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Entertainment Reviews and Commentary from Karen Salkin


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U.S. OPEN WRAP-UP

As I mentioned in my restaurant column, I just spent two weeks watching every second of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, that took place in Queens, NY. This was the best one I’ve ever seen, in all aspects, capped off by the Championship wins for both #1 seeds, Justine Henin and the supreme Roger Federer.

The best part of the whole event, for me, was Roger winning. I pull for him like he was my best friend or something! I just really love witnessing history, which he makes with each new challenge. And he’s charming, lovely, gracious, and well-spoken. He seems way beyond his 26 years.

I’m a big fan of Novak Djokovic, the men’s runner-up, as well. He also possesses the above-mentioned qualities, and is a riot to boot. I hope many of you got to see his spot-on impressions of some of the top players, including his friend, Maria Sharapova. It’s so great to see so many good sports around nowadays.

Which brings me to the nasty Williams sisters. This time around, even the commentators had to admit how ungracious Serena was in her remarks and attitude after she lost her quarter-final match to Justine. And they’re supposed to remain neutral, but usually try to find good things to say about those girls, just so they don’t look like they’re against any Americans.

Her comments and behavior were downright embarrassing. One of the sportscasters even suggested that someone in their camp should have a talk with them. Obviously someone did because Venus tried to be nicer about her opponents after that, but since she’s never done it before, it all sounded so insincere.

So, it was with great joy that I watched Justine Henin beat the two of them in a row, to make it to the final, and win the tournament, without dropping even one set! That’s an amazing achievement. And she was pleasant along the way, which makes it even better.

So, major congratulations to Justine and Roger. And to Mr. X for living through my crazy TV-watching schedule for the past fourteen days! Now back to real life, that starts with the section below.

EMMY SUITES PREVIEW 2007

I can’t believe that a whole year has passed since the last round of Emmy Suites. I’ve been to just about every awards show at least once, except for the granddaddy of them all, the Oscars, and can honestly tell you that the real fun is these run-up events and not the shows themselves. There’s just such an excitement about the whole week.

I hope to make time to attend some of my favorite suites from the past year, and some new ones, as well, and bring you the gossip and best finds over the next two weeks worth of columns. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it! And I’m happy to oblige.

If you just can’t wait until next week’s column with all the juice, you can always check out my archives for all the awards show suites stories from the past year.

MTV VMAS

It used to be that the Video Music Awards had break-through performances and really funny hosts. This latest version was just a disaster. As awful as poor Britney Spears’ opening number was, and I know that’s an understatement, I thought the rest of the show was worse. It seemed like the director and producers had ADD.

The cutting back and forth to different suites where the performers played all night long was completely inane. There was no cohesion at all. The whole show was basically unwatchable. It made me wonder--are there no classy people left in the music business at all???

And that brutal opening by the always-creepy Sarah Silverman was just uncalled for. Here she is making fun of everyone, who no matter how nothing they may be, are more talented than she is. Even the pathetic Paris Hilton, and that’s saying something. I just wish that someone had gone up there and mentioned that they had a good laser hair remover for her, in case she ever wants to finally get rid of her moustache! How grotesque must it be in person if it’s so visible on TV??? She can practically twirl that baby!

And yes, Britney looked as if she was just learning the routine, which was pitiful to begin with. And she did look too pudgy to be wearing basically underwear. But, on last week’s “Fashion Rocks,” as well as the VMAs, Alicia Keys had on outfits that showed her weird body and no one said a negative word. She was rocking a major muffin top on the former and looked to be carrying a years worth of groceries on her hips in the latter.

And, I love Jennifer Hudson, but who dresses her for these shows? And Mary J. Blige on the fashion show looked like I do in my nightmares. No wonder people don’t realize that I’m chubby nowadays! Compared to these icons, I’m downright scrawny! But Britney, who was never really thin to begin with, packs on about fifteen extra pounds, and it’s a disaster to the world. Shame.

Meanwhile, the blame should lie with her handlers, and even more so, with the VMA bigwigs. They had to know how weak her number was, but let it go on just so there would be big buzz and viewers would tune in for the numerous re-runs of the show.

I think that I’m with Kanye West, the bad sport who didn’t win an award for the second year in a row--we’re both done with the VMAs for life. No loss for the world, in both our cases, but definitely peace of mind for me. I don’t “want my MTV”--I want my three hours back.

MATTER OF HONOR

This play review is a little different than my usual jokey writing, but it’s important.

I grew up not noticing differences between the races. Both my parents were teachers, so we had to have full-time help for us kids. (This was back when only the English had “nannies.”) Edna was my best friend and basically my second mother. My brother was my mother’s favorite, my sister was my father’s and I was Edna’s, which was always a great source of pride to me. Edna was black, and so I think that I assumed I was part black myself. It just never was an issue.

I was a dancer, so in high school and college, I was always friends with the too few black kids around in those days because, let’s face it, that’s who the best dancers were. My parents were very liberal, and never made me notice that there were different races and religions. Even now, I wish we could all be just one people. (Excluding Hare Krishna, of course.) (Okay, I had to throw in ONE joke, just so you know this is really me writing.)

When I did become aware of prejudice, it sickened me, as I hope it does most people I know. I can’t tell you how many friends I lost over this subject through the years. But obviously, I didn’t really feel I had lost much, since I couldn’t fathom people thinking like that in the first place.

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Photo: Craig Schwartz

In recent years, separation of ethnicities has gotten further on my nerves, this time more from them rather than from Caucasians. It bothers me that there are TELEVISED awards shows for just black people and one for just Latinos. If “my people” tried to hold the “Just-For-Jews” awards, or worse, the “Caucasian Pride” ones, we’d be vilified. (I know that back in the day, there were essentially the White People Awards; it was called LIFE. But I’m just discussing current times.)

So, it was with some wariness in this category that I attended the opening of “Matter of Honor” at the Pasadena Playhouse. But as soon as I saw what just one black man went through in 1880 while attending West Point, I was sick to my stomach again. I kept telling myself that this exact story wasn’t true, so I could stop feeling SO bad, even though I know that there were thousands more horrible stories just like it.

At the end, we found out it WAS true, but it actually had a satisfactory outcome. I think that everyone needs to see this play to be reminded of the struggle that the black race faced in this country, and continues to do in some backwards states.

I’m still somewhat put off by exclusionary celebrations on TV, but in just 90 minutes, this excellent play reminded me why I want everyone to be equal in the first place.

“Matter of Honor” running through September 30
Pasadena Playhouse 39 El Molino Ave. Pasadena 626-356-7529 www.pasadenaplayhouse.org

AVENUE Q

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Photo: Carol Roseggi

I think that I’m the last person to see this show! I was actually not interested in it based on pieces I had seen on the Tony Awards a couple of years ago, and some other places, too. I didn’t even know what it’s about, other than people singing and holding puppets. I love ventriloquists, but didn’t think I could stand three hours of actors doing it with their lips moving in full view the whole time. I figured that I’d go crazy(er) trying to figure out which one to focus on.

And, in my defense, no one ever told me what it was about; all they ever said was that it’s wonderful, which is not enough of a review for me. But I was invited to the opening night at the Ahmanson Theatre last week, so I figured that I may as well take a break from watching tennis, (have no fear--I recorded it and stayed up all night watching when I got home) and go, with the lowest of expectations.

14
Photo: Carol Roseggi

I LOVED IT!!! It’s just about the perfect show, except for the first act being about fifteen minutes too long. I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I was crying by the end. And, gave it a voluntary standing ovation, something I very rarely do.

It finally dawned on me, the day after I saw it, that it’s supposed to be a grown-up version of Sesame Street. Get it?--Sesame Street, Avenue Q? Duh. I can’t believe that immature me, of all people, missed that. There are all kinds of life lessons for adults, told in clever, hummable songs, with actually easy-to-understand lyrics. (Angela Ai, as the Asian immigrant Christmas Eve, was the only actor several of us had trouble understanding.)

The Performances program (they don’t use the Playbill brand anymore) was the first one of a musical that I’ve ever seen that doesn’t include a list of the songs, so I can only guess at the titles.

The two numbers that stuck with me the most are “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” which basically backed up my review of “Matter of Honor,” (above), but in a comedic way, and the last one, “For Now.” That one sums up the philosophy that I try to impart to my friends during hard times, which is “nothing lasts forever, not even your troubles.” (I saw that quote in one of my appointment books a few years ago, and boy, has it come in handy.)

In “For Now,” they’re explaining that most problems are just temporary, and at the end, in-between that catch-phrase, the cast calls out some things that will be over soon. The audience went wild when they named “George Bush” as one of them. Those were my favorite two words of the whole two hours and fifteen minutes!

There are seven performers and they’re all excellent. Kelli Sawyer, Robert McClure, and Christian Anderson were especially outstanding. They’re the ones who worked multiple puppets, while acting, singing, and dancing. Not an easy task.

And, I was really able to concentrate on the puppets, which I hadn’t thought possible. Maybe it’s because the voices appeared to be coming from them rather than the actors. I’m sure how they achieved that is not a major technical secret, but to me, it’s akin to magic and I’m just as happy to not know how they did it.

My only problem was the lampooning of Gary Coleman. I wish I knew if he’s okay with it, because if he is, then so am I. But I cringed every time they pointed out his problems. It made me glad that I was never successful enough to be made fun of now. Maybe it was meant to be loving, though, and he’s happy with the new-found fame. That would make me feel so much better.

Anyway, please don’t be fooled by the puppets and bring kids to see it. It’s definitely not for little kids, or young teens. I’d be embarrassed to see it with anyone under 21. I barely made the cut myself! Now if I can only convince Mr. X that he’s psychologically mature enough to see it, you just may be sitting next to us when you go. Just please bring an extra hanky for me.

“Avenue Q” running through October 14
Ahmanson Theatre 135 N. Grand Avenue 213-628-2772 www.CenterTheatreGroup.org

 
 
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