February 28, 2009
This billboard is in my neighborhood. And apparrently due it's the tag line "it's like taking ecstacy" and the location of the billboard (it's facing Nettelhorst School), people have complained to the Alderman about it. So tonight driving home I noticed several newsvans in the area and the billboard is no more.
February 27, 2009
So check out the original video of Mexican Breakfast. The video was shot in one take from start to finish without any cuts. They don't do that anymore today!
Edit: Here's a related article from Playbill.com. And I found this Gwen Verdon Mexican Breakfast video set to Beyonce's Single Ladies. See......the choreography works really well with the song!
Jack McBrayer Response to the Internet Response to the Republican Response to the President's Address to Congress
February 26, 2009
NYC Mayor Bloomberg has plans to close Broadway from 47th Street to 42 Street to car traffic making it a pedestrian zone. It would be exciting to have a pedestrian mall like this for theatregoers but I'm sure it would be a traffic nightmare for drivers. Read about it here.
Tony Award winner Sutton Foster will get her very own caricature at Sardi's Restaurant next month. It'll be the perfect birthday gift for Shrek the Musical's Princess Fiona. (Her birthday is 18 March.)
Ms. Foster just released her first solo CD entitled Wish. She will be performing at Feinstein's at the Loews Regency on the 6th and 20th of April.
February 25, 2009
We seldom endorse products on our posts here at Stage-Notes but this time, I'll make an exception. The whole Stage-Notes team have T-Mobile for their mobile carrier and have been really happy with their service. I have recently discovered this super fun and funky T-Mobile commercial called the T-Mobile Dance. It was filmed at Liverpool Tube Station in London. It kinda reminds me of the Sardana dances in Barcelona. Check it out and join in the fun! Mike, I think you'll particularly like this.
February 24, 2009
Tom Kitt's Next to Normal was one of the more moving shows I saw Off-Broadway last year. Come to think of it, it's almost a year now (see last year's review here). Today it has been announced that it will be moving to Broadway at the Booth Theatre. Previews begin March 27 with an opening night on April 15. The whole Off-Broadway cast except for Brian D'Arcy James (who is currently in Shrek) will be in it. In his place for the role of Dan will be J. Robert Spencer (Jersey Boys). I hope it does well like it did Off-Broadway at Second Stage where it had a sold out run.
(photo from 2St.com)
February 23, 2009
Last night I'm sure a lot of people were tuned in to watch the Academy Awards. I was one of them. Well, actually I had a group of friends over and to celebrate, we had chicken curry in honor of Slumdog Millionaire. I knew that there would be singing and dancing once they announced that Hugh Jackman was going to host the show. It was to our pleasant surprise watching last night that it seemed like the Tonys invaded the Oscars. Yes.....it was really good to see a Tony winner entertain Hollywood and the millions of viewers at home. I'm sure a lot of viewers were surprised that Wolverine had moves and a voice like that. Hugh Jackman commanded the stage with impressive stage presence much like his Boy from Oz persona. It was great seeing Broadway style dances and songs as the production number as Mr. Jackman declares that Musicals are back! To a theatre geek it was exhilarating.
The way they had previous actors who won present the awards was also very touching. I'm sure specially for the nominees. I did like that part although it contributed to a long broadcast. I was surprised at Penelope Cruz' win just because everyone was saying that Viola Davis would win. The Ledger family accepting Heath Ledger's Oscar was very poignant. I jumped up when Kate Winslet won and loved her mention of practicing her speech when she was 8 in front of a mirror with a shampoo. I thought that Micky Rourke was going to win but was glad that Sean Penn did because his Harvey Milk was really nuanced. The best speech of the night for me was from Dustin Lance Black the screenwriter of Milk who had a message to young gay and lesbian kids........"you are beautiful, wonderful creatures who have value" (you can listen to the speech here). Lastly, yay to Danny Boyle and the cast of Slumdog Millionaire for being the little movie that could! So until next year........see you at the Tonys.....ooops.....Oscars!
I haven't been to Madison Square Garden to see a show since watching Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus when I was ten.
still WaMu Theater...for now.
Kathy Griffin had an Iraqi war veteran talk about one of her pet causes, America's Vet Dogs before the show started. The dog even stood up and wagged its tail when the audience applauded.
Ms. Griffin sounded a little hoarse at the start of the show...this was the last night of her 3 day tour stop in NY. She was as funny and vulgar as I expected her to be, poking fun at celebrities (including herself, her mom and her tour manager Tom) as she gave us the dirt on stars like Miley Cyrus, Clay Aiken, Tracy Morgan, Anderson Cooper, Jonas Brothers, even the OctoMom and of course, Cher. She regaled us with behind-the-scenes Emmy and Grammy awards shenanigans, even Rosie O'Donnell's ill-fated variety show. I realized why I like her humor: she knows how ridiculous stardom is and yet acknowledges how we all obsess about it to some degree. She gets as star-struck as we would probably get, makes blunders in her celebrity encounters and in her official appearances. She seems real. She'd start a story and would get side-tracked by other celeb stories, asking the audience what she was talking about in the first place. I can't wait for the new season of My Life on the D-List to start! Too bad we didn't know if there was some sort of stagedoor/meet n greet after the show. I would have loved to have gotten her autograph or photo.
Only problem with the huge venue (sold-out by the way) was we'd miss some of her jokes because we'd still be laughing over the last thing she said. Unlike a smaller, intimate comedy club where you're less likely to miss the funny.
So if you want to have a fun-filled evening surrounded by fashionably dressed, good-looking, albeit homosexual men, come to Ms. Griffin's shows. You'll have a gay old time.
Ron Rifkin was still Herr Schultz.
Alan Cumming was still the Master of Ceremonies.
Lea Salonga had returned before Miss Saigon closed so we managed to get a glimpse of her at the Broadway Theatre stagedoor. Mommy Joy (Ligaya) was rushing, telling the crazy Filipino crowd that it was freezing cold and she didn't want Lea to get sick. (I just realized it's Lea's birthday so maybe that's why.)
Here's to many more decades of Stage Dooring! Happy Anniversary to ME!
February 21, 2009
February 20, 2009
From Susan Schulman:
February 19, 2009
When this movie came out I wondered why director Sam Mendes, who previously won an Oscar for American Beauty, is fascinated with the decay of the American family. As in his previous movie, this is the underlying tone of Revolutionary Road. It's set in the 1950's and focuses on Frank and April Wheeler played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet respectively. They are the typical American working family: young, beautiful, successful, adorable kids, nice house, manicured lawns and friends in the same social class. To an outsider it's the perfect, enviable life.
As the story unravels, the audience sees that Frank Wheeler is stuck in a monotonous desk job while his wife, April is left at home to tend to the kids and the house. They have assimilated themselves into suburbia. In the meantime, you also realize that the couple, see themselves differently. They are unlike their neighbors......that they have a more exciting life.....or at lease deserve a far more exciting life......the movie skirts around this idea and it is only when the realization of the banality of their life sets in that things begin to unravel.
The movie is a delicate study of a family disintegrating before your eyes. Leonardo DiCaprio is extremely moving as a husband and father who wants to provide for his family and at the same time wants something more. He showed great depth as an actor in this role and it actually surprised me that he wasn't nominated for an Academy Award. Kate Winslet is sympathetic as a woman losing her sense of self in suburbia. I should also mention the very good Michael Shannon who plays John Givings, a supporting character who's frank comments made the Wheeler face there banal reality. I really liked the movie but it was really hard to sit through it as an audience member because as the movie approaches it's climax, it was difficult to watch 2 people tear each other apart. It is a movie with no redemption much like Mystic River. I remember having this very heavy feeling when the movie ended. I guess it was very effective because it made me feel that way but nonetheless, it was not a pleasant feeling to have.
(photo from Moviefone.com)
February 18, 2009
Talented singer/songwriter Katie Thompson had a concert Monday night (2/16) at Birdland with a slew of talented Broadway divas. Guess who shows up to sing Do You......Julia Murney, who is in her midweek break from playing Mrs. Walker in The Who's Tommy in Oklahoma. The concert is a celebration of Katie Thompson's music and her CD "What I've Done Right" and KT: Live. Other talented artists who joined the show were Shoshana Bean, Kate Shindle, Lisa Brescia, Carly Jibson just to name a few.
I first heard the song Do You last year at Julia Murney's concert at Joe's Pub. It's heartbreaking! See how she conveys all it's emotions when she sings it.
Photos of the concert can be found in Broadwayworld.com
February 17, 2009
I came into this movie not knowing anything about Harvey Milk nor the history of gay rights. It has been an eye opening movie for me in terms of how people have struggled so that my friends could enjoy the freedom that they now have. That being said, the struggle for equality is not still over.
It's also very pleasing that the movie showed a lot of his personal life with a backdrop of the gay rights movement. I really appreciated that. It makes him more human and not just an iconic figure of the movement.
Having seen his other movies, I knew even before that Sean Penn was a great actor but in this movie, he impressed me even more. His performance is increadibly nuanced down to hand movements, his stance, his way of talking and even the tone of his voice. I didn't even think it was him on the screen but Harvey Milk himself. It's one of those rare things you witness as an audience member when an "actor" transends his own self and thus "becomes" the charater. It is very powerful. Josh Brolin was equally good as Dan White. Also notable were James Franco, Harvey's lover and the very amusing Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones. Make sure to check it out, if not just for the historical significance, but also for a man who stood up for what he believed in.
February 16, 2009
Notable qoute from Mr. Redford: “Ticket takers or electricians or actors — all the people connected with the arts are at risk just like everybody else is,” he said in an interview. He said he also reminded Ms. Pelosi that his Sundance Film Festival brings more than $60 million to Park City, Utah, each year.
In support, Representative David R. Obey stated "Arts workers, have 12.5 percent unemployment. Are you suggesting that somehow if you work in that field, it isn’t real when you lose your job, your mortgage or your health insurance? We’re trying to treat people who work in the arts the same way as anybody else.”
Read about it in the latest article by Robin Pogrebin from the NY Times.
February 15, 2009
February 14, 2009
Duncan Sheik is doing a good deed. While promoting his North American tour for his new album Whisper House, he is working with Ebay Giving Works to auction off these Meet and Greet packages to benefit Amnesty International USA:
- Vista Theater in Los Angeles, CA on 19 February.
- The Triple Door in Seattle, WA on 28 February.
- The Berklee Performance Center, Boston, MA on 13 March.
Songwriters (or budding musicians), you can bid on a one hour personal songwriting lesson with Duncan in the Sony Music offices in the Big Apple. If you don't live in NYC, you have to provide your own transportation and lodging.
If you can't meet and greet Duncan Sheik, he is also auctioning off the following signed memorabilia, with 100% of proceeds also going to Amnesty International.
February 13, 2009
- David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish are eligible to be considered jointly in the Leading Actor in a Musical for Billy Elliot.
- Liza's at the Palace, Slava's Snowshow and Soul of Shaolin will all be considered eligible in the Special Theatrical Event category
For the full info please click here. This is the third time the Tony Awards Administration Committee has met this year. It will meet two more times to discuss the eligibility of shows opening in the 2008-2009 season. The cut-off date for eligibility is April 30, 2009.
Here is a related post from the NY Times about the reason for the decision.
February 12, 2009
Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., pre-renovations. Like our 44th Chief, Lincoln is my favorite president. If you're in Springfield, IL, make sure to stop by his family home and tombsite. I was incredibly moved during my visit.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle attended the theatre's re-opening Wednesday night. I hope you guys saw Henry Louis Gates, Jr.'s new PBS documentary Looking for Lincoln last night.
February 11, 2009
February 10, 2009
I would like to draw our readers to this article by Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune. In particular this line:
"In the Senate, an amendment sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) lumped museums, theaters and arts centers (a terrifyingly vague term) with such frippery as casinos, golf courses and swimming pools as recipients who must be stopped from getting any of this funding."
Thus the 50 million funding for the arts was eliminated. The article explains the importance of the arts in job creation, in the building of cities and neighborhoods and as a legacy to the American culture.
February 9, 2009
The film The Visitor starts out with a basic premise, a common story about someone who has become disinterested in life, just going through the motions of working and living. Walter Vale is a widowed college professor from Connecticut with an absent son. His life is turned on its head when he begrudgingly goes to New York City for a conference and finds two illegal immigrants living in his apartment. The film then becomes a story about finding one's purpose. It makes a statement on human rights and how the country built by immigrants has become anti-immigrant. But it is ultimately about reconnecting with one's humanity and with other humans.
Richard Jenkins gives an understated, elegant and well-deserved Academy Award-nominated performance as the writer/professor. His passion for life is re-ignited by his dealings with Tarek (Haaz Sleiman), his girlfriend Zainab (Danai Gurira) and Tarek's mother Mouna (again beautifully underplayed by Hiam Abbass). Tarek plays the djembe in a jazz club, and classical music-loving Walter aspires to become a drummer himself. Professor Vale becomes embroiled in his friends' problems with Immigration. You have to see the film for yourself to see its bittersweet resolution. My dilemma as a viewer was the fairness or unfairness of it all: the government has to do its job in a post-9-11 world, and yet being an immigrant myself, I felt for these people who had come to this country for the promise of a better life.
Coming from Tom McCarthy, director of the outstanding The Station Agent, The Visitor is quietly sentimental, inspiring, surprisingly funny; political yet restrained. I love percussion instruments, and especially enjoyed the drum-playing scenes. The final puzzle is figuring out who the titular Visitor is. Is it us becoming mere visitors in our lives? Instead of being fully alive and proactive? Or is it the people we meet who change our lives, in big or small ways?
February 8, 2009
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts film awards will be handed out today from London's Royal Opera House. Here's the list of nominees. Kate Winslet is pitted against herself in the Best Actress category, for Revolutionary Road and The Reader. I'm glad to see Robert Downey, Jr. and Brendan Gleeson nominated again for Best Supporting Actor. I'm pulling for Persepolis for either Animated Film or Film not in the English Language. Although I haven't seen Waltz with Bashir yet; that might change my mind.
The telecast starts at 8 PM on BBC America.
February 7, 2009
Good Luck to Stephen Colbert who was nominated for Best Spoken Word Album (I am America and So Can You!) and Kathy Griffin for Best Spoken Album (For Your Consideration).
February 6, 2009
February 5, 2009
James Franco was named Harvard University's Hasty Pudding Man of the Year. I cannot agree more. You can glean a great sense of humor in his choice of roles. You've seen him in Hollywood blockbusters to small independent films. And in each movie he has shown immense talent and dedication.
The Man of the Year festivities will take place on Friday the 13th of February.
Renee Zellweger was earlier named Woman of the Year.
(photo from Wikipedia)
February 4, 2009
Thanks to Dana Saltzman from Sony/BMG, I got hold of Tony and Grammy Award-winning Duncan Sheik's latest album Whisper House. The album was written for a theatrical piece that will premiere in a Delaware regional production sometime this year.
First of all, I love the drawings in the CD booklet. According to Broadwayworld, the beautifully haunting artwork is by Swedish illustrator Klaus Lyngeled. I've always loved Mr. Sheik's voice, ever since Barely Breathing. The CD also features the lovely vocals of Holly Brook, who reminds me of Marketa Irglova and Vanessa Carlton's voices.
The plot centers around a boy sent to live with his lonely spinster aunt in a New England lighthouse. The grief-stricken child begins to hear ghostly voices singing to him at night. I can almost imagine the staging as I listened to the songs. The music is pop-rocky yet typical Duncan Sheik-esque melancholy. Moody, introspective and even eerie at times. The main themes are sadness, unfulfilled love, prejudice and bigotry. I think I like this better than Spring Awakening...there I said it! (I wonder if my love for lighthouses has anything to do with it.) If you want to see Mr. Sheik perform live, starting this month, he is touring with original SA cast member Lauren Pritchard. Click here for the schedule.
February 3, 2009
The Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma in cooperation with the University of Oklahoma Weitzenhoffer Department of Musical Theatre present The Who's Tommy with Julia Murney (Lennon, Wicked, The Wild Party) as Mrs. Walker, Matt Farnsworth (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Curtains) asCapt. Walker, Marcus Neville (City of Angels, The Full Monty) as Uncle Ernie and John Fletcher (Child's Christmas in Wales) as Tommy. The show is scheduled to run from Feb. 5 to Feb. 21, 2009. For tickets click here. To read about an interview with the director, Nick Corley, click here.
(photos from NewsOK.com and Broadwayworld.com)
It is the underlying tone of Stephen Daldry's The Reader, a movie about shame and torment which headlines Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes and David Kross. It is the story of Michael Berg (David Kross as the younger Michael and Ralph Fiennes as the older) who at 15 has an affair with mysterious Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet). The affair only lasts one summer but has greatly affected Michael's life. A few years later, Michael now a law student, encounters Hanna again but this time she's being accused of Nazi war crimes. What follows is an intense portrait of guilt, shame and torment. It's one of those movies where you have a preconception about where it's going but as the plot evolves it totally surprises you as an audience member.....or at least that was my experience.
David Hare's script is riveting and Stephen Daldry's direction is exquisite. The pace, subtlety and attention to detail such as hand movements, eye and facial close-ups gives a palpable emotional impact. There is actually a Stephen Daldry-ish feel to the movie which I can't quite describe but if you've seen The Hours or Billy Elliot you'll know what I mean. Kate Winslet's understated acting is phenomenal and draws the audience to have empathy to a character you'd think you should hate. David Kross is heartbreaking as a tormented Michael. Ralph Fiennes, also very understated in this film, is stirring as he tries to understand and make peace with his past.
It's nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Cinematography. So far, it's my favorite among the nominated movies that I've seen. Make sure you get to see it.
February 2, 2009
I am officially a Javier Bardem-shipper. From Before Night Falls, The Sea Inside, No Country for Old Men and now Vicky Cristina Barcelona, he always manages to mesmerize me. Here, he is the Latin lover, a passionate Spanish painter who seduces two American tourists with the promise of a Bohemian lifestyle. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is reserved and pragmatic, while Cristina(Scarlett Johansson) is adventuresome and impulsive. Their conflicting views on life and love are challenged by their encounter with Bardem's Juan Antonio. The two women stay with Patricia Clarkson's Judy (and her husband), who tries to keep the bethrothed Vicky from a dispassionate, dissatisfied life.
As if that wasn't enough, add Penelope Cruz's Maria Elena(Juan Antonio's artist ex-wife) to the mix and the sparks onscreen get even more electrifying.The ménage a trois becomes a parallelogram. Ms. Cruz is enthralling, bold and tempestuous. Her performances when speaking in her native tongue are always captivating. I'm glad she got an Academy Award nomination for this.
But to me, the real star of the movie is Spain. The movie is a love letter to Barcelona, and a picturesque little town called Oviedo. Like Under the Tuscan Sun, it makes me want to move to Europe. Gorgeous architecture, appetizing food and wine, stirring Spanish guitar music, bike rides along solitary country roads, beautiful artwork and gardens...Writer and director Woody Allen has found a new city to pay homage to, apart from his beloved New York City.
February 1, 2009
'Cause everything is rent
Would you light my candle?
With Broadway show place cards and table cards (I was in the "Xanadu" table of course), 2 jaw-dropping performances by the birthday celebrant (I Know where I've been from "Hairspray" and I am Changing from "Dreamgirls"), a piano Broadway medley by a 12 year old boy prodigy who can't read musical notes, and another soulful a capella song number from one of her friends, my niece's 16th birthday celebration last night started off with a bang. After dinner and some dancing, it was time for speeches. With hands shaking and voice breaking, I managed to squeak out a speech in front of 100+ people. Here's what I said (my thanks and apologies to the lyricists):
"Oh what a day! Late January back in '93. What a very special time for us. What a baby, what a day!
16 years later, on behalf of my family, it is my pleasure to welcome you to my niece K's birthday celebration. And oh what a celebration we'll have today. Let's have a celebration for K's day!
To K, here's our birthday wishes for you, and life lessons we've learned from musical theatre that we wish to impart to you. but first of all, thank you for the music, the songs you're singing. Thanks for all the joy you're bringing.
Measure your life in love, because happiness is anyone and anything that's loved by you.
So may your heart be full of love, no fear, no regret.
You will be who you want to be. You can choose whatever heaven grants.
Everyone deserves the chance to fly.
There's a life you're meant to lead. You've got to find it on your own, you'll find your way.
Fortune favors the brave.
Your great adventure has begun. Be fearless. Shout and start a riot.
Be anything but quiet. Be astonishing.
Happy Birthday and we wish you many, many, many more. We appreciate you, we celebrate all that you are and all that you do for us.
To all of you, thank you for being here. Welcome, enjoy the party and good night!"
And of course, it was a wonderful evening. Kudos to my sister and brother-in-law for pulling it all off.