Saturday, January 7, 2017




The Nutcracker at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music Meets Baryshnikov

01/06/2017 06:08 pm ET

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Innocence, young love, pastels of youth, the magic of Nutcracker Suite under the artistic direction of Angel Corrella at the Philadelphia Academy of Music is masterful. The last time I had seen the Nutcracker was in the late nineties at New York City Ballet as a guest of Mikhail Baryshnikov who had performed to a standing ovation. Misha became a friend when I had the privilege of interviewing him for Parade.
Boy, I wanted to see what the Pennsylvania Ballet would do with Balanchine’s choreography of the Nutcracker and the lyrical music of Tchaikovsky’s and recall those days I would frequent the New York City Ballet. Once I was following Misha around when he was about to go on. “You are not allowed on stage, Carole,’ he said as he smiled his pixie grin and danced off to please an eagerly awaiting audience.
But today I was going to see Pennsylvania Ballet founder and Balanchine protégé Barbara Weisberger’s production of the Nutcracker with good friends, Diane and Tom Reed and my sister, Elmira Batson who had studied ballet as a child, Tom and Diane who own Tom’s Pet Outlet had sold me the love of my life, Herbert, my five lb. Maltese.. We were all excited and exchanged stories about when we had last seen this romantic vision where the balletomanes dance trippingly on their toes with children under their wings, in dresses, lying in beds, flying off over a crescent moon at the end and waving goodbye to an awestruck audience.
But would the tree rise from the floor suddenly in the middle of Act One as it had in New York some eighteen years earlier. Or was that just a big city bit. Would it rise and rise and dwarf the sleeping princess and all her friends. Would it? Probably not, I thought.
This was Philadelphia and while I had read excellent reviews, I needed to see if this tree would rise. The opening sparkled as the party the night before the dream was about to happen.
Teary-eyed,I listened to the overture and to the Philadelphia Boys Choir as I recalled my 95 -year -old mother by my side, wheel chair bound, and how cultured she was. Of German descent she taught me to value the arts. Piano lessons, classical music and while she had been a Pennsylvania Deutsch farmer, her appreciation of the fine arts was reminiscent of high German culture.
Misha was always kind to my mother, “How do you do, Mrs. Wagner,” he would say as he shook her hand and feigned a mock but polite curtsy. Misha adored his mother who had committed suicide. Mothers meant a great deal to him
But this was the past and the magic of the Nutcracker is how it evokes fond memories as everyone wonders, “When was the first time I saw the Nutcracker.
But would the tree rise? I still pondered.
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The opening party in which Marie and her Prince share their magical gifts and then are transported into battles between soldiers and mice to a glistening snow covered forest and land of sweets was so delicate and empowering. Oh my, then the princess falls asleep and wakes up and as the tree does. And the tree rises. Yes it grows. Just like it had in New York, but better! Better because the lights on the tree had movement which gave depth to the tree. Dimension. A rhythmic quality. And it went up and up and the lights twinkled and went from blue to red to yellow back to blue and all in time with the music and it was, oh, so magical. I was thrilled to see the originality of the Pennsylvania Ballets sets and this vision of the stunning Nutcracker.
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As to Tchaikovsky’s opinion of the Nutcracker, he was less satisfied with it than with Sleeping Beauty and was hesitant to write it. But eventually he wrote to a friend that he was becoming daily more attuned to his task. Written in 1892, it was not until 100 years later that the complete ballet achieved great popularity. And grateful fans witnessed in February 2016, the Pentatonix winning a Grammy for an acappella arrangement of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” And so Tchaikovsky lives on winning awards in our popular culture.
Outstanding performances were Amy Aldridge as the Sugarplum Fairy and her Cavalier, Ian Hussey. But it is the professionalism and joy of the many children that tears at your heart as performed by Claire Smith as the Little Princess and Aidan Duffy as the Little Prince.
While seeing the Nutcracker Suite recalls the innocence and naiveté of youth and all its charming trappings, storm clouds often loom on the horizon with age, but a visit to the Academy of Music and its fine production of Tchaikovsky’s score and Balanchine’s images performed through December 31, puts all that sadness to rest and replaces it with fond, joyful memories for celebration of a traditional Christmas Season with one’s remaining family and friends.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

REVIEW. hEATHER MAC RAE ELECTRIFIES IN HAIR REVIVAL AT 54 BELOW


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Heather Mac Rae Electrifies In Hair Revival at Feinstein’s 54 Below

07/27/2016 04:18 pm ET | Updated 5 hours ago
In the seventies the basement of Studio 54 was a rundown cavernous hiding place where I did coke with one of its owners. On a separate occasion in the above disco my hair caught fire while in the throes of being chic with the rich and famous.
Today this run down cavernous hiding place of yore has been converted to a glamorous Broadway Supper Club at 254 W. 54 called Feinstein’s 54 Below which BTW has delicious food. It was a shock to see this disco through sober eyes In 1980 I got the message.
2016-07-26-1469562975-104265-IMG_0574.JPG On July 24 along with friends I had the privilege of hearing 54 Sings Hair featuring Natalie Mosco, Marjorie Lipari, Dale Soules who is so magnificent in Orange is the New Black, Allan Nichols who wrote and starred in Robert Altman’s great films— the Wedding, A Perfect Couple, Nashville-- and Heather Mac Rae. And when Heather Mac Rae sang Sheila’s song Easy to Be Hard, during the second show the audience hooted and hollered and gave her a standing ovation for five minutes applauding “the voice.” Heather has her father’s voice. He was the musical superstar Gordon- OKLAHOMA! - Mac Rae.
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Tears came to my eyes to see and to hear my dear friend sing a song that was catapulted to fame in 1968. Heather says, “I think the music of Hair is amazing and people never tire of listening to it. I never get tired of singing Easy to be Hard. It just gets better with age. Like us.”
James Rado, who wrote Hair with Jerome Ragni and who is pictured below, stood and applauded along with the audience. Rado, as you would expect, was down to earth and charming beyond belief and happy to see his creation revived. In the original Hair Diane Keaton was the understudy to Lynn Kellogg and Heather replaced Keaton.
The show, was sold out for two performances. Scott Coulter, a cabaret and concert artist, asked Heather, “Do you think you could get some of the original cast members to perform at Feinstein’s 54 Below“ And voila! Heather helped to round up the cast for the hour and a half show filled with the top tunes from Hair and some original cast members.
2016-07-26-1469564090-5483984-IMG_0628.JPG I drove from Philadelphia to New York just for this event. My good friend, Diane Reed was my companion. She owns Tom’s Pet Shop and sold me the love of my life, Herbert, a five lb. Maltese. We met celebrity attorney Robert Hantman, Esq, who has been honored by the Navy Seals.
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The evening ended too soon as Robert walked Diane and me to my red VW EOS convertible where we put the top down and drove back to Philadelphia under the stars when I learned on Sirius’s Hits that Mike Posner’s I took a pill in Ibiza made it to number one on the charts which pleased me but not as much as the thought of greeting Herbert and his paws which I longed to embrace.
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Friday, July 17, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW; ANT MAN...CGI REIGNS, BUT NOT MUCH ELSE



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Movie Review: Ant Man... CGI Reigns, But Not Much Else

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Paul Rudd is charming as the Ant Man. He is not too broad which he has a tendency to be, but plays it just right. He is Scott Lang a master thief who has lost custody of his daughter due to his attraction to all things criminal while Michael Douglas plays the not so mad scientist, Dr. Hank Pym, who rescues Rudd from his wayward ways by turning him into the Ant Man. Marvel Studios' brings a founding member of the Avengers to IMAX 3D and the flying ants have never looked so good. Dr Pym who created the Avengers, guards the secret behind the Ant Man suit from Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) Mr. Evil, who is intent on destruction of most of the universe. Hope played by the perfectly beautiful Evangeline Lilly is effective as Dr. Pym's daughter who initially is ambivalent about Rudd's ability to don the spectacular ant suit invented by her father. This inventive suit of great retro design reduces ones size yet increases ones strength. But it is Rudd's final heist that must go smoothly to save the world.
Michael Douglas explained on a recent talk show that there were four set ups for each shot and the fourth was shooting from the perspective of the ant. He found working in the environment of CGI fascinating and went on to explain that while Marvel has gone big big big, it was time to go small as this was the only way left to go.
Michael Pena as one of Rudd's partners in crime plays a bumbling burglar with panache. Pena does not miss a beat with his lines and expressions. The dialogue written by Stan Lee, Paul Rudd, Joe Cornish, Edgar Wright, Adam Mackay is snappy but could have been a bit wittier. Buzz words with an over the top hipness were few. But who's kidding, the CGI made Ant Man. Douglas himself was in awe of the special effects team with whom he worked. But stunning special effects can not resolve the problems in this Marvel wonder. Peyton Reed directed at a fast pace and predictability was kept at a minimum but overall, the story lulled in parts and ultimately was a snore. Yawning was kept at a minimum, but the excitement that a Marvel creation normally creates was sadly missing. .

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW..MAGIC MIKE XXL...STILL PERSPING


Magic Mike XXL... Movie Review.... Still Perspiring

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Hot, hot, hot! Stuff a $100 bill in the crotch of the producers of Magic Mike XXL and Steve Soderbergh, the behind the scenes maestro, for making sex on the screen something you can not write home about. My, this is a long time coming. Far superior to Magic Mike One. Great writing and pacing. Magic Mike XXL builds sexual heat like a great strip tease. Funny dialogue which just makes you want to shout, "Take It Off!" The dancing is over the top, but I longed for more of the gyrations from those 'male entertainers,' Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) and Joe Manganiello. Watching these gyrating specimens of male pulchritude made my night and day and then some.
The women were no dogs either as Jada Pinkett Smith and Andie MacDowell held their own against fierce flesh. I remember when MacDowell's voice was dubbed in Tarzan because the producers claimed she could not act. Well, she can act and held up the image of all those women who long for sex who do not care about public opinion. MacDowell nailed these feelings. Bless the writer Reid Carolin for showing the heat of frustrated women longing for firm male flesh. The sleeper 'male entertainer' was Michael Strahan who began the procession of sultry passionate stripping and was refreshingly devoid of his smaltzy TV personality. He was genuine in his display to please a woman and totally blushworthy-- the Rhett Butler of the brothel of sorts run by Jada Pinkett Smith. Well, it's really a dance hall for African American women who have been neglected by their males and need to be told they are beautiful, sexy, loving and also specimens of proud flesh too often beaten down by their guys.
Gregory Jacobs directs Magic Mike XXL knowing his audience waits with baited breath and torn pantyhose for the moment when they "Take It Off!" He cleverly builds the crescendo and heat so that it finally explodes in the finale mc'd by that terrific comedian Elizabeth Banks who is the mistress of ceremony when they all finally strip. Another sleeper is Matt Bomer who is also great with comedy and delivers some of the best lines with a straight face, yet when he dances, he shows no humor, but is pure sex appeal. Magic Mike XXL works because the comedy is placed in the right moments and when it is time to "Take It Off!", the comedy is dropped and sheer passion oozes from the screen. Seconds? Count me in!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

MOVIE REVIEW: INSIDE OUT....CONVOLUTED


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Movie Review: Inside Out...Convoluted

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After repressing several urges to walk out during the screening of Inside Out, I stayed until the conclusion. Alas, this is an overrated film directed by Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen that is confusing. It is also childish and, yet, too complex for children. For adults, it is a drag. Yes, it is a clever thought, but it is not executed with a matching expertise. We all know we have a range of emotions and they are at war each other daily. But the animation of these emotions is subpar for Pixar. Up created by Pixar had a spectacular story line and the animation of the characters was stellar. The animation of the parents of Inside Out's Riley, our star, is up to snuff, but the emotions of Joy, (Amy Poehler) Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling), Sadness (Phyllis Smith) are not clever to look at. They are not up to Pixar's ability to create inventive animated characters.
The story line is that these emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind. The play on words as in "head" "quarters" is as silly as is this film. Throughout the day these emotions speak to Riley and interact. Riley is at a crisis in her young life as her father has uprooted her from her Midwest life to live in San Francisco where he has a new job. As Riley struggles to adjust to her new life, chaos ensues in Headquarters. Alas chaos ensues in the plot which becomes chaotic without much reason. Chaos is not plot as my former mentor Norman Mailer would preach, but Pixar seems to have created a movie that should be called Chaos, instead of Inside Out. Oh, it is charming how Riley faces the new activities at school, the trials of moving into a home before the furniture arrives, and trying to fit in with her new classmates. But the story line was not enough for me. And as I struggled inside my being with should I or shouldn't I leave the theatre, I identified with the turmoil Riley was experiencing in her head, her headquarters. And while Sadness ends up being the emotional star of this movie, I did experience this emotion because I stayed until the end of this film and sadly left the theatre.

MOVIE REVIEW: TED 2 ...WORKS





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Movie Review: Ted 2 Works

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Ignore the early moments of Ted 2 which are like a randy horse coming out of the confinements of an opening gate. Once set free Ted 2 lumbers unmercifully from one ribald gag to another. Some are riotously funny. Other gags miss, but just when you think, "This isn't working," Seth MacFarlane lands a whopper and you are back in the game of laughing and having a good time.
Humor is like that. Jokes are risks. And MacFarlane has some of the biggest balls in the comedy industry as proven by his risk taking. His writing falls on its face then bounces back with a gigantic grin. Several times I actually laughed out loud after thinking, "This film sucks."
MacFarlane holds no prisoners. No one is sacred. Even F. Scott Fitzgerald's name offers one of the funniest exchanges in Ted 2.
The plot is predictable and I am happy to say this film is not about plot. It is merely a vehicle for MacFarlane's curious, outrageous and lovable mind. As well as fellow writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. The film opens with Ted marrying Tami Lynn (Jessica Barth). They are riotously happy then in the next scene they are at each other's throats. Ted comes to the conclusion that if Tami Lynn and he had a baby, their domestic strife would evaporate. A sperm donor is sought. This evokes some of the funnier moments as Tom Brady has a small scene that lights up the screen. My, is he beyond handsome and a good actor who proved this by lying about inflatgate.
John (Mark Wahlberg), Ted's best friend, becomes the sperm donor and wrecks a lab in a good scene which ends with John being covered with sperm. (You have to see it.) The sperm idea does not work as Tami Lynn is unable to carry a baby. Hence Ted and Tami Lynn visit adoption agencies. This fails as well as the fact thatTed must prove to the government that he is human not property.
Ted and Tami and John seek a lawyer to sue for Ted's right to be recognized as being human. Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) is hired as a pro bono lawyer. She loses her noble attempt, but as a paste up script would do, Patrick Meighan (Morgan Freeman) prances in during the final moments as a noble hot shot lawyer to save Ted's Day. The end is a bummer in laugh town, but if you go to a comedy with the desire to laugh, by the end of Ted 2, you are tired of judging laughs and just "Go with it." Judging the quality of laughs is not what Ted 2 is about. Laughing is.