February 26, 2010

A View From The Stands

Well, the Women's Figure Skating just completed last night with the wonderful Kim Yun-Na winning the gold, Mao Asada the silver and Joannie Rochette for bronze. What an exciting night! If you want to relive the competition but with a different perspective from NBC commentators Sandra Bezic and Scott Hamilton, then check out this vlog from the guys at OlympicsOrBust.com with Broadway's Julia Murney! Check out the reactions, commentaries and even cameos of Tara Lapinski and Sasha Cohen.

Women's Short Program part 1:

Women's Short Program part 2:

(thanks to CW for pointing out this video)
February 24, 2010

Leave It To Cleavage

A poster of Lucy T. Slut of Ave Q has been banned in Colorado Springs for use as advertising for the touring show. The posters were meant to be placed on bus shelters however, Jeff Moore of Lamar Advertising, in charge of marketing the show, says the company takes a conservative approach in Colorado Springs. The city is known for its political conservatism, and some conservative Christian groups have headquarters in the city.
In response, Broadway.com has this snippet from Lucy T. Slut about the controversy:
“When my public relations people told me that my cleavage was banned from the bus shelters of Colorado Springs, my first thought was: ‘they could fit my cleavage on a little bus shelter?!’ Then I was disappointed—I simply hoped to further beautify the community. However, given my notoriety as a profligate home-wrecker, I suppose all of the men of Colorado Springs might succumb to my generous charms. My bazooms are widely acknowledged as a threat to the traditional family structure.”
To read the full article and more of Ms Slut's response, please click here.
February 23, 2010

The Road less travelled

John Hilcoat's screen adaptation of the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Road is not a film for everyone. It follows the struggle for survival of a Father (Viggo Mortensen) and his Son (Kodi Smith-McPhee) in a stark post-apocalyptic world. We are never told what cataclysm has occurred, only that Mother (Charlize Theron) is unable to deal with the calamity and leaves her family. She tells them to head south, to the presumed safety of the sea.

But the desolate road is fraught with danger. Father and son scavenge for food and fuel, while trying to stay clear of thieves and cannibalistic survivors. Their encounters with these groups are always horrific but watch out for a particularly terrifying sequence inside a house. As if murderous humans aren't enough, it shows the difficult choices that parents have to make to protect their children.

Mr. Mortensen, looking like death warmed over, should have been nominated for his understated portrayal of the unnamed father. He is fiercely protective, defiantly instilling hope and humanity in his son. He tells him to "carry the fire" and reiterates that they are "the good guys", while trying to keep his own despair at bay. The scene where he breaks down at a piano remembering happier times with his absent wife was heartbreaking. Look out for moving performances from an unrecognizable Robert Duvall and Guy Pearce as fellow travellers.

The empty and gray landscapes are disquietingly beautiful. The film is unceasingly grim and very, very depressing. If you dare to watch it, you will be rewarded with a touching story of a father's love for his child. At its heart, it tells us that in a bleak future, even when people are reduced to obeying their selfish, baser instincts, we can still be humane, merciful and honorable creatures.As we filed out of the theater, I heard some adults groaning and complaining. And yet there was this little boy who was there with his father and brother, who simply said he liked the movie. Now THAT gave ME hope.

(photo from filmofilia)

Vandals Deface Modern Wing

I am all for artistic expression but this is just something so disrespectful. Vandals have defaced the facade of the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute! The building itself is a great work of art by Renzo Piano so for these grafitti artists to deface another artist's work is just so wrong. To read more about it, please click here.
(photo from nbcchicago.com)
February 22, 2010

By George!

Happy Birthday President George Washington! May our country's leaders honor you and make you proud.

Explore New Worlds

Here's PSA pointed out to me by my friend Mailou. It's a great PSA promoting literacy and the joy of reading. So there you go......read........and let books take you to places like Hogwarts, The Shire, Oz or even to the one I go back to, year after year.......Meriton and Pemberly!

February 21, 2010

Theatre Phone Criminals

I just wanted to point out this article from the NY Times regarding pre-show announcements about cell phones in the theatre. It is a pity that theatres now must resort to this but in my experience, show specific pre-show announcements just adds to the enjoyment and excitement of the show (The Addams Family pre-show announcement has been my recent fav). Also on the left hand side of the article you can hear different sound bites of pre-show announcements from Billy Elliot and Finian's Rainbow.
(photo from NY Times)
February 20, 2010

A Single Man

Fashion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut in A Single Man is triumph in artistic beauty. I agree with my friend Tom who said that "It's like seeing a Gucci ad". The film is impeccably shot in sepia hues very fitting of the period. He also used a lot of detail shots such as hand close ups, a cigarette lighting, close ups of a tie or a briefcase which make it seem like you're viewing snapshots of a certain period. It's very artfully done and does bring the audience back in time.

The movie is about an English professor, George Falconer (Colin Firth) trying to cope with the death of his partner of 16 years, Jim (Matthew Goode). It happens on a single day when George finally contemplates suicide. The movie follows him that day as he spends his time with his class, his neighbor, his best friend Charley (Julianne Moore) and his student Kenny (Nicholas Hoult). One of my favorite scenes is when he fastidiously prepares for his suicide. It's very meticulous and the detail with which it was shot made me feel I was witnessing something right there in front of me which I should stop. It's very real and made me as an audience more anxious as to what would happen next. It's great story telling.

Colin Firth was outstanding in his very understated performance. You could feel his grief and hopelessness as more aspects of his day unfolds. Juliane Moore was also remarkable as a friend who is in love with George. Although her role here reminded me of her role in Boogie Nights. Matthew Goode and Nicholas Hoult (who by the way, has changed so much from when he was in About A Boy) were also excellent.

Although the movie does have a heavy subject matter, I quite enjoyed it and thought that it was well made and artistically filmed. It's movie that makes you think or at least discuss it with friends afterwards for it does linger in your mind.

February 19, 2010

You are Gold!

Stagenotes has Olympic fever! Congratulations to Zhen Xue and Zhao Hongbo for becoming the figure skating pairs champions. Already in their 30s, I especially love that they came out of retirement to pursue that Olympic gold medal. The happy couple's victory ended decades of Russian dominance.

And of course, Evan Lysacek for his exquisite, flawless and consistent performances that gave Team USA its first men's figureskating gold medal since Brian Boitano in 1988. Kudos to the Russian Federation's Evgeni Plushenko for also coming back from retirement to capture the silver medal.

We can't wait for more Olympic action and drama!
February 17, 2010

The Half Blood Percy

I went to see Percy Jackson and the Olympians The Lightning Thief because of the supporting cast (Sean Bean as Zeus and Uma Thurman as Medusa...how can one pass that up?) and because I loves me my Greek mythology! Our friend Liza's son has read all the books in the Rick Riordan series and loves them. It's Harry Potter meets Clash of the Titans.

Highschool student Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) finds out the hard way that he is the son of Poseidon (Kevin McKidd). Grover (Brendan T. Jackson) is his best friend/Ron Weasley equivalent, the sardonic sidekick. The pair later meets Annabeth (Alexandria Daddario), a spirited but probably not as smart version of Hermione at---I kid you not--- Camp Half-Blood. It's like summer camp, except everyone's in Xena or Hercules mode and garb.

Percy is falsely accused of stealing Zeus's thunderbolt, so our trio embark on a cross-country and cross-dimension quest to clear his name and save his mother Sally (Catherine Keener). They are aided by...you guessed it...a mystical map. I knew who the thief was even before they left camp.

Ms. Thurman gives a campy performance as the snake-haired villain. Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan) is the movie's Dumbledore. Steve Coogan is a goofy and not-terrifying Hades to Rosario Dawson's lustful Persephone. Joe Pantoliano plays Percy's stepfather, the unsubtly named Gabe Ugliano. The explanation for his presence in the Jacksons' lives made me chuckle. Other than Melina Karekanedes's Athena, it seems like the actors were either too earnest or hamming it up.

I can see why stories like these are so popular. The kids have abandonment issues. The adults are always messing things up, and the children are left to fix everything. The movie even puts a unique spin on dyslexia and ADHD. The idea that the Greek gods and their offsprings are still around is also tantalizing, especially when it explains single parenthood. If books like these make the young 'uns interested in mythology, then all is right with the world.
February 16, 2010

People Who Deconstruct People

Here's the funny and knowledgeable Seth Rudetsky deconstructing Julia Murney singing People from Funny Girl. Watch and learn........

Colbert Sport Report

If like me, you're a regular viewer of Stephen Colbert, you know that the fundit is in the XXI Winter Olympics. Back in November, the U.S. speedskating team's primary sponsor DSB Bank pulled out after declaring bankruptcy. The Colbert Nation raised more than $300,000 and became the team's main sponsor.

In the lead-up to the Winter Games, Mr. Colbert did regular Olympic features, like auditioning for the bobsled, skeleton, curling teams. He even "raced" with 2006 speedskating gold medalist Shani Davis. He was eventually rewarded with a trip to the Vancouver Games as the team's Assistant Psychologist. When he had NBC Universal Sports chief Dick Ebersol as a guest on the show, he was invited to help cover the Games for the network. Mr. Ebersol even gave Stephen a sweater vest to make it official. The pseudo-pundit will join Bob Costas tomorrow, 17 February to do commentary.

The Colbert Report will be in repeats all this week. New Olympic-related shows start airing 22 February on Comedy Central.

(photo from MSNBC)
February 15, 2010

Broadway Rocks!

I went to see Broadway Rocks in South Bend, IN Saturday night. It featured Capathia Jenkins (Fame Becomes Me), Julia Murney (Wicked, Lennon) and Gary Mauer (Phantom, Les Mis) with the South Bend Symphony (conducted by Tsung Yeh) and the IU South Bend Chorus.

The song list consisted of:

Act 1
Jesus Christ Superstar Overture
Brand New Day (The Wiz)
This Is The Moment (Jeckle and Hyde)
Jersey Boys Medley (Big Girls Don't Cry/ Oh What A Night)
Total Eclipse (Dance of the Vampires)
Circle of Life (The Lion King)
Home (The Wiz)
Suddenly Seymour (Little Shop of Horror)
Seasons of Love (Rent)
You Can't Stop the Beat (Hairspray)

Act 2
I Will Survive
Anthem (Chess)
The Wizard and I (Wicked)
For Good (Wicked)
Gethsemane (Jesus Christ Superstar)
Mamma Mia Medley
And I am Telling You (Dreamgirls)
Music of the Night (Phantom)
Hair Medley (Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In)

The concert was held at the Morris Performing Arts Center in downtown South Bend. It's really nice to get to see concerts in these old theatre houses because they are just so grand and beautiful that it takes you back in time.

The show was fast paced even though there were interesting banters between songs. And while the orchestra played the overture, most of the songs were performed with the vocalists. The orchestra sounded excellent that night which was even enhanced by the great acoustics of the venue. As for the vocalists, Capathia Jenkins reminded me of Lillias White complete with sass when she sang I Will Survive but my favorite was her version of Home. It was simple and resplendent. I loved Gary Mauer's soaring voice in Anthem as well as in This Is The Moment. As for Julia, well, her command of the character voice in Suddenly Seymour was impressive. She weaves into it seamlessly and also incorporates her powerful belt. It's wonderful! I also enjoyed her channeling John Lloyd Young while singing Big Girls Don't Cry during the Jersey Boys medley complete with head tilt, eye squint and facial grimace as she hits the "Frankie Valli falsetto". Nice homage! A great fun number was You Can't Stop the Beat complete with dancing by the two ladies. It was very entertaining.

The harmonies when all three of them sang together were colorful particularly in Seasons of Love and Circle of Life. But one of the best parts of the night came at the end when all three of them sang Aquarius and Let The Sunshine In. I thought it was an amusing touch that after wearing "formal clothing" that night, there was a major wardrobe change and they came back onstage as hippies.......Capathia Jenkins came in jeans, tie dye shirt and Dianna Ross big hair. Julia followed dressed in a light pink sundress wearing a......wait for it........humongous afro! Hilarious! Gary Mauer enters next wearing long blonde hair while the chorus, also dressed in tie dyes, ran into the aisles. I'm not quite sure who's idea was it but it sure added some joie de vivre to the night.

Some photos I took that night:

The Morris Center marquee

the ceiling of the lobby

Happy Presidents' Day!

February 14, 2010

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

May the Year of the Tiger bring us happiness, success, prosperity and all that we wish for. Happy Lunar New Year to all!

Love in a Time of Cholera

The Painted Veil might be an unlikely candidate for people's all time favorite romantic films, but it surely is on my list. This tale of imperfect and seemingly unkind partners is a compelling look into human nature and relationships.

Kitty (Naomi Watts) is a self-indulgent socialite from 1920s London who, in a bid to get away from her parents, impulsively marries Walter Fane (Edward Norton), a stodgy bacteriologist. They move to Shanghai, where the bored wife has an affair with the superficial Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber). To punish her for her indiscretions, Walter volunteers to work at a far-flung cholera-ravaged Chinese village. As if an epidemic wasn't bad enough, the Nationalist movement is alive and well. Animosity towards Westerners is even higher. Colonel Yu (Anthony Wong) is on hand to keep the peace.

Shallow Mrs. Fane gets a reality check when she sees death and disease first-hand, and finds her purpose when she starts going to an orphanage run by Mother Superior (Diana Rigg). Waddington (Toby Jones) is a world-weary British expatriate who befriends the miserable couple. As the good doctor carries on his work for the village, his clinical detachment crumbles, along with his contempt for his spouse. It is a backwards love story. The husband and wife get to know each other, and despite their vast differences, learn to respect, love and ultimately forgive each other.

The screenplay gives us an honest view of how painful love can be. The performances are extraordinary, given that the characters are flawed and initially unlikable. Mr. Norton gives a sensitive, subtle portrayal of a man whose cruelty comes from a place of pain. Ms. Watts makes us hate and love her, so her atonement is even more stunning and meaningful. The scenery is spectacular and beautifully photographed. It is China at her most exquisite and resplendent. The movie is perfectly paced, quiet and unsentimental. I love it because it is unromantic and truthful.

Happy Valentine's Day to all our readers!

(photo from about.com)
February 13, 2010

Olympic dream extinguished too soon

By now we all have heard about the untimely death of 21 year old luger Nodar Kumaritashvili from the Republic of Georgia. He crashed during a training run in his first Winter Olympics. May God rest his soul. The Georgian contingent decided to stay and compete to honor their fallen teammate. They received a standing ovation when they entered BC Place.

Last night's Opening ceremony in Vancouver was dedicated to him and a minute of silence was observed before the lighting of the cauldron. May all the Olympians stay safe.

(photo from sports.yahoo.com)
February 12, 2010

You don't look a day over 200

Happy Birthday Mr. President Abraham Lincoln! My wish for your birthday is that every nation would have more statesmen like you, instead of politicians.
February 11, 2010

Broadway Backwards 5.0

Broadway Backwards, a benefit for BC/EFA and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community happens this Feb. 22, 2010 at the Vivian Beaumont Theatre in Lincoln Center. It's a benefit show where female Broadway actors sing male Broadway songs and vice versa.

It's their fifth year this year and the performers are Lea Salonga, Titus Burgess, Michele Lee, Aaron Lazar, Mario Cantone, Becki Newton, Julia Murney, Tonya Pinkins, Len Cariou, Gary Beach, Ann Harada, Tony Goldwin and Nick Adams just to name a few. The benefit will be hosted by Florence Henderson.

Check out the video above for a teaser and for tickets please click here.

(video from BroadwayBeat)

February 10, 2010

The Hurt Locker

My nerves are shot after watching The Hurt Locker. Director Kathryn Bigelow has made a masterful, yet not overtly political Iraq war movie. While it reinforces the idea that war is hell, its depiction of the lives of an Explosive Ordnance Disposal squad (EOD) is so realistic and natural that one gets the impression that the soldiers are only there doing their jobs while hoping to live another day. If you're trying to decide which wire to cut or if that person on the roof is a sniper, there really is no time to think about or discuss whether you are waging a just war or not.

Jeremy Renner plays the skillful but brash new squad leader Sgt. Will James. He is so single-minded about bomb disarmament that he apparently has no qualms about endangering his fellow soldiers. His heedless attitude puts him at odds with team members. Sgt. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) is commonsensical and does his job by the book while skittish Specialist Eldridge(Brian Geraghty) is trying to overcome his insecurities and obsession with death . The comrades-in-arms battle their own inner demons as they dutifully complete their stressful missions. Watch out for unassuming cameos from Ralph Fiennes, David Morse, Guy Pearce and Evangeline Lilly.

The filmmakers put us right in the middle of the intense, thrilling, hyperventilation and anxiety-inducing action. I cannot imagine being in a place where every citizen you encounter might be an enemy combatant, every car that approaches might have a bomb. I came away with an even more profound sense of awe and respect for our brave men and women in uniform. At the same time, the film humanizes the innocent Iraqis who are simply trying to go about their daily lives, caught in the crossfire.

Brava to Ms. Bigelow! I've already picked my Best Director and Best Picture.

(photo from Impawards)
February 9, 2010

I Heart Neal Caffrey

One afternoon, I stumbled upon a marathon of the new USA network series, White Collar. Well, it only took one episode and I knew I am hooked! Why you may ask? Two words: Neal Caffrey (played by Matt Bomer). He is sly, smart, suave and oh so good looking. Yeah I know this is turning out to be a not-so-objective post about the show.

Anyway, the premise is an FBI agent, Peter Burke (Tim Dekay) seeks the help of Neal Caffrey, a con artist he had put in jail. Caffrey provides Burke with insights into cases in exchange for a "work-release" program. He then directly works under the supervision of Burke with the condition that he wears a tracking bracelet. Together they try to find stolen antiquities, jewelry and paintings, crack a phony hedge fund company and even break up an illegal organ trafficking ring. It's Thomas Crown Affair meets Catch Me If You Can. The show is fast paced and intriguing. There is a peripheral plot where Caffrey's main reason for pushing for this "work-release" program is for him to find Kate, the woman he loves who he believes is held captive by an FBI agent. That plot line evolves as more episodes are aired but the individual cases are solved per episode.

Another thing I like about the show is that it's shot in NYC with a lot of the famous city landmarks being shown. In addition, as a theatre fan, one finds several theatre actors in guest starring roles. Aaron Lazar (Tale of Two Cities and currently in A Little Night Music) was a priest in one episode and Diahann Carroll (Agnes of God) was in some too. It's a great way to do some Broadway spotting!

White Collar airs at 10pm ET/ 9pm CT on the USA Network.
February 8, 2010

Who Dat?!!!

Congratulations to the New Orleans Saints for winning their first ever Super Bowl title! It was touching seeing MVP Drew Brees celebrating with his son Baylen. This is what it's all about. (Kudos for remembering to protect the baby's hearing with the earphones!)
(photo from Huffington Post)
February 7, 2010

Who you gonna call? Zombiebusters!

I wanted to see Zombieland when I first saw its trailer, but never got around to it when it was in theaters. The DVD came out this past week. In a post-zombiecalyptic world, nerdy Columbus (played by Michael Cera look alike/act alike Jesse Eisenberg) is trying to get to his parents' home in Ohio. Against his cowardly instincts, he survives by following a set of practical rules. Like Rule no. 1: Cardio. "When the zombie outbreak first hit, the first to go, for obvious reasons...were the fatties." We see illustrations of the rules in gory detail of course. He buddies up with an unwilling Tallahassee, a one-man zombie killing machine with an obsession for Twinkies. Woody Harrelson's campy, comic turn as the redneck zombie slayer is brilliant. They are later joined on their road trip by sisters Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, so we get the Beauty and the Geek angle as well. Big sis Wichita only wants to bring Little Rock to revisit Pacific Playland, a California amusement park, to remember the good old days. Along the way, the group lays waste to any cannibals they encounter. Our band of intrepid zombie killers even make the acquaintance of a famous Hollywood movie star in a fantastic and memorable cameo.

Not quite Shaun of the Dead, this cheeky film is just as violent and gruesome, hilarious but not as frightening. The murderous mayhem is played for laughs. The flesh-eaters aren't the classic slow-moving, lumbering creatures we're used to. The film is short, with plenty of clever one-liners, pop culture and movie references to keep it zipping along.

Forget vampires and werewolves. Zombieland is a delightful movie about the undead that one can sink one's teeth into. Up next: a screen adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

She Wins An Annie!

Jen Cody (Shrek, Pajama Game, Urinetown) wins an Annie Award. What's that you may say, it's an award given by the International Animated Film Society. It's animation's highest honor! It was given to her on Feb. 6 for her fabulous voice work as Charlotte LaBouff in The Princess and the Frog. Congratulations to her! To read more about it click here.

(photo from playbill.com)
February 5, 2010

A Little Bit Wicked

Kristin Chenoweth's book A Little Bit Wicked is a brisk and engaging read. She talks about her life growing up in a lovely and close knit family, her pageant days, her early days auditioning, to Wicked and being on the West Wing. In it she also openly talks about her relationships particularly with "Mr. Writer" aka Aaron Sorkin who also openly contributed his thoughts and feelings for her in the book. As a reader I got the feeling that these two people really cared for each other.......in a very "The Way We Were" kind of way.

There are a lot of recollection about the shows she's done as well as people she's worked with like her Music Director Andrew Lippa and her best friend Denny Downs. She does often get off tangent throughout the book but for me this just makes this read enjoyable. The tone of the book is so very much like her that in that I was hearing her voice in my head while I read. I found that very amusing. It's not all funny stuff though. She's also very reflective about her life and her faith. It's actually very admirable to find out how her grounded she is with her spirituality.

(photo from Amazon.com)
February 3, 2010

Just Dance - Acapella version

In the vein of Mike's obsession with the Grammy Ad called We're All Fans: Lady Gaga, I'm posting this video of an acapella version of Lady Gaga's Just Dance. Check out the vocals and harmonies of these kids! They are impressive! They are Audrey & Gamaliel Tapiheru (siblings) with their friend Cantika from Indonesia.

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