Friday, April 30, 2010

Weekend arts picks: April 30-May 5

Painter Christina Major works on her large portraits
for the‭ ‬MFA‭ ‬exhibition at Florida Atlantic University.

Art:‭ ‬Florida Atlantic University‭’‬s current Master of Fine Arts‭ ‬Graduate‭ ‬Exhibition at the Dorothy F.‭ ‬Schmidt Gallery‭ ‬on the college‭’‬s Boca Raton campus‭ ‬features the work of painter Christina Major and ceramicist Bethany Cohen.

Cohen‭’‬s‭ ‬exhibit,‭ ‬An Intimate Encounter,‭ ‬is a display of miniature repositories that the artist says reflects America‭’‬s‭ “‬need for more in contrast to the human need for intimacy from within that abundance.‭ ‬It questions how one can find a level of kinship within excess.‭”‬

Major‭’‬s‭ ‬thesis exhibition,‭ ‬Components of Self,‭ ‬features huge portrait paintings on canvases that also are covered with writing,‭ ‬offering a deft exploration of the‭ ‬identities of painter and subject.‭ ‬The Schmidt Gallery is open Tuesday through Friday from‭ ‬1‭ ‬to‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬and on Saturday from‭ ‬1‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬contact FAU galleries at‭ ‬‭or call‭ ‬561-297-2966.‭ ‬The MFA exhibit will run through the summer.

Also ongoing at FAU is the Potters‭’‬ Guild Spring Pottery Sale,‭ ‬which begins today and concludes tomorrow in the Majestic Palm Room at the Student Union Building.‭ ‬Organized by FAU ceramics professor John McCoy,‭ ‬the sale includes both functional‭ ‬and sculptural ceramics by professors,‭ ‬students and professional artists.‭ ‬The sale‭’‬s hours are from‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬today and Saturday.‭ ‬– K.‭ ‬Deits

Pianist Hyojin Ahn.

Music:‭ ‬At the end of January,‭ ‬the Canadian-born violinist Yuki Numata came to Stage West at the Duncan Theatre for a strong program of music by Bach,‭ ‬Ravel,‭ ‬Ysaye and American composer Ryan Francis.‭ ‬Her accompanist was the South Korea-born pianist Hyojin Ahn,‭ ‬like Numata also affiliated with Miami Beach‭’‬s New World Symphony.

The next performer in the series was supposed to be violinist Mikhail Simonyan,‭ ‬but he canceled due to illness,‭ ‬leaving the Stage West series shorter than scheduled.‭ ‬But this Wednesday,‭ ‬pianist Ahn will come to the rescue,‭ ‬performing a recital at Stage West to finish off the programming.‭ ‬She‭’‬s chosen‭ ‬Ravel’s‭ ‬Miroirs and the‭ ‬Moritz‭ ‬Moszkowski transcription of the‭ ‬Liebestod from Wagner’s‭ ‬Tristan und Isolde,‭ ‬a selection that hearkens back to the great pianists of the last century.‭ ‬Violinist Ko Sugiyama,‭ ‬another New World fellow,‭ ‬then joins Ahn for the three‭ ‬Myths for violin and piano of the fascinating Polish composer Karol Szymanowski.

It’s a very interesting program,‭ ‬and a good way to close up the young artist’s showcase.‭ ‬Ahn performs at‭ ‬3‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Wednesday at‭ ‬Stage West,‭ ‬Duncan Theatre,‭ ‬Palm Beach State College,‭ ‬Lake Worth.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$20.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬868-3309‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Pianist Joseph Kalichstein.

As it happens,‭ ‬Simonyan is in town this weekend,‭ ‬where he‭’‬s appearing as part of a piano quartet in the‭ ‬Miami‭ ‬Friends of Chamber Music‭ ‬series‭ ‬at Gusman Hall on the‭ ‬campus‭ ‬of the University of Miami.‭ ‬The eminent pianist Joseph Kalichstein will be joined by Simonyan,‭ ‬violist Cynthia Phelps and cellist William De Rosa for‭ ‬the Piano Quartet‭ (‬in E-flat,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬47‭) ‬of Schumann and one of‭ ‬the‭ ‬two quartets of Mozart.‭ ‬Kalichstein was here earlier in the season‭ ‬with‭ ‬the rest of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson trio‭ ‬in a concert at the Kravis Center that‭ ‬featured a new work by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

The‭ ‬concert begins at‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$30.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬305-372-2795‭ ‬for more‭ ‬information or visit -- G.‭ ‬Stepanich

Bulletin from Broadway No. 6: 'Come Fly Away'

Holley Farmer and John Selya in‭ ‬Come Fly Away.
‭ (‬Photo by Joan Marcus‭)

By Hap Erstein

Eight years ago,‭ ‬Twyla Tharp won the Tony Award for choreography,‭ ‬using the music of Billy Joel for her quirky,‭ ‬alternately graceful and clumsy leaps and lifts in a show called‭ ‬Movin‭’ ‬Out.

The‭ ‬Playbill program for it contained a three-paragraph synopsis of the plot‭ ‬--‭ ‬something about couples drifting apart as the guys went off to the war in Vietnam and then eventually coming home to the difficult readjustment of peacetime.‭ ‬The dance was enjoyable to watch,‭ ‬if gradually rather repetitive,‭ ‬but try as I might,‭ ‬I never really saw that story played out onstage.

Now comes Tharp again with‭ ‬Come Fly Away,‭ ‬set to music popularized by Frank Sinatra.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬it’s set to recordings of Sinatra accompanied by a live orchestra and,‭ ‬occasionally,‭ ‬he sings duets with a live female band vocalist.

There is no plot synopsis this time,‭ ‬and I would say virtually no plot,‭ ‬but a series of couples who meet and become intertwined,‭ ‬physically and romantically,‭ ‬at a nightclub.‭ ‬Oh,‭ ‬and during the second act,‭ ‬much of their clothing falls away,‭ ‬so that they dance in their skivvies,‭ ‬which is always a plus.

It is an enjoyable evening’s dance concert,‭ ‬though it insists that it is a‭ “‬musical,‭” ‬and seems to stretch that term’s definition to the breaking point.‭ ‬The choice of individual Sinatra songs‭ ‬--‭ ‬there are‭ ‬34‭ ‬in all during the evening‭ ‬--‭ ‬seems exceedingly arbitrary.‭ ‬And while the program lists character names,‭ ‬there is no dialogue and no way to know who is who other than matching faces with‭ ‬Playbill‭ ‬photos.

Still,‭ ‬Tharp’s eccentric choreography remains compelling and she has gathered some terrific,‭ ‬seemingly tireless dancers to execute it.‭ ‬And the way this season is going,‭ ‬she seems like to win the choreography Tony again.‭ ‬She could win two if there were an award for Best Dance Concert.

‭ * * *

During the day Thursday,‭ ‬I did another interview for the coming season,‭ ‬with Rob Roth and Matt West,‭ ‬the director and choreographer of Disney’s‭ ‬Beauty and the Beast,‭ ‬which is coming to the Kravis Center next season in a newly redesigned production.‭

As Roth concedes,‭ ‬they have finally solved the problem of the ineffectual wolves,‭ ‬which looked like cardboard yappers originally,‭ ‬and will now be represented by menacing puppets‭ ‬--‭ ‬is that a contradiction in terms‭? ‬--‭ ‬by Basil Twist,‭ ‬the guy who designed the puppets for‭ ‬The Addams Family.

The hardest part of the interview was finding Roth and West.‭ ‬They had suggested meeting at the Starbucks at Rockefeller Center.‭ ‬That sounded fine,‭ ‬but,‭ ‬like a punch line to a Jackie Mason routine,‭ ‬there are two separate Starbucks in Rockefeller Center,‭ ‬a dilemma that was further complicated by the fact that I did not know what Roth and West looked like.

Alas,‭ ‬they wore no‭ ‬Beauty and the Beast jackets or caps,‭ ‬but I took a calculated guess,‭ ‬found them and now know far more about the show‭ ‬−‭ ‬which thanks to the Disney marketing machine is the seventh longest-running musical in Broadway history‭ ‬−‭ ‬than I ever wanted to.‭ ‬More on this eventually.

Next:‭ ‬The African musical‭ ‬Fela‭!‬

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bulletin from Broadway No. 5: 'Sondheim' and 'A Behanding'

Tom Wopat in‭ ‬Sondheim on Sondheim.

By Hap Erstein

It is the rare New York season that does not see a production of an existing Stephen Sondheim musical,‭ ‬but the brilliant composer-lyricist has not had a new show on Broadway since‭ ‬1994‭’‬s‭ ‬Passion.

So those of us who remain in awe of his abilities to push the boundaries of the musical theater have had to content ourselves with revivals,‭ ‬such as the current‭ ‬A Little Night Music starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury‭ ‬--‭ ‬which I did not see,‭ ‬being advised to content myself with the memory of the original‭ ‬1973‭ ‬production‭ ‬--‭ ‬and with retrospective revues‭ ‬such as the recently opened‭ ‬Sondheim on Sondheim.

Conceived and directed by one of Sondheim’s collaborators,‭ ‬James Lapine‭ (‬Sunday in the Park with George,‭ ‬Into the Woods,‭ ‬Passion‭)‬,‭ ‬it attempts to do something that Sondheim discourages,‭ ‬blend his songwriting and his autobiography.‭ ‬When sets the show apart from past revues of his work are the frequent videotaped interviews with the man about his life and creative impulse.

Avid Sondheim fans may not learn much new,‭ ‬but the juxtaposition of his views and his craft is often instructive.‭ ‬It is taking nothing away from the revue’s entertainment quotient to note that the cumulative effect of‭ ‬Sondheim on Sondheim is that of a television variety show as conjured up by‭ ‬public‭ ‬television.

Singers on the order of Barbara Cook,‭ ‬Tom Wopat and Vanessa Williams are drawn to the challenges Sondheim’s music and lyrics,‭ ‬and here they get plenty of rewarding material to perform.‭ ‬Even those who know his musicals well may not be familiar with some of the outtakes and cut songs included here from‭ ‬Gypsy,‭ ‬Forum and‭ ‬Company.‭ ‬The show’s order of presentation seems haphazard,‭ ‬but on balance‭ ‬Sondheim on Sondheim is a satisfying way to celebrate his‭ ‬80th birthday this season.‭

‭ * * *

Christopher Walken in‭ ‬A Behanding in Spokane.
‭ (‬Photo by Joan Marcus‭)

If Sondheim changes chameleon-like from show to show,‭ ‬British playwright Martin McDonagh is reliably constant with his signature dark,‭ ‬grisly comedies‭ (‬The Beauty Queen of Leenane,‭ ‬The Pillowman,‭ ‬The Lieutenant of Inishmore.‭) ‬His newest work,‭ ‬the loopy,‭ ‬macabre‭ ‬A Behanding in Spokane‭ ‬is more of the same,‭ ‬it is a pleasure to report,‭ ‬except that it represents his first-ever play set in the United States.

When the tacky,‭ ‬torn curtain is drawn aside,‭ ‬we are in a fleabag Spokane hotel where a one-handed soul named Carmichael is holed up,‭ ‬continuing his‭ ‬47-year quest to find his missing left hand,‭ ‬severed when his arm was held down by blackguards on railroad tracks as a train approached.‭ ‬If that image does not sit well with you,‭ ‬pass on‭ ‬A Behanding,‭ ‬for that is only the beginning of this raucously comic,‭ ‬if insubstantial,‭ ‬romp.

Christopher Walken heads a dandy four-member cast as Carmichael,‭ ‬spouting the most unconventional line readings,‭ ‬with Anthony Mackie and Zoe Kazan as a couple of pot purveyors who try to peddle a hand of unknown origin to him,‭ ‬and Sam Rockwell as the philosophical desk clerk.

At a little over‭ ‬90‭ ‬minutes without an intermission,‭ ‬A Behanding in Spokane will probably always be thought of as minor McDonagh,‭ ‬but that does not make it any less entertaining.

Next:‭ ‬The Twyla Tharp dance musical,‭ ‬Come Fly Away

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bulletin from Broadway No. 4: 'The Addams Family'

Adam Riegler,‭ ‬Jackie Hoffman,‭ ‬Bebe Neuwirth,‭ ‬Nathan Lane,‭
‬Kevin Chamberlin,‭ ‬Krysta Rodriguez and Zachary James
in The Addams Family.

By Hap Erstein

After another downpour Tuesday morning,‭ ‬the rains ended but it got even colder.‭ ‬Don’t the weather gods realize that it is almost May‭?

Nor did I have much luck with theater.‭ ‬I can be fairly Pollyanna-ish when it comes to refusing to believe the prevailing opinion about a bad show until I see for myself.‭ ‬And since Nathan Lane,‭ ‬Bebe Neuwirth and Kevin Chamberlin seem so perfectly cast,‭ ‬how could their show be as disappointing as I have heard‭?

Oy.‭ ‬Of course,‭ ‬I am referring to‭ ‬The Addams Family,‭ ‬with Broadway’s reigning clown as Gomez Addams,‭ ‬the deadpan two-time Tony winner as his slinky wife Morticia and the very talented Chamberlin‭ ‬--‭ ‬who should have played Shrek,‭ ‬don’t you think‭? ‬--‭ ‬as Uncle Fester.

But good as they are,‭ ‬they need material to play.‭ ‬Even though the script is written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice,‭ ‬the guys who gave us the drumskin-tight book to‭ ‬Jersey Boys,‭ ‬they came up short here.‭ ‬As many have already observed,‭ ‬the plot of‭ ‬The Addams Family echoes that of‭ ‬La Cage aux Folles‭ ‬--‭ ‬a grown child is embarrassed by her parents‭’ ‬unconventional lifestyle and demands they pretend to be more normal when her prospective in-laws come for a visit‭ ‬--‭ ‬but the show’s focus keeps shifting away from Gomez and Morticia,‭ ‬the only characters we really are interested in.

And Andrew Lippa‭ (‬The Wild Party‭) ‬seems the wrong choice to pen the score,‭ ‬since he is not inherently funny.‭ ‬Things do get a little better in the second act:‭ ‬Uncle Fester sings a love song to the moon that suggests the surreal quality of the show that might have been,‭ ‬and a vaudeville number for Lane,‭ ‬Chamberlin and Jackie Hoffman‭ (‬as Grandma‭) ‬is tasty,‭ ‬even if very reminiscent of the superior‭ ‬Everybody Ought to Have a Maid from‭ ‬A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

The much-anticipated show has a sizeable advance sale and the audience seemed to have a good time,‭ ‬but there was too much talent involved for the results to be so wrong-headed.

‭ * * *

I usually visit Broadway at this time of year,‭ ‬because of all the openings just before the Tonys deadline.‭ ‬In addition,‭ ‬this is the time of the Easter Bonnet Competition,‭ ‬which has nothing to do with Easter and everything to do with the end of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS‭’ ‬fund-raising season.‭

Now in its‭ ‬24th year,‭ ‬the Bonnet show has grown from a small event in the basement of the Palace Theatre to a two-day celebration on the stage of Minskoff Theatre‭ (‬where‭ ‬The Lion King reigns‭) ‬of the theater community’s work raising money for a great cause.‭

The show is a series of skits by the casts‭ ‬--‭ ‬OK,‭ ‬mostly chorus members and understudies‭ ‬--‭ ‬who wink at their own shows or kid other shows.‭ ‬Each skit then culminates with the arrival of an elaborate bonnet,‭ ‬usually the creation of the technical staff of each show.

This year,‭ ‬for instance,‭ ‬the target of many running jokes were the bloated,‭ ‬stalled‭ ‬Spiderman:The Musical and the‭ ‬Phantom of the Opera sequel,‭ ‬Love Never Dies.‭ ‬The winning bonnet came from the show‭ ‬Memphis,‭ ‬a hat festooned with sticks of dynamite,‭ ‬a follow-up to a skit of camo-clad soldiers in Iraq‭ (‬I think‭)‬,‭ ‬but the bonnet then exploded with colored streamers,‭ ‬revealing a‭ “‬love‭” ‬heart.

OK,‭ ‬you had to be there.

Even if this year’s Bonnet show was a little below par,‭ ‬it remains one of the most enjoyable events of the Broadway season,‭ ‬a rare glimpse at how performers spend their treasured off hours and a lot more entertaining than some of the hot-ticket Broadway productions‭ (‬see‭ ‬The Addams Family above.‭)‬

Next:‭ ‬A Behanding in Spokane and Sondheim on Sondheim.‭

The View From Home 5: New releases on DVD

By John Thomason

Surviving Desire,‭ ‬Possible Films:‭ ‬Vol.‭ ‬2‭ (‬Microcinema‭)
Release date:‭ ‬April‭ ‬27
Standard list price
:‭ ‬$22.49‭ ‬each

It’s not hyperbole to suggest that my cinephilia in general and my‭ ‬specific‭ ‬interest in writing about films are the result of one director’s work:‭ ‬Hal Hartley.

Known for his insightful,‭ ‬quirky movies about hyper-literate drifters and outcasts who converge on Long Island,‭ ‬Hartley was one of the earliest mavericks of the contemporary American independent cinema,‭ ‬alongside Jim Jarmusch,‭ ‬Richard Linklater and Spike Lee.‭ ‬My introduction to Hartley in my formative college years was the kind of career-altering epiphany that only happens a handful of times in somebody’s life.

Through Hartley,‭ ‬I discovered Wim Wenders‭ (‬and through Wenders,‭ ‬Rainer Werner Fassbinder‭; ‬and through Fassbinder,‭ ‬Douglas Sirk‭); ‬Jean-Luc Godard‭ (‬and through Godard,‭ ‬the French New Wave,‭ ‬Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller‭); ‬and Robert Bresson‭ (‬and through Bresson,‭ ‬Carl Theodor Dreyer‭)‬.‭ ‬The rest is film history.

Hartley was a prolific writer-director throughout the‭ ‬1990s,‭ ‬and he developed a cult following among indie rockers,‭ ‬arthouse attendees and nu-bohemians.‭ ‬A true auteur,‭ ‬his films are as instantly identifiable as anything by Hitchcock,‭ ‬Godard or Cassavetes,‭ ‬and like most uncompromising artists,‭ ‬his work tended to polarize.‭ ‬After the commercial and critical failure of his revisionist Beauty and the Beast parable‭ ‬No Such Thing‭ ‬in‭ ‬2001,‭ ‬his films became increasingly difficult to fund and distribute.‭ ‬He’s released just two features since,‭ ‬moving to Berlin in‭ ‬2005‭ ‬partly because his work was better appreciated in Europe.

Undaunted,‭ ‬Hartley is back on DVD shelves‭ – ‬and,‭ ‬briefly,‭ ‬back on our shores‭ – ‬for a mini-revival of his films past and present.‭ ‬At the IFC Film Center in New York recently,‭ ‬he introduced screenings of his‭ ‬1991‭ ‬feature‭ ‬Surviving Desire as well as a program of his five most recent shorts,‭ ‬all of which have just been issued on DVD from Microcinema.

Looking at‭ ‬Surviving Desire once again‭ – ‬I’ve been the proud owner of the out-of-print Wellspring release for years‭ – ‬is like reentering an former home I hadn’t visited in years.‭ ‬Made for public television,‭ ‬Hartley’s hourlong experiment is,‭ ‬on the surface,‭ ‬a movie about an intellectually constipated professor‭ (‬Martin Donovan,‭ ‬Hartley’s earliest onscreen surrogate‭) ‬who falls in love with a flighty student‭ (‬Mary Ward‭) ‬who’s only interested in seducing him for literary material.

But nobody watches Hartley movies for the plots.‭ ‬Surviving Desire is really a profound meditation on love,‭ ‬attraction,‭ ‬faith,‭ ‬inspiration and whatever other theoretical concepts float around the director’s dialectical miasma of a script.‭ ‬Brilliant lines and clashing non-sequiturs zing by like a machine gun’s rat-a-tat,‭ ‬the highbrow and lowbrow coexisting harmoniously.

Characters read philosophy books on‭ ‬camera,‭ ‬try to comprehend Dostoevsky,‭ ‬engage in impromptu dance choreography,‭ ‬accidently marry vagrants on the street and walk past public rock‭ ‘‬n‭’ ‬roll serenades.‭ ‬Weird off-screen sound cues and deliberately constrictive visuals further set this classic apart,‭ ‬a great introduction to early Hartley that,‭ ‬hopefully,‭ ‬will make newbies want to look at his other masterpieces from the period,‭ ‬The Unbelievable Truth‭ (‬1989‭) ‬and‭ ‬Trust‭ (‬1990‭)‬.

The image quality of Microcinema’s‭ ‬Surviving Desire disc is supposedly digitally remastered with color correction supervised by Hartley,‭ ‬but the difference from the original release is negligible.‭ ‬The only supplemental addition is the‭ ‬11-minute featurette‭ ‬Upon Reflection:‭ ‬Surviving Desire,‭ ‬a funny and entertaining look at the movie’s production and the director’s overriding themes.

The second Hartley release of the month,‭ ‬Possible Films:‭ ‬Volume‭ ‬2,‭ ‬collects five movies,‭ ‬ranging from‭ ‬3‭ ‬to‭ ‬28‭ ‬minutes long,‭ ‬which the filmmaker shot in and around his Berlin apartment in‭ ‬2008‭ ‬and‭ ‬2009.‭ ‬There’s nothing here quite as ambitious or socially conscious as his most recent features‭ – ‬the cool sci-fi dystopia‭ ‬The Girl From Monday‭ (‬2005‭) ‬and the spy-movie deconstruction‭ ‬Fay Grim‭ (‬2006‭)‬.‭ ‬But these shorts prove that Hartley has been far from inactive in Berlin‭; ‬he’s still creating art,‭ ‬if on a smaller scale than before.

Like‭ ‬Fay Grim,‭ ‬nearly every shot in this collection is a canted,‭ ‬or slanted,‭ ‬angle,‭ ‬calling attention to the formalism and suggesting that something is perpetually askew.‭ ‬The shorts all deal in some capacity with modern media,‭ ‬the artistic process and communication,‭ ‬and all are cut from the same fold of cloth.‭ ‬In an interview on his website,‭ ‬,‭ ‬Hartley referred to the shorts,‭ ‬collectively,‭ ‬as a suite.

The shorts consist of‭ ‬A/Muse,‭ ‬which follows an aspiring actress as she campaigns to become Hartley’s next onscreen muse‭; ‬Implied Harmonies,‭ ‬a documentary about Hartley’s involvement filming the video portion of composer Louis Andriessen’s epic multimedia opera‭ ‬La Commedia‭; ‬The Apologies,‭ ‬about a playwright working on a musical version of‭ ‬The Odyssey who lends his apartment to an ex-girlfriend for an afternoon‭; ‬Adventure,‭ ‬which finds Hartley and wife Miho Nikaido candidly analyzing their marriage while traveling to Tokyo,‭ ‬New York,‭ ‬Istanbul and Berlin‭; ‬and‭ ‬Accomplice,‭ ‬a spy thriller in miniature about a woman asked to pirate a rare videotape.

If there’s something not completely satisfying about these shorts,‭ ‬it’s their inherent brevity.‭ ‬Hartley is too talented a mind to stop mass-producing movies for theatrical distribution.‭ ‬A little reflective solitude away from the noxious movie industry is a great thing‭; ‬more artists should do it to refuel their imaginations.‭ ‬But Hartley has been away from the game long enough.‭ ‬Word has it he’s working on an omnibus film called‭ ‬Moving the Arts,‭ ‬along with directors such as Jia Zhang-Ke and Atom Egoyan.‭ ‬Here’s hoping it leads to the kind of exposure Hartley earned in his‭ ‘‬90s heyday.

Vivre Sa Vie‭ (‬Criterion‭)
Release date:‭ ‬April‭ ‬20
SLP:‭ ‬$29.99

The country’s greatest DVD distributor finally releases one of the greatest films of the French New Wave,‭ ‬and it’s a vast improvement over the‭ ‬previous edition by Fox Lorber.

The most memorable collaboration‭ – ‬or cinematic dance,‭ ‬if you will‭ ‬--‭ ‬between director Jean-Luc Godard and star/wife Anna Karina,‭ ‬My Life to Live is an account of a girl’s descent into prostitution,‭ ‬balancing dispassionate,‭ ‬documentary detail with groundbreaking theatrical formalism.‭ ‬Equal parts boundary-pushing cinematic experiment and powerful social critique,‭ ‬Vivre Sa Vie is the kind of film people write theses about and still manage to run out of space.‭ ‬It’s an epochal work of art and an endless wellspring of depth that still astonishes no matter how many times you see it.

Australian film writer Adrian Martin offers a passionate,‭ ‬invigorating commentary track,‭ ‬and the bonus features are delectable.‭ ‬These include a‭ ‬40-page booklet,‭ ‬excerpts from a‭ ‬1961‭ ‬French television broadcast about prostitution,‭ ‬a‭ ‬45-minute‭ ‬2004‭ ‬interview with French film scholar Jean Narboni and,‭ ‬best of all,‭ ‬a‭ ‬1962‭ ‬TV segment on Karina in which the interviewer asks her some very weird and visibly uncomfortable questions‭ – ‬such as‭ “‬Do you think you’re ugly‭?”

The Barbara Stanwyck Collection‭ (‬Universal‭)
Release date:‭ ‬April‭ ‬27
SLP:‭ ‬$36.49

This six-disc collection goes a long way to display the versatility of one of our greatest actresses ever‭ (‬by the American Film Institute’s estimate,‭ ‬she was No.‭ ‬11‭)‬,‭ ‬spotlighting movies that never turn up in most Stanwyck‭ “‬Best of‭” ‬lists.‭ ‬What a joy to finally have on DVD films such as‭ ‬1937‭’‬s‭ ‬Internes Can’t Take Money,‭ ‬which marked the first appearance of Dr.‭ ‬Kildare‭ (‬played here by Joel McCrea‭); ‬1942‭’‬s‭ ‬The Great Man’s Lady,‭ ‬which starred Stanwyck as the‭ ‬100-year-old‭ (!) ‬widow of a legendary leader‭; ‬and‭ ‬1949‭’‬s‭ ‬The Lady Gambles,‭ ‬one of the earliest Hollywood pictures to deal with gambling addiction.‭

The two brightest gems in this set are the pair of mid-career Douglas Sirk melodramas that many have waited years to arrive on DVD:‭ ‬All I Desire‭ (‬1953‭)‬,‭ ‬which finds Stanwyck,‭ ‬as an aging actress,‭ ‬returning home to the family she abandoned‭ ‬10‭ ‬years prior,‭ ‬and‭ ‬There’s Always Tomorrow‭ ‬(1956‭)‬,‭ ‬about an affair between a married toy manufacturer‭ (‬Fred MacMurray‭) ‬and Stanwyck’s lonely fashion designer.

Tales From the Script (First Run Features)
Release date:‭ ‬April‭ ‬20
SLP:‭ ‬$20.99

More than just a visual how-to manual for aspiring screenwriters,‭ ‬Tales From the Script is an absorbing compilation of interviews from dozens of Hollywood screenwriters sharing joys and frustrations,‭ ‬insider secrets,‭ ‬revealing anecdotes and even philosophical truths.‭ ‬Interspersed with memorable film clips depicting screenwriter’s struggles‭ (‬In a Lonely Place,‭ ‬Barton Fink,‭ ‬et al.‭)‬,‭ ‬Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman’s documentary picks the minds of John Carpenter,‭ ‬Paul Schrader,‭ ‬William Goldman,‭ ‬Allison Anders,‭ ‬Larry Cohen and many others.‭

Subjects range from a general lack of respect for the profession to studio executives hacking apart their work,‭ ‬to the perpetual struggle to meeting actor’s and director’s needs to the scourge of the focus group and working in a‭ “‬post-content era,‭” ‬where an over-reliance on franchise films and familiar generic tropes discourages new ideas.‭

Screenwriters compare their work to everything from dance to war to heavy gambling over the course of‭ ‬105‭ ‬minutes,‭ ‬but the most memorable interviews are the personal stories of triumph and dejection,‭ ‬whether it’s‭ ‬Bucket List writer Justin Zackham sharing his sweet success story or‭ ‬BloodRayne scribe Guinevere Turner discussing the complete butchering of her script by notorious hack director Uwe Boll.‭

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bulletin from Broadway No. 3: 'The Temperamentals'

Thomas Jay Ryan,‭ ‬Arnie Burton, and ‬Michael Urie in‭ The Temperamentals.

By Hap Erstein

More rain Monday and still way too cold for the end of April.

Since it was a Monday,‭ ‬most Broadway theaters were dark,‭ ‬but there is a complex of converted discount movie houses at West‭ ‬50th Street that has a handful of auditoriums‭ ‬--‭ ‬an off-Broadway multiplex,‭ ‬if you will‭ ‬--‭ ‬and an engrossing new play by Jon Marans‭ (‬Old Wicked Songs‭) ‬called The Temperamentals,‭ ‬which turns out to be a code word for‭ “‬gays‭” ‬in the‭ ‬1950s.

It is a somewhat fictionalized history of the Mattachine Society,‭ ‬an early sociopolitical activism group for gay rights in a very closeted period in America,‭ ‬long before the breakthrough of the Stonewall riot in‭ ‬1969.

Most of this history was new to me,‭ ‬which made differentiating fact from fiction difficult,‭ ‬but the story was involving and Marans focused on the personal dramas within the movement which gave the play some emotional hooks.‭ ‬In the foreground are Harry Hay‭ (‬Thomas Jay Ryan‭)‬,‭ ‬a pioneer Mattachine leader and Communist Party member,‭ ‬and his lover,‭ ‬Rudi Gernreich‭ (‬Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie‭)‬,‭ ‬who would go on to fame and fortune as the designer of the topless bathing suit.

Expect The Temperamentals to get numerous productions across the country after its New York run,‭ ‬thanks in part to its small cast and nonexistent production requirements.


During the afternoon,‭ ‬I schlepped downtown to interview choreographer Joey McKneeley,‭ ‬a former dancer in Jerome Robbins‭’ ‬Broadway who was anointed by the legendary,‭ ‬difficult director to be the keeper of the flame,‭ ‬to re-create the dances of West Side Story for major productions such as the current Broadway revival,‭ ‬the national tour coming to the Kravis Center next season and an international tour that McKneeley also directed.

Already recognized for his own choreography on Smokey Joe’s Café,‭ ‬The Life and The Boy from Oz,‭ ‬he spoke of several projects about to surface in which he also moves into the director’s chair.‭ ‬If the musical theater survives‭ ‬--‭ ‬sorry,‭ ‬this season seems to put that matter in doubt‭ ‬--‭ ‬McKneeley could be an influential figure in its future.

Next:‭ ‬The Addams Family‭ (‬snap-snap‭) ‬and The Easter Bonnet Competition‭

Monday, April 26, 2010

Music review: Md. soprano, Ohio baritone take top honors at PB Opera contest

Soprano Corinne Winters sings‭ ‬Sempre libera,
‭ ‬from Verdi‭’‬s‭ ‬La Traviata.

By Greg Stepanich

The annual Palm Beach Opera vocal competition Grand Finals concerts are notable each year for two things above all:‭ ‬The atmosphere of fun and interactivity in the audience,‭ ‬and the‭ ‬exceptional level of youthful talent that soon will be replenishing the stores of the opera houses of the world.

Sunday‭’‬s concert,‭ ‬which was the‭ ‬41st in the series that began in‭ ‬1969,‭ ‬saw‭ ‬13‭ ‬young singers competing for about‭ ‬$77,000‭ ‬in prizes,‭ ‬and it ended with the top awards of the afternoon going to a‭ ‬23-year-old baritone from Ohio and‭ ‬a‭ ‬27-year-old soprano from Maryland.

Michael Young,‭ ‬who sang Ford‭’‬s aria‭ (‬È sogno‭? ‬O realtà‭?‬) from Act II of Verdi‭’‬s‭ ‬Falstaff,‭ ‬and Corinne Winters,‭ ‬who sang the‭ ‬Ah,‭ ‬fors’è lui/Sempre libera scene that closes Act I of the same composer‭’‬s‭ ‬La Traviata,‭ ‬deservedly won top honors,‭ ‬and not least because these two singers already have internalized these pieces in a thoroughly operatic,‭ ‬stage-ready way.‭

Young,‭ ‬a singer with a strong,‭ ‬clear voice and a nice top range,‭ ‬was‭ ‬thoroughly‭ ‬believable as Ford,‭ ‬a man who thinks he‭’‬s‭ ‬being cuckolded.‭ ‬But this is also a set piece without a straight-ahead song‭ (‬unlike all the other arias on the program‭)‬,‭ ‬and Young handled its rapid changes of mood masterfully.

Baritone Michael Young sings Ford‭’‬s aria from Verdi‭’‬s‭ ‬Falstaff.

And Winters,‭ ‬who also was chosen the audience favorite by text message at the end of the contest,‭ ‬not only showed off a powerful high E-flat at the end of‭ ‬Sempre libera,‭ ‬she also demonstrated wide emotional range,‭ ‬even in the way she gulped out the syllables of‭ “‬misterioso‭”‬ in‭ ‬Ah,‭ ‬fors’è lui.‭ ‬Winters does not have a huge voice,‭ ‬but it‭’‬s a mature,‭ ‬affecting one,‭ ‬quite well-suited for dramatic roles and a pleasure to hear.

But there was much other good singing Sunday afternoon,‭ ‬which was heard to the accompaniment of the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra under the deft leadership of Metropolitan Opera staff conductor J.‭ ‬David Jackson.‭ ‬One of the most impressive moments came with the second-prize advanced division winner,‭ ‬mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts.

Roberts,‭ ‬27,‭ ‬a member of the Palm Beach Opera‭’‬s Young Artists troupe,‭ ‬has been a familiar face this season,‭ ‬appearing on the mainstage as Elvira in Verdi‭’‬s‭ ‬Otello and as Mercédès in Bizet‭’‬s‭ ‬Carmen,‭ ‬as well as Dorabella in a workshop version of Mozart‭’‬s‭ ‬Così fan tutte.‭ ‬It seems to me that Roberts‭’‬ voice has blossomed over the season,‭ ‬and is now in a powerfully rich phase,‭ ‬with dark coloring and serious lung heft to boot.

The Sacramento,‭ ‬Calif.,‭ ‬native did a smart thing with her choice of aria:‭ ‬Nobles seigneurs,‭ ‬salut‭!‬,‭ ‬from Act‭ ‬I‭ ‬of Giacomo Meyerbeer‭’‬s‭ ‬Les Huguenots.‭ ‬Many prominent mezzos have recorded this aria‭ (‬Marilyn Horne,‭ ‬Frederica von Stade,‭ ‬to name two‭)‬,‭ ‬but it‭’‬s rarely heard in the opera house these days,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s a well-constructed piece‭ ‬that allows the singer to show off some vocal display and long‭ ‬legato‭ ‬phrases,‭ ‬which Roberts did very well.‭ ‬Towards the end,‭ ‬coming off her‭ ‬trill,‭ ‬she demonstrated enviable breath control by holding the final note over into the recurrence of the aria‭’‬s main melody without stopping for air.

Other singers also showed a‭ ‬knowing sense of theatricality,‭ ‬perhaps none quite as charming‭ ‬as baritone R.‭ ‬Kenneth Stavert,‭ ‬25,‭ ‬of Fullerton,‭ ‬Calif.,‭ ‬who won sixth prize in the advanced division with his reading of the‭ ‬Largo al factotum from Rossini‭’‬s‭ ‬Barber of Seville.‭ ‬I would have‭ ‬given him a higher ranking than that‭ (‬third or fourth‭)‬,‭ ‬not just for his funny,‭ ‬audience-pleasing performance of this great comic aria,‭ ‬but for his confident stage manner and his big voice,‭ ‬which had a marked tenor quality to it.

I also‭ ‬liked tenor Edward‭ ‬Mout‭’‬s version of‭ ‬Ah,‭ ‬mes amis,‭ ‬quel jour de fête,‭ ‬from Donizetti‭’‬s‭ ‬La Fille du Regiment.‭ ‬This aria is famous for its nine high Cs,‭ ‬which the San Diego,‭ ‬Calif.,‭ ‬singer sang out with youthful,‭ ‬unforced vigor‭ (‬and he added a couple others at the end,‭ ‬too‭)‬.‭ ‬Mout,‭ ‬30,‭ ‬who won fourth prize in the advanced division,‭ ‬has a good top register,‭ ‬a fine sense of phrasing and a forthright way of putting a song across.‭

Tenor Martin Bakari sings‭ ‬Spirito gentil,‭
‬from Donizetti‭’‬s‭ ‬La Favorita.

Other notable moments:‭ ‬Bass Matthew Anchel‭’‬s forceful rendition of‭ ‬Sorge infausta una procella from Handel‭’‬s‭ ‬Orlando‭; ‬soprano Betty Allison‭’‬s sweet,‭ ‬full-voiced performance of the‭ ‬Song to the Moon from Dvořák‭’‬s‭ ‬Rusalka‭; ‬ tenor Martin Bakari‭’‬s passionate version of‭ ‬Spirito gentil,‭ ‬from Donizetti‭’‬s‭ ‬La Favorita.‭ ‬Also,‭ ‬mezzo Sasha Hashemipour,‭ ‬of San Diego,‭ ‬who won sixth prize in the junior division,‭ ‬has a very large,‭ ‬beautiful voice that perhaps would have been shown to better effect with a different aria‭ (‬she sang‭ ‬Laisse couler mes larmes from Massenet‭’‬s‭ ‬Werther‭)‬.‭ ‬But she‭’‬s only‭ ‬21,‭ ‬and I‭’‬m‭ ‬confident we‭’‬ll hear her again soon.

The Palm Beach Opera Orchestra played quite well throughout,‭ ‬especially in the‭ ‬Falstaff aria,‭ ‬and it did a creditable job with the two overtures‭ ‬– Weber‭’‬s‭ ‬Oberon and Rossini‭’‬s‭ ‬William Tell‭ ‬–it performed while‭ ‬the judges‭ ‬– Leonore Rosenberg,‭ ‬Richard Gaddes,‭ ‬Susana Meyer and Palm Beach Opera artistic director Bruno Aprea‭ ‬– were deliberating.

In the end,‭ ‬the feeling you had at the close of the concert was happiness and optimism,‭ ‬knowing that there is so much fine young talent out there working in this magnificent art form.‭ ‬It‭’‬s one of my favorite events of the season,‭ ‬and this year‭’‬s version did not disappoint.

Soprano Rebecca Nathanson sings‭ ‬Klänge der Heimat,
‭ ‬from Johann Strauss II‭’‬s‭ ‬
Die Fledermaus.


Here is the list of the winners and prizes:

Junior division:‭ ‬Michael Young,‭ ‬23,‭ ‬baritone,‭ ‬of Cortland,‭ ‬Ohio,‭ ‬first prize‭ (‬$5,500‭);‬ Martin Bakari,‭ ‬23,‭ ‬tenor,‭ ‬of Yellow Springs,‭ ‬Ohio,‭ ‬second prize‭ (‬$5,000‭); ‬Matthew Anchel,‭ ‬22,‭ ‬bass,‭ ‬New York City,‭ ‬third prize‭ (‬$4,500‭); ‬Rebecca Nathanson,‭ ‬22,‭ ‬soprano,‭ ‬New Haven,‭ ‬Conn.,‭ ‬fourth prize‭ (‬$3,500‭); ‬Joseph Lattanzi,‭ ‬22,‭ ‬baritone,‭ ‬Macon,‭ ‬Ga.,‭ ‬fifth prize‭ (‬$3,000‭); ‬Sasha Hashemipour,‭ ‬21,‭ ‬mezzo-soprano,‭ ‬San Diego,‭ ‬Calif.,‭ ‬sixth prize‭ (‬$2,000‭)‬.

Advanced division:‭ ‬Corinne Winters,‭ ‬27,‭ ‬soprano,‭ ‬Frederick,‭ ‬Md.,‭ ‬first prize‭ (‬$8,500‭); ‬Irene Roberts,‭ ‬27,‭ ‬mezzo-soprano,‭ ‬Sacramento,‭ ‬Calif.,‭ ‬second prize‭ (‬$7,500‭); ‬Zulimar López-Hernández,‭ ‬30,‭ ‬soprano,‭ ‬San Juan,‭ ‬Puerto Rico,‭ ‬third prize‭ (‬$6,000‭); ‬Edward Mout,‭ ‬30,‭ ‬tenor,‭ ‬San Diego,‭ ‬Calif.,‭ ‬fourth prize‭ (‬$5,000‭); ‬Betty Allison,‭ ‬28,‭ ‬soprano,‭ ‬Ladysmith,‭ ‬B.C.,‭ ‬Canada,‭ ‬fifth prize‭ (‬$4,500‭); ‬R.‭ ‬Kenneth Stavert,‭ ‬25,‭ ‬baritone,‭ ‬Fullerton,‭ ‬Calif.,‭ ‬sixth prize‭ (‬$4,000‭); ‬Rena Harms,‭ ‬25,‭ ‬soprano,‭ ‬Santa Fe,‭ ‬N.M.,‭ ‬seventh prize‭ (‬$3,000‭)‬.

Finalists who did not place also shared a‭ ‬$15,000‭ ‬Palm Beach Opera Guild Encouragement Award.

Bulletin from Broadway No. 2: 'Enron' and a Busch-Halston cabaret

A scene from‭ ‬Enron.

By Hap Erstein

Well,‭ ‬so much for the nice weather.‭ ‬I had another great day Sunday in all respects except meteorologically.‭ ‬It rained most of this gray,‭ ‬dreary day and even when the rains halted briefly,‭ ‬it was cold and raw.‭ ‬Fortunately,‭ ‬I had excuses to stay inside for most the time.

I went to a matinee of‭ ‬Enron,‭ ‬Lucy Prebble’s epically theatricalized chronicle of the Houston energy company‭ ‬whose collapse became the largest corporate bankruptcy in United States history,‭ ‬leaving virtually penniless its employees,‭ ‬who were encouraged to invest their‭ ‬401‭(‬k)s in company stock while upper management was quietly selling off its holdings.

It is a wild story of hubris and greed,‭ ‬but it could have easily bogged down in explanations of technical financial concepts like mark-to-market accounting,‭ ‬were it not for the dazzling window dressing of director Rupert Goold’s production,‭ ‬which features musical production numbers,‭ ‬Star Wars light saber duels,‭ ‬a pack of currency-eating raptors and lots of flashy video and electronic stock quote tickers.‭

Plus a stellar central performance by Norbert Leo Butz,‭ ‬who is usually seen in musicals,‭ ‬as the architect of Enron’s meteoric rise and almost-as-fast disintegration,‭ ‬Jeff Skilling.

I still prefer‭ ‬Red as a play,‭ ‬but the pyrotechnics,‭ ‬by actual fireworks and the actors,‭ ‬in‭ ‬Enron will make the Best Play Production Tony Award a true neck-and-neck race,‭ ‬I suspect.‭ ‬Reviews will be out Wednesday morning.

‭ * * *

I have a longtime friend,‭ ‬composer-lyricist Barry Kleinbort,‭ ‬who is also renowned as a director of cabaret acts.‭ ‬Coincidentally,‭ ‬this week he oversaw a series of one-night performances at a great playing space called‭ ‬59E59,‭ ‬which not coincidentally is its address.

And Sunday‭ ‬night,‭ ‬the only night I had free,‭ ‬it kicked off with a non-musical evening of reminiscences and readings by playwright-actor-frequent cross-dresser Charles Busch‭ (‬Psycho Beach Party,‭ ‬Vampire Lesbians of Sodom,‭ ‬The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife‭) ‬and one of his informal repertory company members,‭ ‬wacky actress Julie Halston.‭

Back when I was reviewing in my hometown of Washington,‭ ‬D.C.,‭ ‬over‭ ‬30‭ ‬years ago,‭ ‬I first met Charles,‭ ‬who was just starting out,‭ ‬doing a one-man show called‭ ‬Alone with a Cast of Thousands,‭ ‬a piece of performance art that gave a suggestion of the talent and ability to take on female roles that was to come.‭ ‬Anyway,‭ ‬last night’s cabaret was an amusing,‭ ‬informal,‭ ‬unpolished show and it was fun being in the throng of friends and fans afterward saying‭ “‬Hi‭” ‬to Charles,‭ ‬who has become a Tony-nominated playwright and star of numerous of his own works,‭ ‬some of which have been filmed.

‭ * * *

Barry Kleinbort and Penny Fuller.

Still,‭ ‬the cabaret serendipity paled next to going out afterwards with Barry and one of his friends and teaching colleague at Rutgers and Columbia,‭ ‬Tony nominee Penny Fuller‭ (‬Applause,‭ ‬Rex,‭ ‬The Elephant Man and,‭ ‬most recently,‭ ‬Horton Foote’s‭ ‬Dividing the Estate‭)‬.‭ ‬He has directed her in six cabaret acts over the years and on Wednesday she is featured in the‭ ‬59E59‭ ‬series with an evening of songs by Charles Strouse.

We went for drinks at the impossibly chic La Caprice bar nearby and sat around bemoaning the state of the musical theater,‭ ‬arguing over whether Durrenmatt’s‭ ‬The Visit is suitable for musicalization‭ (‬as Kander‭ ‬and Ebb have done‭)‬,‭ ‬plotting how to get Penny booked into the Colony Hotel’s Royal Room and generally solving the problems of the world.

As columnist Cindy Adams would say,‭ “‬Only in New York.‭ ‬Only in New York.‭”

Next:‭ The off-Broadway play‭ ‬The Tempermentals and a Starbucks rendezvous with‭ ‬West Side Story's Joey McKneeley.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bulletin from Broadway No. 1: 'Red,' 'Promises, Promises'

Alfred Molina in‭ ‬Red.

By Hap Erstein

Oh,‭ ‬the sacrifices I make for you,‭ ‬my readers.

I am currently in New York City,‭ ‬enduring a week of theater,‭ ‬to fill you in on the season here,‭ ‬either as a guide for your future visits to Broadway or to whet your appetites for potential touring editions to South Florida.‭ ‬Or,‭ ‬OK,‭ ‬just because I craved an immersion into good theater for my own sake.

So I will be seeing‭ ‬10‭ ‬shows in seven days and,‭ ‬if the WiFi holds out,‭ ‬posting daily dispatches from Manhattan,‭ ‬with more detailed reviews to come after my trip.

I arrived Saturday,‭ ‬a great sunny day with a crispness in the air that is so rare in Florida.‭ ‬My theatergoing began on a high note with a matinee of the play‭ ‬Red,‭ ‬a portrait of the work process and artistic aesthetic of obsessive,‭ ‬angry abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko.‭ ‬The production is a transfer from London’s Donmar Warehouse,‭ ‬but is written by American John Logan,‭ ‬best known for such screenplays as‭ ‬Gladiator,‭ ‬The Aviator and‭ ‬Sweeney Todd.

The play looks at Rothko in the late‭ ‬1950s,‭ ‬as he is readying a set of huge canvases commissioned by New York’s Seagram’s Building for its then-new Four Seasons restaurant.‭ ‬He mentors,‭ ‬instructs and verbally abuses his new assistant,‭ ‬spewing out his artistic philosophy along with his contempt for some of his fellow artists and his unappreciative clients.

Rothko is played with a fury by Alfred Molina,‭ ‬paired with Eddie Redmayne,‭ ‬who won the Olivier Award for his performance.‭ ‬The production is compact,‭ ‬full of heady ideas and a passion about the art of making art.‭ ‬Expect it to receive several Tony Award nominations.

I attended with Charles Passy,‭ ‬my former colleague on‭ ‬The Palm Beach Post,‭ ‬the restaurant critic who has just begun a new job covering the world of wealth management for‭ ‬The Wall Street Journal.‭ ‬Fortunately,‭ ‬he has kept his eye open for good places to eat and he introduced me to John’s Shanghai,‭ ‬a terrific Chinese place in the theater district.‭ ‬Try the soup-filled buns.

Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth in‭ ‬Promises,‭ ‬Promises.‭
(‬Photo by Joan Marcus‭)

In the evening,‭ ‬I saw the final press preview of‭ ‬Promises,‭ ‬Promises,‭ ‬a musical from‭ ‬1968‭ ‬based on Billy Wilder’s sardonic comedy,‭ ‬The Apartment.‭ ‬It is a show I have always liked and I have held a grudge for the past‭ ‬42‭ ‬years that it lost the Best Musical Tony to‭ ‬1776.‭ ‬It has a very enjoyable score by Burt Bacharach and Hal David,‭ ‬their only foray into the musical theater,‭ ‬reportedly because Bacharach felt unable to control the sound in the theater like he could in a recording studio.‭ ‬He was disgruntled that performances of his songs would change night to night,‭ ‬which is exactly the essence of live theater.

I suppose you could complain that the score sounds dated,‭ ‬having that‭ ‘‬60s sound that typified what Bacharach churned out for his pop songs of the era,‭ ‬but it was a pleasure to hear it again in this first-ever Broadway revival.

Not everything in the production works,‭ ‬including the casting of Kristin Chenoweth as the female lead,‭ ‬stuck in an affair with a married executive at the life insurance company where she toils.‭ ‬The character needs to be vulnerable and a quart low in the self-esteem department,‭ ‬where Chenoweth comes on like her usual force-of-nature self.‭ ‬To bolster her role,‭ ‬two pop songs‭ ‬--‭ ‬I Say a Little Prayer and‭ ‬A House Is Not a Home‭ ‬--‭ ‬have been added for her.‭ ‬Both are terrific songs,‭ ‬but neither one fits her character or the dramatic situation snugly.

Making his Broadway debut is‭ ‬Will and Grace’s Sean Hayes as Chuck Baxter,‭ ‬the likeable,‭ ‬ambitious schnook who lends his apartment out to libidinous executives for extramarital quickies.‭ ‬He suffers by comparison to Jerry Orbach,‭ ‬who originated the role,‭ ‬but I suspect most of today’s theater critics‭ ‬--‭ ‬or audience members‭ ‬--‭ ‬do not go back that far.‭ ‬Hayes has a pleasantly musical singing voice and an amusing way with physical comedy.‭ ‬He is the best thing about the production.

Also looming over the show are memories of the great Michael Bennett’s original choreography,‭ ‬including an explosive dance number at the company’s Christmas party,‭ ‬set to some of David’s dumber lyrics,‭ ‬Turkey Lurkey Time.‭ ‬The original number,‭ ‬danced by a trio that included a young,‭ ‬agile Donna McKechnie,‭ ‬is classic.‭ ‬The new version,‭ ‬with steps by Rob Ashford,‭ ‬barely raises the ambient temperature.‭

Next:‭ ‬Another acclaimed play from London about a U.S.‭ ‬subject:‭ ‬Enron

Dance feature: New West Palm dance company sets May 1 debut

Christine Winkler and John Welker of Explore Dance Theater.

By Jan Engoren

Ballet Florida,‭ ‬a West Palm Beach institution for almost a quarter-century,‭ ‬closed its doors in June‭ ‬2009,‭ ‬leaving a vacuum that a new not-for-profit professional dance company hopes to help fill.

Explore Dance Theater,‭ ‬founded in‭ ‬2009‭ ‬by two former principal dancers of Ballet Florida,‭ ‬Tracy Mozingo and Douglas‭ ‬Gawriljuk,‭ ‬is‭ ‬hosting its premiere company showing at the Paramount Ballroom in Palm Beach on May‭ ‬1,‭ ‬followed by a fund-raiser at the town’s Amici Ristorante and Bar on May‭ ‬5.‭

According to Mozingo,‭ ‬Explore Dance Theater’s mission is to‭ “‬encourage artistic,‭ ‬cultural support and diversity in dance‭ … ‬and provide high-quality dance performances with a professional ensemble composed of top dancers from around the world.‭’

Mozingo grew up dancing. His mother,‭ ‬a professional dancer,‭ ‬made sure that all her children,‭ ‬including her three sons,‭ ‬all took dance lessons. ‭ “‬In my home,‭ ‬dance was a family value,‭” ‬said Mozingo,‭ ‬who tried everything from hip-hop to jazz and got serious about ballet in his early teens.

He graduated from the North Carolina School of the Arts and trained at Pacific Northwest Ballet before joining Houston Ballet.‭ ‬From Houston,‭ ‬he went to Ballet Florida,‭ ‬where he danced for‭ ‬17‭ ‬years.‭ ‬He is currently on the faculty of Palm Beach Ballet Center,‭ ‬Southern Dance Theatre and the Dance Academy of Stuart.

Gawriljuk graduated from the School of American Ballet in New York,‭ ‬started his professional career with Ballet Du Nord in France and danced for Basel Ballet in Switzerland.‭ ‬He also was a principal dancer for Miami City Ballet,‭ ‬Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre,‭ ‬Maximum Dance Company and Ballet Florida.‭

Mozingo and Gawriljuk met through a mutual friend around the time Mozingo joined Ballet Florida. After learning that Gawriljuk shared his interest in surfing,‭ ‬Mozingo went down to Miami to see Gawriljuk perform in the Miami City Ballet and afterward,‭ ‬the two made plans to go surfing. Since then,‭ ‬they have been best friends and colleagues,‭ ‬and now are partners in this new venture.

‭“‬There is life after Ballet Florida,‭” ‬Mozingo said.‭ “‬I didn’t want to work for anyone else and after‭ ‬17‭ ‬years with Ballet Florida,‭ ‬I know many of the donors and they have gotten to know me throughout my career.

‭“‬My goal is to start small with‭ ‬12‭ ‬to‭ ‬16‭ ‬professional dancers and a number of advanced students and put together a‭ ‬4-to-6-week show,‭ ‬which over time I hope to grow into a full‭ ‬38-week contract,‭” ‬he said.

‭“‬I will have new dancers and a resident choreographer to produce new full-length ballets. I want to incorporate other arts such as drama with live actors,‭ ‬live musicians,‭ ‬and fuse visual arts into the dance.‭ ‬I know the community can support a viable dance company.‭”‬ ‭

For the May‭ ‬1‭ ‬program,‭ ‬Explore Dance will perform five short ballets: ‭ ‬Solo Ellos Saben,‭ ‬a neoclassical piece‭; ‬Those Little Things,‭ ‬a story of the changing nature of relationships‭; ‬Entre Dos,‭ ‬an abstract‭ ‬pas de deux that examines the relationship between two people and that between neoclassical and contemporary styles of movements‭; ‬Thick as Thieves,‭ ‬an homage to the friendship between Mozingo and‭ ‬Gawriljuk‭ ‬and their wives‭; ‬and‭ ‬Trouble,‭ ‬a solo created by Mozingo.‭

Resident dancers include Chiara Casiraghi and Lisa Cousineau‭ ‬--‭ ‬both of whom came through Kathleen Klein’s dance program at Palm Beach Atlantic University‭ ‬--‭ ‬Lorena Jimenez,‭ ‬Fernando Moraga,‭ ‬Mauricio Canete,‭ ‬Mifa Ko and Rachel Pino.

‭“‬Palm Beach needs a new dance presence and I am very excited to see the‭ ‬creation of Explore Dance Theater,‭ ‬and look forward to seeing their creative vision unfold,‭” ‬said Klein,‭ ‬professor of dance at PBAU and former head of the Demetrius Klein Dance Company in Lake Worth.

Klein said other former Ballet Florida dancers have founded their own companies,‭ ‬including Heather Lescaille and Tina Martin of Florida Dance Conservatory,‭ ‬and Jean-Hughes Feray of Paris Ballet and Dance in Jupiter.‭ ‬And earlier this season,‭ ‬another Ballet Florida veteran,‭ ‬Jerry Opdenaker,‭ ‬founded O Dance and mounted its first performance at the Duncan Theatre.‭

“I think it’s wonderful that Tracy and Douglas have founded Explore Dance Theater in the wake of Ballet Florida,‭” ‬Klein said.‭ “‬I am confident that with them at the helm,‭ ‬it‭ ‬will be a great dance company. Even though this is a tough time for the arts,‭ ‬dancers are very resourceful and have good problem-solving skills.‭”

Rena Blades,‭ ‬chief executive officer of the Palm Beach County Cultural Council,‭ ‬said she welcomed news about Explore Dance because the variety of dance available in the county has diminished in recent years.

‭“‬Many dancers who lost their livelihood are finding creative ways to continue their artistic pursuits and Explore Dance Theater is one result,‭” ‬Blades said.‭ “‬There is an audience waiting to be wowed.‭”

Jan Engoren is a freelance writer based in South Florida.

Explore Dance Theater’s‭ ‬inaugural production will take place at‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday,‭ ‬May‭ ‬1,‭ ‬in the Paramount Ballroom in Palm Beach,‭ ‬211‭ ‬Royal Poinciana Way.‭ ‬The celebrity fund-raiser‭ ‬is set for‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Wednesday,‭ ‬May‭ ‬5,‭ ‬at Amici Ristorante and Bar,‭ ‬375‭ ‬S.‭ ‬County Road.‭ ‬Both events are free and open to the public.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬please call‭ (‬561‭) ‬309-9890‭ ‬or‭ (‬305‭) ‬801-3079,‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Saturday, April 24, 2010

ArtsBuzz: PB Opera competition chooses 13 finalists

Canadian soprano Betty Allison, one of the 13 finalists.

Thirteen young singers in two divisions‭ ‬have been named finalists in the‭ ‬41st annual Palm Beach Opera Vocal Competition.‭ ‬The singers will perform Sunday afternoon in the Grand Finals concert at the Kravis Center.

The competition began this week with‭ ‬47‭ ‬semi-finalists selected from an initial field of‭ ‬259.‭ ‬The finalists will be vying for a total of‭ ‬$78,000‭ ‬in donated prize money,‭ ‬and will sing with the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra,‭ ‬led by guest conductor J.‭ ‬David Jackson,‭ ‬a staff conductor at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

The seven finalists in the advanced division‭ (‬ages‭ ‬24-30‭)‬,‭ ‬chosen from‭ ‬28‭ ‬contestants,‭ ‬are:‭ ‬soprano Betty Allison,‭ ‬28,‭ ‬from Ladysmith,‭ ‬B.C.,‭ ‬Canada‭; ‬soprano Rena Harms,‭ ‬25,‭ ‬of Santa Fe,‭ ‬N.M.‭; ‬soprano Zulimar López-Hernández,‭ ‬30,‭ ‬of San Juan,‭ ‬Puerto Rico‭; ‬tenor Edward Mout,‭ ‬30,‭ ‬of San Diego,‭ ‬Calif.‭; ‬mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts,‭ ‬27,‭ ‬of Sacramento,‭ ‬Calif.‭; ‬baritone R.‭ ‬Kenneth Stavert,‭ ‬25,‭ ‬of Fullerton,‭ ‬Calif.‭; ‬and soprano Corinne Winters,‭ ‬27,‭ ‬of Frederick,‭ ‬Md.‭

The six finalists in the junior division‭ (‬ages‭ ‬18-23‭)‬,‭ ‬chosen from‭ ‬19‭ ‬contestants,‭ ‬are:‭ ‬bass Matthew Anchel,‭ ‬22,‭ ‬of New York City‭; ‬tenor Martin Bakari,‭ ‬23,‭ ‬of Yellow Springs,‭ ‬Ohio‭; ‬mezzo-soprano Sasha Hashemipour,‭ ‬21,‭ ‬of San Diego,‭ ‬Calif.‭; ‬baritone Joseph Lattanzi,‭ ‬22,‭ ‬of Mableton,‭ ‬Ga.‭; ‬soprano Rebecca Nathanson,‭ ‬22,‭ ‬of New Haven,‭ ‬Conn.‭; ‬and baritone Michael Young,‭ ‬23,‭ ‬of Cortland,‭ ‬Ohio.‭

Judges for the competition this year are Richard Gaddes,‭ ‬former general director of the Santa Fe Opera and founder of Opera Theatre of St.‭ ‬Louis‭; ‬Susana Meyer,‭ ‬artistic consultant to the American Symphony Orchestra‭; ‬and Leonore Rosenberg,‭ ‬associate artistic administrator of the Metropolitan Opera.‭ ‬Tickets for Sunday’s concert begin at‭ ‬$20‭ ‬and are available by calling‭ ‬833-7888‭ ‬or visiting

Barry U.‭ ‬sells WXEL radio to Classical South Florida

WXEL-FM‭ (‬90.7‭) ‬of Boynton Beach,‭ ‬a public radio station that features classical music and National Public Radio programming,‭ ‬was sold earlier this week for‭ ‬$3.85‭ ‬million to Classical South Florida,‭ ‬the Fort Lauderdale-based station owned by‭ ‬American Public Media Group.‭

The sale was approved by the board of trustees of Barry University,‭ ‬the private Catholic university in Miami Shores that has owned WXEL radio and TV since‭ ‬1997.‭ ‬Barry Telecommunications Inc.‭ ‬will continue to hold the WXEL-TV license,‭ ‬the school said.

‭“‬We are pleased to welcome Classical South Florida as the new steward of WXEL-FM,‭” ‬Sister Linda Bevilacqua,‭ ‬president of Barry University,‭ ‬said in a news release.‭ “‬In terms of radio service to the Palm Beach and Treasure Coast communities,‭ ‬Classical South Florida brings local control and local content to the WXEL audience,‭ ‬with the backing of an outstanding organization,‭ ‬American Public Media.‭”

St.‭ ‬Paul,‭ ‬Minn.-based American Public Media Group began broadcast operations at Classical South Florida‭ –‬at WKCP‭ (‬89.7‭ ‬FM‭) – ‬in October‭ ‬2007,‭ ‬after buying the station,‭ ‬then a Christian-programming outlet called WMCU,‭ ‬from Trinity University of San Antonio,‭ ‬Texas.‭

After the sale of WXEL has been approved by state and federal regulators,‭ ‬the radio station’s call letters will be changed to avoid confusion with the TV station,‭ ‬Classical South Florida said in a release.‭ ‬The new call letters have not yet been chosen.

‭“‬Under our stewardship,‭ ‬the station will continue to serve Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast,‭” ‬said Doug Evans,‭ ‬general manager of Classical South Florida,‭ ‬in a press statement.‭ “‬The combination will allow CSF to extend the reach and enhance the quality of public radio programming throughout South Florida.‭”

Classical South Florida said in its news release that it plans to strengthen WXEL’s classical music programming while retaining its NPR news and public affairs content.‭ ‬American Public Media’s programs include‭ ‬A Prairie Home Companion,‭ ‬Performance Today,‭ ‬SymphonyCast,‭ ‬Saint Paul Sunday and‭ ‬Pipe Dreams.

In addition to broadcasting at WKCP,‭ ‬Classical South Florida’s programs can also be heard via low-power repeater at‭ ‬101.9‭ ‬FM in West Palm Beach.‭

-- Compiled by Skip Sheffield and Greg Stepanich

Theater review: Mosaic's 'Dying City' a gripping, vital two-hander

Erin Joy Schmidt and Ricky Waugh in Dying City.
(Photo by George Schiavone)

By Hap Erstein‭

Talk about switching gears.‭ ‬After planning to produce the entertaining,‭ ‬but empty British farce‭ ‬Boeing-Boeing,‭ ‬Plantation’s Mosaic Theatre abruptly changed course to present instead Christopher Shinn’s shifting,‭ ‬shifty contemporary drama,‭ ‬Dying City.‭

It was a smart move for artistic director Richard Jay Simon,‭ ‬who traded up to a powerful play by an important emerging writer.‭ ‬Shinn understands the art of withholding information‭ ‬--‭ ‬from his characters,‭ ‬as well as his audience‭ ‬--‭ ‬and releasing it slowly and deliberately for maximum effect.‭ ‬Never doubt that he is in control of his storytelling,‭ ‬which seems not to add up.‭ ‬Until it does.‭

Like Tom Stoppard’s‭ ‬Rock‭ ’‬n‭’ ‬Roll,‭ ‬which began the season at Mosaic,‭ ‬Dying City contains more characters than actors.‭ ‬In this case,‭ ‬there is a pair of identical twins,‭ ‬who could not be more different in every way but looks,‭ ‬played deftly by Ricky Waugh.‭

When we first see him,‭ ‬he is Peter,‭ ‬a gay movie star biding his time between film projects in a Broadway production of‭ ‬Long Day’s Journey‭ ‬Into Night.‭ ‬He arrives at the New York loft apartment of Kelly‭ (‬an apprehensive Erin Joy Schmidt‭)‬,‭ ‬the therapist widow of his Harvard-educated twin brother,‭ ‬Craig,‭ ‬who felt compelled to join the army and go to Iraq,‭ ‬where he died in an armament mishap.‭ ‬Or was it suicide‭? ‬And why is Kelly acting so uncomfortably around Peter,‭ ‬whom she has avoided seeing since her husband’s death‭?

There are enough unanswered by questions in‭ ‬Dying City to keep us leaning in,‭ ‬straining to crack its code,‭ ‬to solve its enigmas.‭ ‬And at Mosaic,‭ ‬it is performed so ably that watching the two actors is often satisfying enough.‭ ‬Schmidt is the anchor of the production,‭ ‬the character through whose eyes we experience events unfolding,‭ ‬in its back-and-forth chronology‭ ‬--‭ ‬from Peter’s arrival and then back a year earlier to the eve of Craig’s going off to war.‭

Schmidt only plays one character,‭ ‬but the divergent moods she conveys on those two fateful days offer her the opportunity to show quite an emotional range.‭ ‬As for Waugh,‭ ‬his delineation of the two brothers is quite crafty.‭ ‬He draws differences with subtlety,‭ ‬as well as sibling connections and similarities.‭ ‬Shinn can be a bit clunky with his structure,‭ ‬so that we soon know that when Peter ducks into a side room,‭ ‬it will be Craig who reemerges,‭ ‬and the play will have taken a time shift.‭ ‬Waugh’s performance goes a long way towards making it work.

The same could be said for Simon’s well-modulated direction and the lighting transitions by Dan Gelbmann.‭ ‬Shinn is only in his early‭ ‬30s,‭ ‬so he may be providing us with edgy dramas for a long time to come.‭ ‬If they can be as affecting as‭ ‬Dying City,‭ ‬he may bring some new life to the theater.

DYING CITY,‭ ‬Mosaic Theatre,‭ ‬American Heritage School,‭ ‬12200‭ ‬W.‭ ‬Broward Blvd.,‭ ‬Plantation.‭ ‬Continuing through May‭ ‬9.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$37.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬954‭) ‬577-8243.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Weekend arts picks: April 23-25

Gianni Di Gregorio and the ladies of Mid-August Lunch.

Film:‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬you could check out the foreign movies at the‭ ‬2010‭ ‬Palm Beach International Film Festival,‭ ‬which continues through Monday,‭ ‬but it seems unlikely that it has an entry as enjoyable as‭ ‬Mid-August Lunch,‭ ‬opening Friday at several area theaters.‭ ‬This puckish Italian comedy stars writer-director Gianni Di Gregorio as a middle-aged guy stuck looking after his‭ ‬93-year-old mother who‭ ‬soon finds himself waiting on her hard-to-please friends.‭ ‬He cooks for them,‭ ‬and this‭ ‬is one of those movies that has a love affair with food.‭ ‬In fact,‭ ‬it won the Golden Snail Award at the Academy of Food and Film in Bologna,‭ ‬a great eating town.

Geneva Rae,‭ ‬Beth Dixon and Angie Radosh in Three Tall Women.

Theater:‭ ‬In‭ ‬1994,‭ ‬Edward Albee won his third Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his challenging,‭ ‬non-naturalistic,‭ ‬semi-autobiographical Three Tall Women,‭ ‬a look at an elderly matriarch and her estranged gay son,‭ ‬as they confront one another after years apart.‭ ‬In the second act,‭ ‬the three female characters become three parts of the dying mother,‭ ‬at various times in her life,‭ ‬leading up to her death.‭ ‬Palm Beach Dramaworks,‭ ‬which has had some of its biggest successes with Albee’s plays,‭ ‬proves again it does not shrink from a challenge.‭ ‬Resident director J.‭ ‬Barry Lewis stages the work,‭ ‬with a cast that includes Beth Dixon,‭ ‬Angie Radosh and Geneva Rae.‭ ‬Opens today and continues through June‭ ‬13.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬561‭) ‬514-4042‭ ‬for details.‭ -- H. Erstein

Lutenist David Dolata.

Music:‭ ‬Michael O‭’‬Connor restarted the Palm Beach Atlantic University Early Music Ensemble shortly after he took a job as a musicology professor at the Christian school three years ago.‭ ‬Since‭ ‬then,‭ ‬the group has‭ ‬presented‭ ‬vocal and instrumental music for Christmas and spring,‭ ‬and taken part‭ ‬in presenting two early oratorios by Giacomo Carissimi back in November at St.‭ ‬Paul‭’‬s in Delray Beach.‭ ‬Tonight,‭ ‬the‭ ‬group presents a mostly instrumental,‭ ‬mostly English Renaissance concert featuring the work of Florida International University lutenist David Dolata.

Dolata will play pieces from the‭ ‬Sampson Lute Book,‭ ‬accompany two singers in songs by John Dowland‭ (‬including‭ ‬Flow My Tears‭)‬,‭ ‬and join O‭’‬Connor for three lute duets,‭ ‬one of which will be an arrangement of‭ ‬Greensleeves.‭ ‬Recordist Claudia Gantivar will perform a trio sonata by Corelli,‭ ‬and the ensemble‭’‬s eight-member vocal contingent will sing‭ ‬songs by Byrd‭ (‬Be Unto Me‭) ‬and Josquin‭ (‬Mille regretz‭)‬.‭ ‬The concert begins at‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬today in the Warren Library on the PBAU campus,‭ ‬and admission is free.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬803-2970‭ ‬for more information.

Mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts,‭ ‬one of the finalists in Sunday‭’‬s Vocal Competition.

This Sunday,‭ ‬the Palm Beach Opera‭’‬s‭ ‬41st annual Vocal Competition presents its Grand Finals Concert at the Kravis Center,‭ ‬in which‭ ‬12‭ ‬young singers in two divisions will compete for prizes totaling‭ ‬$78,000.‭ ‬The‭ ‬seven‭ ‬advanced division finalists were chosen Thursday,‭ ‬and‭ ‬include Irene Roberts,‭ ‬a mezzo‭ ‬in the Young Artist program‭ ‬who was recently seen on the mainstage as Mercédès in Bizet‭’‬s‭ ‬Carmen.‭

Veteran Metropolitan Opera staff‭ ‬conductor‭ ‬J.‭ ‬David Jackson leads the opera company‭’‬s orchestra for‭ ‬the‭ ‬concert,‭ ‬and will also conduct two popular opera overtures while the three judges debate‭ ‬– Weber‭’‬s‭ ‬Oberon‭ ‬and Rossini‭’‬s‭ ‬William Tell.‭ ‬The audience will get to text its choices for favorites,‭ ‬American Idol-style,‭ ‬as well‭ (‬last year,‭ ‬the audience agreed with the judges‭)‬.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a fun event,‭ ‬and a good way to hear rising stars:‭ ‬If you‭’‬ve been attending some of these contests in the past,‭ ‬you‭’‬d have heard singers such as Vivica Genaux,‭ ‬Eric Owens and Kate‭ ‬Aldrich,‭ ‬all of whom‭ ‬now‭ ‬have flourishing careers.

The Grand Finals‭ ‬concert begins at‭ ‬3‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday.‭ ‬Tickets start at‭ ‬$20.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬833-7888‭ ‬or visit

Mezzo Kendall Gladen.

Speaking of opera,‭ ‬and of‭ ‬Carmen,‭ ‬the Florida Grand Opera opens its fourth and final‭ ‬production of the season Saturday night with‭ ‬Bizet‭’‬s‭ ‬opera‭ ‬in a‭ ‬modernist version by the Franco-Canadian team of Renaud Doucet‭ ‬and‭ ‬André Barbe.‭ ‬They have reimagined the durable‭ ‬1875‭ ‬opera to focus on its Spanish setting,‭ ‬to the point of bringing in‭ ‬15‭ ‬flamenco dancers as well as authentic torero costumes from Seville.

Tenor Adam Diegel is Don Jose,‭ ‬and Willie Anthony Waters,‭ ‬a longtime conductor for Florida Grand,‭ ‬leads‭ ‬from the pit.‭ ‬Another point of interest for the production is the role of Micaëla,‭ ‬which will be sung by Elaine Alvarez,‭ ‬a native of Kendall who‭’‬s making her debut with her hometown company and has‭ ‬had a strong career here and overseas,‭ ‬most memorably in a dramatic fill-in in Chicago for Angela Gheorghiu as Mimì in‭ ‬La Bohème.‭ ‬

The opera can be seen for a couple weeks at the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami‭ (‬easily accessible from the interstate‭) ‬and then moves May‭ ‬13‭ ‬and‭ ‬15‭ ‬to the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale for two performances.‭ ‬For tickets,‭ ‬call‭ ‬800-741-1010‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬‭

The Counterpoint chorus.

Finally,‭ ‬there is Counterpoint,‭ ‬a new choral ensemble based in Jupiter that makes its area debut Saturday and Sunday at‭ ‬the‭ ‬two Palm Beach State College campuses.‭ ‬It‭’‬s led by George Sullivan,‭ ‬an IT project director for the college who also is the former director of music at First United Methodist of Jupiter-Tequesta‭ ‬and the Symphonic Band of the Palm Beaches.‭

The‭ ‬30-member chorus‭ ‬will sing a wide variety of music‭ ‬“from the Middle Ages to the‭ ‬‘90s,‭”‬ as the group‭’‬s publicity notes.‭ ‬The Saturday and Sunday night programs include‭ ‬John Farmer‭’‬s madrigal‭ ‬Fair Phyllis and‭ ‬the‭ ‬Libera me movement from Gabriel Fauré‭’‬s‭ ‬Requiem,‭ ‬Gershwin‭’‬s‭ ‬Summertime and tunes by Elton John,‭ ‬Billy Joel,‭ ‬Paul Simon and John Lennon.‭ ‬Madison Marie McIntosh,‭ ‬a‭ ‬16-year-old soprano,‭ ‬will‭ ‬sing‭ ‬Mein Herr Marquis‭ ‬(Adele‭’‬s Laughing Song‭) ‬from Johann Strauss II‭’‬s‭ ‬Die Fledermaus.‭ ‬Pianist Marklin Green will accompany the all-volunteer chorus.

Counterpoint debuts at‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday at the Duncan Theatre on the campus of Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth,‭ ‬and then performs the same program at‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the college‭’‬s Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$15.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬247-1012‭ (‬Duncan‭) ‬or‭ ‬207-5900‭ (‬Eissey‭)‬.‭

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Film feature: Palm Beach Film Fest fading at 15th anniversary

The cast of‭ ‬Altar Boyz at Jacksonville’s Stanton College
Preparatory School,‭ ‬from‭ ‬Thespians.

By Hap Erstein

Cut down to five days,‭ ‬and minus the glitzy gala that always seemed more important to its organizers than the movies themselves,‭ ‬the Palm Beach International Film Festival at‭ ‬15‭ ‬is reportedly on its last legs.

After a decade and a half,‭ ‬the event never really caught on with the local public and has become a financial drain on the county as recession-strapped corporate sponsors have fallen away.

I would like to report that there are plenty of worthy films to be seen,‭ ‬but executive director Randi Emerman remains stingy about showing movies in advance to the press,‭ ‬perhaps because she does not want reviews out that would only discourage attendance.‭ ‬According to a festival publicist,‭ ‬Emerman insists that no major film events outside of South Florida hold advance screenings,‭ ‬an assertion that will come as a surprise to festivals in Toronto and Tribeca,‭ ‬to name a couple.

Ultimately,‭ ‬screenings were held for four films,‭ ‬which the publicist insisted were the only four available to be shown.‭ ‬That is awfully hard to believe,‭ ‬but then these four were certainly not selected for their quality,‭ ‬so maybe it is true.‭ ‬It would be a mistake to extrapolate the quality of the entire festival based on these four films,‭ ‬but feel free to jump to your own conclusions.‭ (‬By the way,‭ ‬the best of the films reviewed below,‭ ‬Thespians,‭ ‬was not made available by the festival staff,‭ ‬but by its director.‭)

For more information,‭ ‬call‭ (‬561‭) ‬362-0003‭ ‬or go to‭ ‬‭

‭ * * *

Dennis Sims,‭ ‬theater instructor at the Dreyfoos School,‭
‬with student Jeremy Daniels,‭ ‬from‭ ‬Thespians.‭

* Thespians‭ (‬Saturday,‭ ‬2:30‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬Cobb Theatres Downtown‭ ‬16‭) ‬--‭ ‬Competitions as a subject matter often make for strong documentaries in which moviegoers can become emotionally invested.‭ ‬Think of‭ ‬Spellbound,‭ ‬Wordplay and‭ ‬Mad Hot Ballroom.‭ ‬Now comes‭ ‬Thespians by Jacksonville-based Warren Skeels,‭ ‬a look at the Florida statewide high school drama festival,‭ ‬as seen through the aspiring actors of four schools,‭ ‬including West Palm’s Dreyfoos School of the Arts.‭ ‬Skeels,‭ ‬a former‭ ‬thespian himself,‭ ‬got unusual access to the preliminary work and rehearsals within the schools,‭ ‬has a good eye for capturing the backstage tensions and he edited it all down to a tight hour and a half.

There is commercial potential in the film because of its timing,‭ ‬coming just as‭ ‬High School Musical‭ ‬and TV’s‭ ‬Glee are hot.‭ ‬Skeels digs for the personal stories of the performers,‭ ‬and is particularly successful with a couple of best friends from an Orlando school who tackle an intimate scene from John Patrick Shanley’s‭ ‬Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and the geeky,‭ ‬rhythm-challenged guys of a Jacksonville prep school who get whipped into shape for a highly choreographed number from‭ ‬Altar Boyz.‭ ‬Dreyfoos’s Jeremy Michaels gets a nice showcase,‭ ‬but otherwise the school is a bit shortchanged.‭

A scene from‭ ‬Exam.

‭* ‬Exam‭ (‬Monday,‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬Cobb Theatres Downtown‭ ‬16‭) ‬--‭ ‬So you think you’ve got a hard time landing a job‭? ‬It is nothing compared to what the applicants for an unspecified position at a major biotech company do through in Stuart Hazeldine’s‭ ‬Exam.‭ ‬Those who suffer from claustrophobia can pass on this yarn,‭ ‬which all takes place entirely inside a sterile,‭ ‬windowless room where the test is administered.‭ ‬For that matter,‭ ‬those who insist on applying logic to their viewing experience and crave a satisfying wrap-up will want to pass as well.

Still,‭ ‬the premise does tantalize.‭ ‬Eight employee candidates,‭ ‬most of them young,‭ ‬attractive and well-dressed,‭ ‬are read the stringent guidelines for the exam before them on their desks and are then left alone,‭ ‬with only a silent guard to toss out those who break the rules.‭ ‬Then the stakes are quickly raised when they realize that their test papers are blank.

So they have to work together,‭ ‬or at least seem to,‭ ‬to learn first what the exam question is,‭ ‬then how to solve it.‭ ‬In this psychological puzzle,‭ ‬Luke Mably takes control of the group dynamic,‭ ‬and the movie.‭ ‬Hazeldine handles the harder job‭ ‬--‭ ‬executing the camerawork so the film’s inert quality is minimized‭ ‬--‭ ‬but he eventually writes himself into a too-obvious corner.

Adham,‭ ‬an Egyptian recycling worker,‭ ‬from Garbage Dreams.

‭* ‬Garbage Dreams‭ (‬Friday,‭ ‬4:45‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬Muvico Parisian‭; ‬Sunday,‭ ‬11‭ ‬a.m.,‭ ‬Movies of Delray‭) ‬--‭ ‬As we learn in the opening titles,‭ ‬Cairo,‭ ‬Egypt,‭ ‬is a city of‭ ‬18‭ ‬million people,‭ ‬yet it has no municipal waste disposal system.‭ ‬What it does have is the Zaballeen,‭ ‬a sub-culture that has been eking out a meager living picking up the city’s garbage and recycling it for what value they can derive.‭ ‬It is,‭ ‬as you can imagine,‭ ‬an enormously unsanitary occupation,‭ ‬yet these people are shown diligently rummaging through the refuse for the hidden worth‭ ‬--‭ ‬mostly metal cans and scraps‭ ‬--‭ ‬within.

Director/producer Mai Iskander rubs the viewer’s nose in the garbage and does what he can to delineate characters for us to follow,‭ ‬but it is a narrow subject with little to add once the eye-opening existence of the Zaballeen is established.‭ ‬The film cries out for narration,‭ ‬for we learn almost everything from the profiled individuals,‭ ‬who prove not to have much to say.

Paris Hilton and the paparazzi,‭ ‬from Giving It Up.

‭* ‬Giving It Up‭ (‬Friday,‭ ‬7:15‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬Cobb Theatres Downtown‭ ‬16‭; ‬Sunday,‭ ‬9:15‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Movies of Delray‭) ‬One does not need to like the subjects of a documentary,‭ ‬but this look beneath the surface of Hollywood’s paparazzi culture is a particularly shallow look at gang wars fought with cameras.‭ ‬Our national obsession with celebrity should probably come as no surprise,‭ ‬so nor should the exponential increase of these stake-out artists who live off the grab shots of the Paris Hiltons,‭ ‬Britney Spears and Angelina Jolies of the world that they then sell to the tabloids and other photo services.

Director-writer Frank Ruy follows along on a few high-speed pursuits,‭ ‬as the photographers race across L.A.‭ ‬to gain position outside tony restaurants,‭ ‬and wait for the A-list stars to emerge and make their payday.‭ ‬Understandably,‭ ‬Giving It Up includes only those celebs that the paparazzi are‭ ‬able to find and cajole into cooperating long enough for a saleable shot,‭ ‬so one wonders if what Ruy is up to is just as annoying,‭ ‬being the paparazzo to the paparazzi.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬these guerrilla photographers get their own‭ ‬15‭ ‬minutes of fame in the film,‭ ‬but it is time you will want back.‭

Tovah Feldshuh in Ten Stories Tall.

‭* ‬Ten Stories Tall‭ (‬Saturday,‭ ‬7:15‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬Muvico Parisian‭; ‬Sunday,‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.,‭ ‬Lake Worth Playhouse‭) ‬--‭ ‬Writer-director David Garrett wades into familiar territory with this dramatic tale of death,‭ ‬grief and dysfunctional family tensions,‭ ‬but succeeds with it thanks to an unblinking touch and a first-rate cast,‭ ‬led by Tovah Feldshuh as a guilt-wielding mother who comes unhinged at the funeral of a lifelong friend.‭ ‬Garrett’s dialogue is well-honed,‭ ‬and even the minor characters feel fleshed out and multi-dimensional.‭ ‬Ally Sheedy gives an impressive performance as the dead woman’s daughter,‭ ‬trying to keep a level of civility to the proceedings,‭ ‬bringing her own career back from the dead.‭ ‬Theater fans will appreciate seeing Emily Skinner in a small,‭ ‬crucial role.‭