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Movie Reviews

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Out to Lunch
 
 
CLASSY, YOUNG, ELIMINATED TV GUYS
 
In my 6 seasons of watching “talent” competitions, I’ve never seen 2 classier or more gracious bowings-out than those this week of the super-smooth Mario on “Dancing With The Stars” and dread-head Jason Castro on “American Idol.”
 
The skanky cry-baby and all-around bad sport, Shannon Elizabeth, and waterworks-y gurn-er, ( look-up “gurning,“ if you’re not familiar with it) Brooke White, should take note. They were embarrassments to all femalehood.
 
What makes Mario’s exit even classier is how unfair it was. He should have definitely come in 2nd to Kristi Yamaguchi, who more than deserves to win. This just proves that hip people and younger folk in general either don’t vote or don’t even watch the show. Or don’t know anything about dancing. (Myself not included, because I watch, use all my votes, used to be a dancer, and am young and hip, of course!!!)
 
Mario was constantly under-marked by the judges, and was always classy, no matter what. Upon being eliminated, he didn’t try to win any sympathy--far from it. He accepted the verdict gracefully and even pointed out that our armed forces members are the real heroes, which kept in perspective the fact that no matter who gets voted off any of these shows is far from a matter of life-and-death, and rather just an entertainment competition. He’s a real class act.
 
And that one line he sang (from “Little Bitty Pretty One“) the night before was pure beauty. I hope they have him come back to sing one night as they did with Wayne Newton last season. But the next couple of shows are most likely already planned, so maybe even next season. I love that boy!
 
Now to the super-easy-going Jason Castro. On this week’s elimination, he not only took the news in stride, he made jokes at his own expense.
 
And when he had to sing for the final time, there were no histrionics as there have been more of this season than ones past. When Ryan Seacrest suggested that Jason might even be relieved to be off the show, he concurred, saying, “It’s 3 songs next week--I don’t know what I would’ve done.” (The only thing missing from that sentence was “Dude.”)
 
And all the while with that beautiful smile on his face. He left us all with one, albeit in most cases, without the gorgeous shiny teeth.
 
Though I can barely identify his voice, and usually hate dreads, I find myself looking forward to seeing his career progress. If he can write songs, I think we may all be in for a surprise that’s almost as pleasant as Jason’s demeanor.
 
 
“GYPSY”
 
I had the good fortune of arriving in New York at the end of February this year, just in time for the invited dress rehearsal of “Gypsy,” one of the latest additions to the Broadway scene. The audience was comprised mostly of exactly that--theatre “gypsies.” They made the vibe that much more exciting. The whole experience was very special, particularly due to the fact that the orchestra featured the most talented musician on Broadway--my big bro, Eddie Salkin.
 
It was great that during the overtures for both acts, and one number, the production actually showed the orchestra, which is a sad rarity in the biz.
 
Patti Lupone, one of the true darlings of Broadway, starred as Mama Rose and was as powerful and secure as ever. Even though I once did a guest spot on a TV series with her, and knew her socially for a few years, this was the first time I’ve ever heard her sing in person, and trust me when I tell you how awesome an experience it was.
 
She was so good, in fact, that I almost felt bad that I had once beaten her at a game of musical chairs! (Long story for another time.) Almost. Good thing I did, though, because it’s the ONLY thing that I could ever beat her at. Very talented woman.
 
I had 3 friends with me for the presentation, and we made the mistake of eating at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. pre-curtain, cause I sometimes love to go to tourist-y places. By the time we traveled to Manhattan from Brooklyn, ate for what felt like 5 hours, (but was really about 2 and a half, which was shamefully long anyway), waited in line in the freezing cold, and listened to an interesting informational speech from the remarkable 90-year-old writer/director, Arthur Laurents, we were all just ready for sleep.
 
But to this show’s credit, the instant it started, we were right there with them, and paid rapt attention all the way.
 
As someone who had the good fortune to have experienced all kinds of cultural happenings throughout my entire life, I can’t imagine “Gypsy” ever being anything but entertaining. (I’ve seen it in person starring Tyne Daly in Los Angeles, and more recently, with my teen-age friend, Mimi Paley, playing Mama Rose at Brentwood School.) But I don’t think it would have been revived so soon after the Bernadette Peters incarnation had it not been for the acquisition of Patti to play the lead.
 
The whole production was great--performances, sets, costumes, and of course, the music and story. The only weakness to me was Boyd Gaines’ portrayal of Herbie, Rose’s love interest. As one who’s had to do a scene with the great Patti Lupone in my career, I know how intimidating acting with one so talented can be, ( I even forgot how to pronounce the word “Chinese!!!”), so I felt for him. But his performance was just too weak and lacked the charm that was necessary for us to feel his pain.
 
It wasn’t egregious enough to ruin our enjoyment of the whole event. My pals have even all wanted to pay a return visit. Hopefully, it’ll run long enough for us all to do just that.
 
“Gypsy” running indefinitely
St. James Theatre 246 West 44th Street New York
www.gypsybroadway.com
 
 
“PEST CONTROL, THE MUSICAL”
 
When I got back to LA, I was still in musical mode. I had the great fortune to see first “Mask” at the Pasadena Playhouse, and then the “My Fair Lady” revival at the Ahmanson. Both runs have ended, and my glowing reviews of them, unfortunately, didn’t get posted on this site. If you’re reading this right now, at least this one made it. And it joins “Mask” as the 2 musicals I think have a very good chance to make it to Broadway.
 
Sometime last year, I discovered the NoHo Arts Center in North Hollywood. Very interesting theatre, who more often than not, put on good shows. “Pest Control” is the best one I’ve ever seen there.
 
As good as the actual show was, the costumes were the highlight for me, and apparently, for many others, as well. We were all raving about them at the after-party at the Eclectic Café, right around the corner from the theatre. It was a big cast for a small theater, and Scott Lane’s fabulous creations, whether bought or designed, kept us totally enthralled, even through the few hiccups in the production.
I loved the musicians and most of the music. And the actors/singers were extremely talented. The story itself was a tad confusing, but interesting enough, for the most part.
 
There were only 4 very minor negatives that I could find. The first is that the show was just a scooch too long. And many of the songs, while good, were just too alike. I mean, how many rap numbers does one show really need?
 
Thirdly, and this may be just me, I don’t think the text made it clear enough that it took place in the ‘70s. It was actually listed in the program, but not in the usual spot, so when I looked quickly before the show, I missed it, and therefore was confused about some of the references.
 
The last is so nit-picky, I’m hesitant to mention it, but unfortunately my seats were in the front row, so I couldn’t help but notice this one. The lead guy, Darren Ritchie, who is so worth seeing (sang great, danced well, rapped, and even played the guitar on the song that was my favorite), had the most disgustingly bitten nails I’ve ever seen! I kept cringing every time he moved his hands. I swear, it really took me out of the performance more than once. If he’s ever hoping for a film career, that won’t be good on the big screen unless the audience members are on diets and looking for ways to lose their appetites.
 
But, as long as you don’t sit up too close, that shouldn’t be a problem. And further back is the way to go for this multi-level theatre anyway. The tableau itself is worth a look.
 
Seriously, this is one of the too few Equity-waiver productions I’ve ever really enjoyed, so I’m highly recommending it for an evening of painless fun, which is unfortunately all too rare nowadays.
 
“Pest Control, The Musical” running through June 15, 2008
NoHo Arts Center 11136 Magnolia Blvd. N. Hollywood 818-508-7101
www.pestcontrolthemusical.com

 

 
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