Dec 20, 2006

Happy Ho-Hos

Off to Valparaiso, Indiana to do Yule with one side of the family, then on to Irvine, Calif. (est. 1975) for the better half's side. Blogging will be even lighter than usual until my return. Till then, please enjoy some holiday tunes I cooked up special for the occasion. Merry merry!

Sleepwalk Noel
Christmas Time Is Here
Xmas Fugue

Dec 15, 2006

Planning My Trip Now

The scrappy L.A. Opera is the next place John Doyle will work his magic, in a February production of Brecht and Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny featuring Audra McDonald and Patti LuPone (not, I don't think, playing the tuba this time). The news takes me back; Mahagonny was one of the first things I wrote about for the Downtown News, in a 1989 production designed by Robert Israel, conducted by Kent Nagano, and directed by Jonathan Miller, who in a pre-show press conference memorably called Brecht "a great bully." (The translation was by Michael Feingold; I found an old NY Times review and even one in Time, which barely covers theatre in New York these days, let alone opera in L.A.) There's a good Variety bit from last June about the new production here; official link here.

Twigger's Holiday

Found this five-minute short on the site of a former Back Stage West colleague, Scott Chernoff, and it made me smile. (Scott's the one with the blonde wig and the fireman's hat; the short's creator and star is Rob Schrab of Heat Vision and Jack semi-fame.)

Dec 13, 2006

They Asked, I Answer

I never fail to find something interesting at Terry Teachout's blog. Here he directs us to the "musician's questionnaire" at the blog of the Bad Plus, a great NY-based jazz trio. And I can't help but play along.


1. MOVIE SCORE. Pyscho, Entr'acte/Relache, The Grifters.
2. TV THEME. Johnny Quest, The Practice.
3. MELODY. Love theme from Vertigo, "I'll Follow the Sun," "Stardust."
4. HARMONIC LANGUAGE. Ravel, Radiohead.
5. RHYTHMIC FEEL. Hot Club of France, Silvestre Revueltas "Night of the Mayas," Tala Quintet.
6. HIP-HOP TRACK. Public Enemy "Fight the Power," Missy Elliott "Wake Up."
7. CLASSICAL PIECE. Beethoven's Third Symphony, "Rite of Spring," Janacek String Quartets.
8. SMASH HIT. Aerosmith "Sweet Emotion," Dell Vikings "Come and Go With Me," Bob Dylan "I Want You."
9. JAZZ ALBUM. Marcus Roberts, Deep in the Shed.
10. NON-AMERICAN FOLKLORIC GROUP. I have no idea precisely what this means...I do own a record by a Korean orphans choir and one by the Fiji National Police, but not for their musical, let alone their folkloric value.
11. BOOK ON MUSIC. Alec Wilder, American Popular Music.

Puttin' On the Ritz!

Among many other things, the late Peter Boyle gave a great interview.

Not Netty's!!!

Really, sometimes small things like the closure of an old favorite haunt can really unmake your day. (Tip to LA Observed.)

Dec 12, 2006

Jézus Krisztus!

That's Hungarian, in case you're rusty on your Slavic languages, and it's the way one key lyric will sound when the unstoppable boy-band juggernaut Altar Boyz goes to Budapest in March. The stars, according to a release I just received, will be "two well-established Hungarian musical theatre stars, Attilla Dolhai and Arpad Zsolt Meszaros, along with three new discoveries." There will be a cast recording in Hungarian, too, "marking Altar Boyz's first-ever foreign language recording to be released." (Are there recordings in other languages that haven't yet been released? Don't tease us!)

I caught the show at New World Stages last week for the first time and loved it. Maybe the pre-show drinks helped, but I think an adolescence spent among some very white teenagers in Arizona, some of whom tried to sell me on the virtues of Christian rock, was more pertinent preparation for the show's glorious, oddly sincere winking.

But will the irony translate? Attilla and Arpad's pictures provide a kind of answer.

"Urinetown" Bloodsuckers?

I haven't really been following this story (scroll down) about John Rando and John Caraffa, the original director and choreographer of Urinetown, suing regional productions of the show in Chicago and Akron because, they claim, those productions have copied their proprietary contributions with compensation. (Definitive updates and debates, as usual, can be found at Playgoer.) But a friend who just caught Dance of the Vampires in Germany, in the production originatd by Roman Polanski (based on his own film Fearless Vampire Killers) just wrote me to make an interesting point:
It's sort of ridiculous that John Caraffa and John Rando are suing the 'Urinetown' productions in Ohio and Chicago, since they stole every damn thing from the Roman Polanski production of 'Dance of the Vampires' for the Broadway production.

Stealing aside, that's a credit everyone involved would just as soon forget.

Dec 8, 2006

Weather Report

As the winter gets burningly cold here in Manhattan, Slava's Snowshow heads for Los Angeles. My piece on it for my old hometown paper is here. UPDATE: There's a weird cut that happened to Slava's penultimate quote, at least online. The original version is here (missing words in bold):
"As a child, you go to pick up one thing, and suddenly you get affected by another thing and you forget about the first one," Polunin explained. "So yes, we start the show with a suicide attempt, because the man feels that there is no escape. But he sees that life is so interesting, he just forgets about that first impression he had."

Kind of inverts the meaning minus those words.

Dec 7, 2006

Critical Condition

Well, this Time Out poll, critiquing New York's critics in several fields in often quite devastating, career-damaging terms, certainly got my attention. Some of these unattributed quotes read like the sour grapes of some very pissed-off artists (as gawker helpfully notes) and even publicists (as one preposterously named blogger/critic points out) more than happy to return the dubious favor of assessing their subjects' fitness for their chosen career. The spectacle of table-turning payback is about the only real satisfaction of this exercise, and though that's not a negligible pleasure, it's a rather guilty one. As an erstwhile theater critic myself, I'll go on the record and say that while I find valuable insights in the work of nearly all of my peers except Hilton Als, the theater critics I still enjoy (and envy) most are Eric Grode, Jeremy McCarter, and Charles Isherwood. They're the only ones whose writing has consistently made me think, Damn, wish I'd thought of/noticed/written that.

One of my favorite colleagues remains in L.A. Here's Steven Leigh Morris's priceless recent bout of hand-wringing column, on how his despair over the art form was only amplified by his recent visit to New York (nice Little Dog Laughed slam in there).

Dec 5, 2006

Ignorance Is Relative

Kudos to Chris Jones, The Chicago Tribune's theater critic, for informing us that Borat goes after easy ugly-American targets. (I actually found the film a bit of a letdown after all the buildup, and tend to mostly agree with Ron Rosenbaum.) Apparently unaware of the character's history, Jones wonders indignantly: Why doesn't British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen go after his fellow Brits?
Let's see his Borat make some Cultural Learnings of his own smug world. It wouldn't be hard for him to chat up a racist in a London pub. He could go to any British soccer game and find a cacophony of anti-gay slurs.

Or why not talk up some fusty academics at Cambridge? Oh, wait. He did.

Andrew Bard Webber?

Timothy Noah has a nomination for "the single stupidest sentence" ever printed in The New York Times. It's hard to argue with his choice:
Mr. Lloyd Webber is often referred to as the Shakespeare of his time with musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats, and The Phantom of the Opera.

Gloriously wrong on so, so many levels.