For the first time in my life, I think I’m at a loss for words. But I’ll have to find some right away to tell you about this truly amazing theatre experience at the unfortunately bone-chillingly freezing Kodak Theatre. (BTW--When are they going to fix that??? Some girls were telling me that they actually saw each other’s hair blowing in the wind! So, at least, if you have a hot date, sit on the side of him where, if you face him, your hair will be blowing back from your face, like in photo shoots.)
|Terra Cotta Warriors
Now to “Terra Cotta Warriors,” one of the best things that I’ve ever seen in my life. Ignore the name, which almost deterred me from attending the opening night. I mean it. I was exhausted, after staying up overnight to watch the incomparable Roger Federer demolish Andy Roddick, who was trying his best, to no avail. (On the other hand, Roger looked like he was taking a stroll through the park.) And I really wanted to stay home and watch the figure skating national championships on ESPN. Then I went to the show’s website, (which is below), hoping to convince myself that missing it would be no loss in my life. But one look at the colorful pictures, and I knew that I would be in for an adventure. (I didn’t even need to read the description to convince me, but it’s there, for those of you who’d like to read it.) And I’m so grateful that I did indeed attend.
I don’t even know where to begin. This show appears to be the “Cats” of China. (I’ve never seen “Cats”; I just mean that it’s always running there.) It was actually like “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” meets Cirque du Soleil. I’d love to know what the creator was smoking during conception, and where can we get some? I’ve never done LSD, but this show is what I’ve always imagined tripping to be like.
It’s also semi-the “Riverdance” of China, (I could do these weirdo analogies all night long, but I think I’ll stop now), in the fact that there’s mainly dancing, but some ethnic singing, and live musicians, in this case, the most amazing percussionists since my old pal, Ray Cooper. (Obscure reference, I know, but he’s super-famous in England, and works with Elton a lot.)
You see, I told you I don’t know how to describe it! It’s the story of the first Emperor of China, circa 221 B.C., but the pageantry and amazing talent showcased are all that matters. (Helpfully, though, they write out what is about to take place on two giant LED screens to the sides of the stage, which are totally unobtrusive.)
|Terra Cotta Warriors
When I reviewed the circus in this column last summer, I said my favorite part was the Chinese acrobats. We have that here, in spades. Plus some exquisitely beautiful dancing that’s beyond ballet. This was an entire evening of highlights, (kind-of like Dominique Wilkins, known as the Human Highlight Film in basketball circles), but if I had to pick just one, it was a female solo in the second half, which was a virtual ribbon dance using the sleeves of her gown. I could watch that every day.
Even the backdrops were fascinating. And the costumes were bright and beautiful. I knew there were a lot of scenes, and didn’t know how they could make each one different. But somehow, they did. There were even two cute six-year-old boys doing tricks, for the comic relief. Oh, a eunuch, too, for that purpose, but he only made me nervous, talented though he was.
“TCW” was totally creative from the very first second. The curtain call alone was better than the entirety of most shows I’ve ever seen. It bodes well for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. This show could be the opening ceremony entertainment by itself! It was actually a mini-Olympics of its own; there was gymnastics, martial arts, fencing, running, and even a bit of off-stage equestrian.
I have just one warning for some of you. I absolutely hate noise, and the first five minutes or so was so percussive that the bass was actually hurting my chest. I was hoping the painful part wouldn’t last long, because I was riveted to the visuals, and, luckily it didn’t. So, my advice is to weather that brief storm because the sun definitely shines through.
Terra Cotta Warriors running through January 28 (only 4 performances left)
Kodak Theatre 6801 Hollywood Blvd. 213-480-3232 www.terracottawarriors.org
I read my own preview of this show last week, and had to run right out and see it at Staples Center! And had my dream come true afterwards, by hanging with the unbelievably gorgeous, personable, and talented John Zimmerman, thanks to their great PR man, Michael Sterling, who runs the surrounding hubbub so smoothly. (Seriously, Michael is like the Jack Bauer of publicity; he makes everything move along.) More on my meeting with John later. (I’m sure you’re all waiting with bated breath!)
Stars On Ice was started many years ago by Scott Hamilton, and has always been comprised of the superstars of skating. The professional world of the sport is suffering a dearth of those now, with many retirements, but this show still has a mainly stellar cast. Most of these are guys, led by 2002 Olympic champ, Alexei Yagudin. He has to be seen in person to be believed. He’s like a bullet across the ice.
First of all, the guy must have zero percent body-fat. And his footwork looks like it’s special effects. It seems like what he does is humanly impossible. This is just my own thought, but now that he’s moved back to Russia to live, I don’t know how many more years he’ll want to tour in the US, so I’d see him while you can. (This show is touring the country through March. You can check the schedule at the website below.)
1996 World Champion, Todd Eldredge and newest cast member, three-time US champ Michael Weiss, more than hold their own. Several people in Sunday’s audience remarked that they were surprised at just how talented Michael is. He’s dynamic, and has the best tricks of all the singles skaters in this show. And Todd is still the best male spinner in the professional world and has added old-fashioned barrel rolls to his repertoire. They were fun to see again. Britain’s Steven Cousins, who has been with the show for years, is as macho and chipper as always.
On the ladies’ side, there’s Yuka Sato, who is rightly considered to be the best female pro out there since winning the World championships way back in ’94. In person, she really does seem to be floating across the ice, without touching it. And there is a genuine smile on her face, at all times. She truly loves performing and is a joy to behold.
My favorite is Ekaterina Gordeeva, who’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist in pairs with her late husband, Sergei Grinkov. She has to be in her mid-30s, but still looks like a teen-ager, and is the most beautiful female since Audrey Hepburn. Her regalness just takes one’s breath away, and she is, by far, the most balletic on the ice.
I feel bad saying this, but the one weak link is Jennifer Robinson, a Canadian with whom only the most serious of skating fans are familiar. She’s not so much a “star on ice” as “someone who’s competed internationally on ice.” The choreographers give her the cutest number to compensate, “I Don’t Want To Show Off” from Broadway’s fabulous “The Drowsy Chaperone,” but there’s just nothing special about her.
I’ve never been a fan of her countrymen, Sale and Pelletier, either, but everyone else seems to be. They do have some powerful moves, though, and I enjoyed their numbers enough.
But the former National Champion pairs team of Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman stole the show. Their second act routine to Janis Joplin’s “Little Piece Of My Heart” was truly phenomenal! The audience went wild. I wrote last week that when they skate, I notice only Johnny Z, since I have a major crush on him (which Mr. X is cool with, as he is with all my fake crushes, which is the sign of rightfully secure man), but, as I told John after, in this number, I definitely noticed Kyoko, as well. She is as fearless as he is hunky. And that’s saying something!
Now, to my favorite part--meeting John after. I’ve actually met him before, but five years ago, and briefly (in addition to the many times in my dreams.) When Michael Sterling re-introduced us after this performance, John couldn’t have been kinder or more attentive. (And believe me, I looked awful, as this picture will attest to, and he’s madly in love with his wife, so it was not a guy thing. He’s just a lovely person.) I didn’t remember him being so big off the ice. Five years must make a huge difference in a growing boy’s life! Who knew???
John spent a lot of time with us, which wasn’t necessary, but so appreciated. And took several pictures with me and even asked if they were okay, and if I wanted to take more! I could kick myself for saying that they were fine. I could have spent many more hours standing next to him, especially because he was kind enough to do poses with his arms around me. (I told him to just not lift me, to save himself from getting a hernia.) I love when an athlete, or any public figure, lives up to one’s expectations, and John Zimmerman far exceeded mine. I hope he and his wife have kids one day because I think he’ll be a fantastic father.
For those of you who care about just what’s on the ice, you’ll have a great time. Though there aren’t as many group numbers as there usually are in this show, the individual ones carry it through. And there are some special guest stars in various cities, so check out who’s coming to yours. We were lucky enough to see Ilia Kulik, who, amazingly, just gets better all the time. I don’t even see how that’s possible. And, though he’s married to Katya and they have two daughters, he still looks like he did when he won the Olympics nine years ago. I guess being so close to ice constantly preserves your looks. I guess I should have taken up skating ten years ago! (Or, as Mr. X says, instead of sunbathing.)
Stars On Ice various cities around the country www.starsonice.com
And lastly, now that the show biz awards season is drawing to a close, I can look back at the films I’ve seen over the past year. This was one of the best film crops in recent memory. I didn’t hate even one of them! They all held my interest, and I can’t think of one weak, or over-rated, performance. These actors made me want to give up acting altogether because I just don’t know if I can bare my soul to the extent that most of them can.
That last sentence just made me realize that no one has even mentioned the searing performances in the dark film, “The Dead Girl.” I thought for sure that the ensemble cast would be nominated in a SAG award in that category. It’s definitely not an upper, but worth seeing.
Here’s a thought on expectations. The first time I saw “Dreamgirls,” before it opened, I recognized its merit, but was a tad disappointed, as I had borne witness to Jennifer Holliday’s jaw-dropping, Tony award winning Broadway performance. When I saw the movie the second time, with Mr. X, I loved it, as my expectations were lower. I figured that he thought I was nuts in my original assessment, but he agreed with it, because the stage show had given him those higher expectations, too. That’s why I never want to hear a word about anything I’m about to experience; I want to view it through virgin eyes.
Anyway, I’m shocked that “Dreamgirls” wasn’t nominated for a Best Movie Oscar. In my opinion, it should even win. I’m pretty positive the two actresses I feel gave the finest performances won’t win, either.
Judi Dench deserves it hands-down for the little-seen “Notes On A Scandal.” She was chilling. Mr. X gets nervous just watching the trailers for it!
And, though I wish I could erase “Babel” from my memory, Adrian Barraza, as the Mexican housekeeper, was just brilliant. I wanted desperately to get out of my seat during her desert scenes because her raw emotion was too painful for me.
Ryan Gosling was so real in “Half Nelson” that it could have been a documentary. And Leonardo Di Caprio is just brilliant, dot, dash, end of story. There’s nothing that boy can’t do.
My only semi-negative comment on the season is that while “Little Miss Sunshine” and “The Devil Wears Prada” are definitely entertaining, (The former is far better than the latter), I feel they’re not worthy of Oscar nominations. “Little Miss Sunshine” should not be up for Best Picture, taking up the rightful spot of “Dreamgirls.” And, I’m devoted to Meryl Streep, the best American actress of our time, but this just wasn’t up there with Judi Dench and Helen Mirren. Not because of the performance itself, but just by the demands of the role, which weren’t many.
The best part of the awards finally being handed out is that I’ll have some free nights again, as I have no more screenings until about August. I say “Yay” now, but by March, I’m sure I’ll be jonesing for the cinema once again.