conceit of the show is that you’re watching an acting class. Don’t pay attention to that, though, because Circle Mirror Transformation is really a beautifully written, skillfully directed and wonderfully acted character study. We never leave the classroom and yet we get such a full picture of who these Vermonters are. Each week, layers are peeled off and character traits – both endearing pieces of back story and flaws – are revealed. We are taken on a journey of discovery with the acting teacher and her four (mostly adult) students. If you’ve ever taken an acting class you’ll delight in the details of the set and the theatre games played. If you haven’t, don’t worry. There is plenty else to delight in, not the least of which are t…

Long Live Rock

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I posted on Thanksgiving about how thankful I was to have music in my life. On Saturday I got to visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Museum in (oh me-o, oh my-o, oh) Cleveland, OH and my gratitude only increased.

In a recent issue of Rolling Stone, the Hall of Fame and Museum dominated almost the entire issue. Rolling Stone’s editor and Publisher Jann Wenner was actually instrumental in establishing the Hall of Fame so covering the excitement surrounding the recent 25th Anniversary concert* that took place over two nights in New York’s Madison Square Garden was a no brainer. The issue is chock full of information about the Hall and Museum, including an explanation to the oft asked question, “Why is it in Cleveland?” (Answer: Alan Freed, a Cleveland DJ, coined the term “rock and roll”; that and Cleveland offered financial support for the museum!) Check out the issue for in-depth coverage of the concert and a thorough history of the Hall of Fame and museum.

My experience at the Museum …

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Music Saves - Thank Goodness

Just a quick note about last night's Glee. The episode was good but the Imagine scene was great. The glee club from the school for the deaf began "singing" and signing John Lennon's Imagine; Mercedes (the sassy Amber Riley) was so moved she began singing in her seat. After a few bars she got up and sang, shoulder to shoulder, with the other club's lead vocalist. Then Artie joined her. Then Tina and Rachel and all the McKinley High misfits. The two clubs were singing together, signing together, expressing themselves, in their own ways, united by music. I started to cry and thought, "This is the power of music. Music unites us all and connects us and allows us to have these beautiful moments of clarity and peace." Well done, Glee.

On this Thanksgiving, I am eternally grateful and thankful for music. It truly is "the way we sing that makes 'em dream". Happy Thanksgiving!

American Idiot: Berkeley

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I remember anticipating and then purchasing Green Day’s "American Idiot" in 2004. We were at the tail end of a heated presidential election – the first one in which I was eligible to vote for POTUS. W. was the incumbent and Senator John Kerry his opponent. On campus, you couldn’t get through the student union without passing by wranglers for both sides. Even my crush was getting into it, manning a booth and canvassing his neighborhood. (Unfortunately, he was supporting what I thought was the wrong side.) Folksiness and ignorance were being celebrated while intellect and an inclination toward analysis had to make its case. The country was at war (with one another – figuratively – and with countries abroad – literally) and I was hungry for someone or something to speak to me – to express the rage I had for those who celebrated ignorance and a feeling of being eschewed by a country whose most vocal majority probably didn’t know what “eschewed’ meant. Along came Green Day and it…

He Made Us Laugh!

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Since the season began in September, Saturday Night Live has been, in my opinion, only sporadically funny. My favorite parts of SNL are usually Weekend Update, the digital short and the cold open, in that order; the sketches are not consistently funny or sometimes the funniest sketch is on at 12:50, rather than in a prime pre-Weekend Update block. This past Saturday’s episode, though, hosted by the adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was entirely funny.

The late-in-the-show Thanksgiving sketch had a good pay-off after a slow start: When the family began singing Wilson Phillips, I was laughing out loud. (Watch highlights from the episode on Hulu.) And, more remarkable, the final sketch – usually more of a filler than anything else – could easily have been slated in the front of the show: Recreating the infamous “Lloyd holding the boom-box” scene from Say Anything, Gordon-Levitt’s deadpan Lloyd was smartly contrasted with Jason Sudeikis’s wise cracking neighbor. The digital short was definite…