Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Model Critic Reviews: ANYTHING GOES

Twenty-One Gun Salute for ANYTHING GOES


Review by Carlos Stafford, The Model Critic

Stephen Sondheim Theater, New York City

The Ghosts of Broadway Past proudly walk the decks of the SS American, as it once again triumphantly sets sail for London in this new revival of Anything Goes.  This beguiling tribute to the legendary songwriter, Cole Porter, first presented in the early thirties as “make laugh, give ‘em hope” romp, succeeds gloriously.

Consider the names from the past: Ethel Merman, Bing Crosby, Donald O’Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Frank Sinatra, and more recently in 1987, Patti Lupone, who last performed this musical at the Vivian Beaumont.  All these icons performed this piece on stage, screen, or TV, at one time in their careers. Now, their spirits seem to assemble in the front rows, cheering the new crew on for a fresh generation to enjoy. And clearly this production reciprocates: no white flags of surrender are to be seen in any quarter of this production. It pops!

As a period musical piece, this production dazzles. It erases any hint of the museum, with its crisp, ship-shape decks, white-starched sailor outfits, and most of all, with the force and presence of Sutton Foster, as Reno Sweeney; the Pantheon of Past Performers must smile proudly when they witness this old-school talent.

http://youtu.be/B4E-mJwhGUs  Watch the Video Here!

Sutton Foster, shall we say, carries this show easily.  She has it all:  great looks, a beautiful belt voice, great dance ability and the clear diction of accomplished actor. She, most of all, has an electric energy and sends it “special delivery.”  She is happily the link to past great performers, but also brings a modernity that is singular in style. While the song and dance stars from the past had an easy elegance, natural sophistication and ease, she, on the other hand, is about fire, exuberance, and athletic artistry.

On board, we have high society, and low society, haves and have-nots, booze, babes, and bible thumpers. The roster includes Elisha Whitney (John McMartin), a Wall Street financier into easy money, alcohol, and a rah-rah allegiances to Yale. Billy Crocker (Colin Donnell), his assistant, bidding his boss farewell, has been sent to make one final trade before cast off.  But before he does, Billy helps Moonface Martin (Joel Grey), Public Enemy #13, disguised as a missionary, and his side kick Erma (Jessica Stone), get past the purser.  Billy then sees Hope Harcourt (Laura Osnes) an old flame, boarding, and instead of delivering his boss’s trade, decides to stowaway.  Having no passport, Moonface and Erma repay Billy’s help, and give them a passport and ticket of their partner in crime, “Snake Eyes” Johnson, Public Enemy #1, who mistakenly doesn’t board.  Now ensconced on board  with a sailor’s disguise, Billy is distraught to find Hope with her fiancé, the wealthy, but dry Englishman, Lord Evelyn Oakleigh (hilarious, Adam Godley), and  Mrs. Evangeline Harcourt (Jessica Walter), Hope’s mother. Reno Sweeney (Sutton Foster), former Evangelist, now night club singer, join the passenger list along with her traveling angels–Purity, Chastity, Charity, and Virtue–(Shina Ann Morris, Kimberly Faure, Jennifer Savelli, and Joyce Chittick, respectively).

April 22 - May 1st, 2011 Celebrating the benefits and beauty of dance and its ability to enrich our lives, our bodies, our spirits, and our culture.

Reno and Billy are good friends from the past. Reno thinks a lot of Billy, You’re the Top, but Billy has eyes for Hope. Distraught, a plot is hatched by Moonface and Erma to catch Reno in Lord Evelyn’s stateroom half-naked, thereby creating a hitch in the pending nuptials, leaving the door open for Billy to win Hope. But Lord Evelyn is a naive Magoo, always seeing the positive, prosaic side of life, and doesn’t fall for the scam. When Moonface breaks into the room, machine gun in hand to bust him with the complying Reno, Lord Evelyn finds it delightful that anyone would consider him to be a passionate lover, especially if his future wife heard about it.  While Reno is engaged in stateroom, Billy discovers Hope on deck, and they have a romantic turn at twilight, It’s de Lovely. We learn that Hope loves Billy, but she must marry Lord Evelyn because her mother has been ruined by her husband’s financial losses and his recent suicide, and needs financial security.  (Note: all the books are written differently in terms of plot structures and songs covered.) Then Reno reveals to Billy that Lord Evelyn has kissed her!  And as the farce deepens, the passengers, sailors, and crew, all gather at the rosy fingers of dawn, and blow the smokestacks hard with the rousing and joyous, song and dance number, Anything Goes. (At intermission, people struggle not to annoy their neighbor by humming the tune.)

A cable arrives saying Public Enemy #1 is on board.  Billy is outed!  Having no real celebrities on board, the passengers celebrate Billy as a star.  Moonface, as the preacher, tells everyone he is reforming Billy, and Reno sings Blow, Gabriel, Blow.  All confess their sins in a revival in the nightclub. Lord Evelyn confesses to having an affair with a Chinese girl, Plum Blossom, long ago.  Meanwhile, Hope is not impressed with Billy’s charade, and he is forced to admit that he is not Public Enemy #1. Moonface, in sympathy, comes clean, and confesses that he is not a preacher either, but only Public Enemy #13.  They are both taken to the brig.

On deck that same night, Lord Oakley and Reno have their moment together as he breaks loose and declares his true, wild nature, in the zaniest moment of the show, The Gypsy in Me. Below deck, in the brig, Moonface and Billy play strip poker with two Chinese cell mates, win, and don their clothes, and escape to the upper decks.  There, they confront Lord Oakley, saying they are the parents of Plum Blossom, and extort money from him for their silence.  Hope declares her love for Billy, Lord Oakley for Reno, and Hope’s mother realizes that her firm is really worth millions; Elisha Whitney, always looking for a deal, decides to buy it all for millions.  All imposters are exonerated.

Again, Sutton Foster is the real deal, and delivers first class energy in her performance.  With the looming ocean liner, (and occasional sea gulls), the stage, at times, seems overly crowded to contain the big production numbers. But the cast seems to survive well without kicking each other’s teeth out; it would be great to see this production on a bigger stage to get the full effect of the dance.  Also, Sutton could flirt a little more in her numbers, bring out the temptress. Men would surely enjoy it more and maybe some woman too. But let’s not quibble, Sybil, s

he’s busy enough.

But finally, the real star of the show is the music; who would argue with these tunes, so many, part of aural history of the American Songbook.  Cole Porter, hats off to you!  However, the choreography, by Kathleen Marshall, was mixed to my mind.  Many times it was tone

d-down and simple. Probably because musicals, like Anything Goes, and performers like Shirley McClain, Chita Riviera, Gwen Verdon, and Mitzi Gaynor, for example,  who could sing, dance, and act well–aren’t in demand today. Now, you have a singer who can’t dance; a dancer who doesn’t act, etc. The choreography reflected this in places, but overall, it worked well. Good artistry prevailed.  Adam Godley was perfect in his

role as dour, stiff, and removed at first, then transforming into the real, inner stud.  It was ridiculously fun comedy. Lastly, it was a pleasure to see the presence of Joel Grey return to the stage. A legend of his stature brings power and charm to a production already filled with talented performers with long resumes.  It was all good alchemy, and a fine and fitting tribute to all the titans of Broadway.

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Final Cut Radio Gets “Curvatude” From “Precious” Actress Erica Watson

Comedian with a "Curvatude" - Erica Watson

Los Angeles, CA 

“Precious” actress and comedian Erica Watson and star of the hybrid theater/stand-up comedy show FAT BITCH, brings “curvatude” to The Final Cut Radio with Matthew Robinson during a special broadcast on Saturday, April 23, 2011 @ 11:00am PST and 2:00pm EST. 

Click Here for the link:  http://t.co/byPBZJ3

 “When I decided to call the show, FAT BITCH, a lot of people were offended, especially other fat bitches…” rants Ms. Watson, during a segment of her one woman show and appropriately.  According to Ms. Watson, society – and cupcakes have made her a plus sized talent determined to chew up conventional “fat and sassy” black women clichés and gender stereotypes

FAT BITCH is a provocative look at society’s obsession with weight, class and gender prejudices that affect us all and a humorously educational response to how black women and their bodies have always been subjected to sexualized admiration and ridicule touching on PETA’s “Save the Whales” campaign aimed at overweight women, the “war on obesity’’, the controversy surrounding President Obama’s nomination of a plus-sized black woman for Surgeon General … and how tough is dating!

The title, FAT BITCH in itself has more than once created a flashpoint of reactionary anger from some including other entertainment celebs, most notably Starr Jones, who last year unsupportively blocked Ms. Watson from her Twitter account creating a very public snowballing of bad publicity for the former, “The View” commentator. 

This April she has garnered the support of, executive producer and director,  Steve Pink (HBO’s Entourage, Hot Tub Time Machine, Toxic Avenger 2012), who is presenting Ms. Watson to Los Angeles for a 3 days only premiere in part as a benefit for Columbia College Chicago’s Scholarship fund for students who exhibit extraordinary merit and need.  All proceeds from the show will be donated to the fund.

Through comedy Erica Watson creates an inspiring universal point of view as a new age “love thyself as you are” image mentor in a world of “get thin to fit in” and for those who are ready to not live in the “small box” society has created for them.  The question for Los Angeles is now, “Are you ready for THIS?”

Ms. Watson will also be appearing in the new reality series “Big Sexy” airing on TLC this summer, which features her performing “FAT BITCH!” 

Fat Bitch will run from April 29 through May 1 at The Greenway Court Theater, 544 North Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90038.  Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8:00pm and Sunday @ 5:00pm.  Tickets are $15.00.  To purchase on line please visit: http://www.colum.edu/erica.

For more information about Erica Watson please visit:  http://www.ericawatson.com.

My Cat Doesn’t Eat Fast Food

Ok, so let me begin by saying, that it is not my cat but neighbor’s cat and honestly there is more than one.  The dogs, squirrels and birds too.   I suddenly seem to have a kinship with the neighborhood animals who have been a thousand times more friendly than some of the residents on my street in general.   I digress…there is a point.

Lately it has become apparent to me that I haven’t been JUST getting a sick stomach for, I would say over a year now.  My belly has been going through varying degrees of weight gain, distension, nausea, water retention, and more.  I am not pregnant.  I am active.  I love the outdoors and even if I cannot exercise heavily, I tend to take walks to clear my head or digest food after lunch or dinner.  I have however, been under a lot of stress.

I’ve been reading Carolyn Myss recently and digging into the chakras of course starting with the first and it suddenly came to me that, perhaps I have been overeating and having such symptoms because I am not spiritually and emotionally grounded.  It was a breakthrough.  So from the moment I woke up this morning I was determined to find ways to get myself metaphorically standing on two feet again, depending on myself along with a daily dose of loving care, affection and attention.  No more Blanche DuBois for me, depending on the kindness of strangers.  Not withstanding all of the celebrations and successes I have been having it has been a tremendously tough year for my health, relationships of all kinds, finances and just plain living.  That being said, it also occurred to me that on top of stress, perhaps it was simply the food I was eating.

I have a mother with cancer.   Stomach and colon.  She has suffered for the last 10 years of her life and yet tenaciously been determined to do everything she can to stick around and stay healthy, happy and sane.  She has had most of her colon removed and continues to have regular pain which has thankfully been temporarily alleviated.  So my own stomach and colon health has become a somewhat of a focus for me too.

But yesterday, after a conversation with her regarding some food she ate out, which is not normally a problem, she became overwhelmingly ill.  She has eaten at this particular restaurant before.  And this was the second time at this same place she had become sick.   We determined she should not eat there again of course.  But after our conversation I had to pause.

This is where the neighborhood cats come in.  Elliot especially.  She loves to come to my door and talk almost every day.  She’s a bit temperamental but we get along really well.  I often feel guilty because as I am not a pet owner, I generally don’t keep treats in the house.  When friends come over with their dogs I usually reach into my refrigerator and grab something tasty – some left over chicken or beef or something they like (with their parents permission of course). 

So a couple of weeks ago, I happened to be eating a Lean Cuisine and put a finger nail sized portion on a plate for Elliot as a gesture of our little friendship.  I mean, I wouldn’t normally let any of my friends go hungry or not offer them a sweet or sandwich or a cool drink during a visit.  She absolutely snubbed it.  And not only that, but she snubbed it every time I did it there-after, barely taking a whiff, not even bothering to taste.  And so did my other little furry friends on the block for weeks.  Not one of them would even so much as lick the dish.  And I have been leaving a little bit of different kinds of food out to see if anyone’s interest peaks.  The revelatory and resounding response has been “not a bite.”

This morning, for the lack of regular breakfast food, I decided to pop my favorite turkey and apples into the microwave.  It was yummy.  But it also made my stomach turn and as I am for the first time relaxed and with a lot of time to indulge my sensibilities this morning, I realized it was the food – nothing else.

Because of the hectic rush of life, I have been forced to eat a diet of whatever I can find and afford outside of home.  No matter how I try, most of it is filled with either far too many ingredients and certainly plenty of chemical preserves that my body could possibly want to process.  And there it is.  Do I need a bigger sign?  My body is starting to reject everything that is not cooked in my own kitchen.  Even food at Whole Foods and other places of its kind are leaving my body with a feeling of illness no matter what I choose or how little I have.  There are simply TOO MANY ingredients, and too many other indeterminable factors including freshness of food, sanitation and cleanliness of outside kitchens that I have no control over, going into my food and I have had enough.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an indictment against fast food or any particular establishment.  I am not placing blame.  But if my neighbor’s cat won’t eat it, I think I had better start paying more attention.  Animals are a lot smarter than we are at times.  They might be more willing to gobble up slop and more often (hmmm).  But they do definitely know when something doesn’t smell right and what will most likely make them sick.

The conclusion I have come to is that, I really and truly do need to re-develop my consciousness about eating.  Because what is going into my body is having a direct and immediate effect on my mental and physical state.  And don’t want to feel sick any more.

Lesson One:  Listen to your cat more often.  She knows better!

Happy Eating Ya’ll!

Bill Hicks Movie

This Friday, American, comedy icon, Bill Hicks movie opens at the Laemmle Theater in Los Angeles.  I have watched this trailer over and over again, quite frankly salivating to see more.  I admit it, I am a convert – without the book.  Which would surely  have been approved by Hicks, the ultimate American Patriot of the people.  Did anyone make more sense than Bill?  Will anyone break down the bullshit like Bill ever again?  It remains to be seen.  But see his legacy I will certainly be doing this weekend or I will be kicking myself forever.  Not to mention incur the wrath of my comedian friends who are devotees.  Do not miss!

http://youtu.be/uIaTFag26vc

Quote of the Day: G.B. Shaw

You see things and say, “Why?”  But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”

The “Love Affair” — What Makes You Dance!

The Elitists.  Heroes from muddled, kranky, off-kilter worlds, trying to bring a little normalcy to the chaos, in a mutual neurosis, panic and drive with the music.  Ah the music, you crazy listeners, is, what makes you Dance.  So dance you crazy listeners.  DANCE!
We understand!  We understand what makes you feel. We understand what makes you move. It’s the Beat. So if you want to SIT back and listen… Don’t push — play this Elitists “Love Affair.”

The men in black & yellow are embarking on their second release “Love Affair”, a latin/dancehall/pop affair if you will, discussing anything forbidden and not permissible clouded by a euphoric acoustic latin cheeky arrangement. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely for the faint footed, this catchy tune will get your crowd bouncing in no time.  All 4,274 of their Facebook fans and counting can attest!

Soundcloud link:
http://soundcloud.com/elitists/love-affair
Youtube link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKKmvqWfE9Q

Elitists links:
http://elitistsnyc.com
http://facebook.com/elitists
http://twitter.com/#!/WeRElitists