Monday, October 30, 2006
The Boyfriend and I decided to make this a theater weekend by seeing not one, but two musicals. We kicked things into gear Friday night with a staging of Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, located on the CSU Long Beach campus. Having never seen a show at the Center, I wasn't sure what to expect so when we walked through the "Will Call" doors, I was surprised at the counters lined with jewelry, purses, scarves, and pieces of art for sale (with all proceeds going to maintain the Center). And none of the items had anything to do with theater or the Center, which stuck me as a bit odd, but the older ladies were snatching up coral bracelets and chunks of amber dangling from sterling silver chains, chatting away with friends and enjoying the night at the theater. We wandered through the lobby, stopping in front of the display cases containing gold records, original sheet music and the three Grammies of Richard and Karen Carpenter; another display case near the concession stand contained Karen's original drum set alongside Richard's piano and a few lead sheets of music in Richard's hand. After reading everything possible, we wandered into the theater to take our seats.
People quietly filed into the theater after us, quickly filling the one thousand-plus seats. The lights dimmed, the orchestra played a rousing introduction, the curtain rose with a spotlight on a young Millie Dumont fresh from Kansas to seek her fortune in New York City. Her idea of fortune: to find a job with a single, rich boss so that she can marry him. The problem is, she's broke ("not poor, because broke can be fixed!") and needs to find someplace to stay. She finds herself at the Hotel Priscilla, run by Mrs. Meers, with the other young Moderns looking for work. But little does she realize that the Priscilla is a front for a white slavery ring, run by Mrs. Meers, which kidnaps orphaned girls to send to Southeast Asia. These two stories collide in one of the funniest, most energetic musicals I've seen. Kate Fahrner shines as Millie Dumont, especially when she tackles The Speed Test to get her stenog job. Cynthia Ferrer is hysterical as Mrs. Meers, the pseudo-Asian conwoman who runs the Hotel Priscilla. Robert J. Townsend as Mr. Trevor Graydon, Millie's boss, gives his character the right comedic touch. Kurt Robbins does a fine job as Jimmy Smith, the man who hopelessly falls for Millie. Kami Seymour also gives a laugh-out-loud performance as Miss Flannery who runs Mr. Graydon's typing pool. Arthur Kwan and Daniel May as Ching Ho and Bun Foo delightedly surprised the audience by singing in Chinese -- with super titles appearing on a screen above them -- and had me almost in tears with their rendition of Not for the Life of Me. And then, there's Reva Rice as Muzzy Van Hossmere: sexy, sassy and with a knockout voice, she is Muzzy, leading Millie through the ups and downs of finding true love in New York City. The energetic dance numbers, incredible music (with the jazz-age reworking of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker suite by Jeanine Tesori), and enthusiastic performances from the entire cast made this an exciting night, and it was all we could talk about during a very late dinner at The Shore House.
Unfortunately, that good feeling didn't last through the show we saw Saturday night.
>We left the apartment, headed for the portion of Santa Monica Blvd. known as Theatre Row. We left early enough, hoping to circumvent any possible traffic delays and the Dia de Los Muertos festivities at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, but no such luck. All freeways heading into Los Angeles were bumper to bumper with slow-moving traffic so after a while, The Boyfriend exited the freeway, opting for surface streets to cross the city. We made better time on those streets and found ourselves the first in the parking lot adjacent to the theater with well over an hour before the show was to start. We stepped into the Caffé Bacio in front of the Hudson Theater Guild for drinks while waiting for the box office to open for tonight's show: Bat Boy: The Musical.
I'd heard about the show a few years ago, after it won quite a few awards in Los Angeles, then Off-Broadway, then found its way to the London stage and more critical acclaim. The musical told the story of a half boy/half bat creature, discovered in a cave near Hope Falls, West Virginia and was based upon an article from the Weekly World News in June of 1992. That alone was enough to pique my interest, but after listening to clips of the soundtrack on Amazon, I convinced myself that I wanted to see it if it ever returned to L.A. The Boyfriend found a run of the show at the Hudson Guild and thought it might be a fun, pre-Halloween treat so we agreed to go so here we sat in the café.
Around 7:45 PM, the doors opened, and we followed the tiny crowd into the equally tiny theater. More like a small box, with perhaps 40-45 seats. The stage was painted black, as were all the set pieces: two ladders supporting a long metal bar, a platform stage right with a small step ladder, another raised platform about ten feet high at stage left, the cramped area for the three musicians at the back stage right. It reminded me of a community college production, and when the show started, that feeling was immediately reinforced. No one wore a microphone which became both a bad and good thing: bad because not everyone sang or spoke loudly; good because when they did, many didn't seem quite on key. The scene transitions took too long, creating a stop-and-go feel to the production. The dancing came across very lackluster -- which is probably what happens when you have a bunch of non-dancers dance. The only highpoints: Eduardo Enrikez as the Bat Boy, who seemed at ease with not only the physical demands of the role but with the singing and acting, too; Mary Kate Weiss as Shelley, the young woman who falls in love with Bat Boy, has a fantastic voice and enjoyed the role; and the wide variety of musical styles from gospel to rock to show-stopping musical numbers all with witty and catchy lyrics. We would have left during the intermission, but Enrikez was so good that we wanted to watch his entire performance. Once the show thankfully ended, we hurried to the car, locked the doors and drove away as quickly as possible, laughing at how bad the production was.
Friday, October 27, 2006
First Line Friday
The answer to last week's First Line:
Congratulations to Daniel, the Guy in the Desert for being the first to correctly name the song. Frank Loesser wrote this memorable tune for the 1952 movie Hans Christian Anderson starring Danny Kaye and has since been recorded by such artists as Anne Murray, Kenny Loggins and Frank Sinatra. One particular recording was cause for much debate in the comments of the last First Line post. After some research, I learned that rhino75 from the blog Bookpacker was correct: popular French singer Charles Aznavour sang his version of the song on a January 1977 episode of The Muppet Show.
As for this week's First Line, I wanted to keep things in the spirit of Halloween so here's another song from a classic movie:
In the velvet darkness
Of the blackest night
There's a guiding star
No matter what or who you are
A young Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon warbled this tune in the cult smash The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Bonus points if you can name their characters!!!
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Perhaps it was the sourdough melt with turkey and French fries for dinner last night. Or maybe the staying up late to watch Lost with The Boyfriend after our reading group. Whatever it was, I endured the weirdest of dreams last night.
...Benjamin Linus and John Locke are walking through the lab corridors beneath the Lost island. They push through grimy door after grimy door, all the while Ben talks about the experiments they're conducting. John doesn't seem to fazed by it until as they walk through the final door, a headless body dressed in a white, paper hospital gown walks past them into the corridor. John seems bemused by this and turns to say something to Ben, but before he can open his mouth, Ben says, "It's time, John." A large display of body parts -- moving arms and hands, heads, legs -- rises from an opening in the floor and John is no longer standing beside Ben. His head and shoulders, still wearing a portion of his light green t-shirt, are sitting on a shelf while his hands and arms point and flail from different shelves. John says to Ben, "Okay, let's get this over with." The lights flicker, and I'm sitting on my couch, hunched over my coffee table doing something. A shadow stops on the carpet in front of me, and I look up at a young man wearing dirty gray jeans and a dirty gray hooded sweatshirt. He smiles through a ragged moustache and shining gray eyes. I sit back into the couch just as the young man pulls a gun from a pocket of the sweatshirt, points it at the ground between my legs and fires. Scared and thinking only of having to cancel my credit cards, I reach into the back pocket of my jeans and hand the young man my wallet. "Next time, remember to say 'Sir' when I walk in." He turns to leave....
I woke up, startled and a bit frightened. The clock registered that I'd only been asleep for a little over an hour.
Do I even want to know what these mean?
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The Boyfriend and I spent a fun two hours watching The Prestige before the incidents of the last post. (Which seriously lasted no longer than ten minutes per orgasmic rush.) The movie tells a twisted tale of one-upsmanship, beginning when illusionist Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) ties the wrong knot during an illusion and drowns the wife of fellow illusionist Robert Angiers (Hugh Jackman). Angeirs retaliates out of sadness and anger, tampering with one of Borden's illusions and shooting off two of Borden's fingers in the process. The attempts to outdo one another become more audacious as Angier's manager Cutter (Michael Caine) tries to convince him of their folly which takes them to the Colorado workshop of Nikola Tesla (David Bowie). Fantastic visuals, fine acting, a great story filled with intriguing twists and turns, and gratuitous shots of a shirtless Hugh Jackman make for a very entertaining film from start to finish.
Monday, October 23, 2006
When the Ceiling's A-Rockin'
Saturday night, after returning from the movies and some dessert at Hoff's Hutt, we lay on the bed flipping through the channels. We happened upon The Devil's Backbone on the Independent Film Channel, moments after it began, and settled in for the rest of the night. I'm not sure how much time had passed, but in the film the young Carlos was descending the steps into the huge cistern beneath the orphanage to confront the ghost of Santi when from up above, a steady tapping like a mouse infestation began, growing louder and punctuated with hard thumps. The Boyfriend and I looked at the ceiling, then each other, then toward the window trying hard not to laugh as a woman's moan echoed down the alley in time with the thumping.
"New neighbors," he said. "Just moved in on Thursday. It was like this last night, too."
The moaning grew louder, more urgent. "I guess they're breaking things in."
"Don't worry. They'll start up again soon."
Twenty minutes later....
Friday, October 20, 2006
First Line Fridays
The answer to last week's:
Werewolves of London composed by LeRoy Marinell, Waddy Wachtel, and Warren Zevon; performed by Warren Zevon
Congratulations to Christian at Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering? for correctly naming that tune. Released on Warren Zevon's 1978 Excitable Boy album, Werewolves of London peaked at number twenty-one in the U.S. and remained on the charts for twelve weeks. Featured artists on this track included bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac fame.
This week's First Line comes thanks to a math equation posted on Glennalicious. I woke this morning and for the life of me, could not get that math problem out of my head. Damn you! So you can thank him for this one....
Two and two are four
Four and four are eight
Eight and eight are sixteen
Sixteen and sixteen are thirty-two
Danny Kaye sang this little ditty in the film Hans Christian Andersen back in 1952. Actually, he never sang these particular lyrics; the group of children constantly surrounding him sang those numerical lines over and over, providing the rhythm for the song. Anyone care to take a guess?
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Up to the Challenge?
So Jef over at Cult of Jef challenged me to participate in this year's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) competition. And I grudgingly said yes with this caveat: do not write something as "adult-oriented" as last year's novel. (Honest, that wasn't what I tried to write. I just kinda sorta happened.) 50,000 words without a hint of adult playfulness, albeit unintentional? Oh, the hardship of a writer's life....
Monday, October 16, 2006
Bookwhore Chronicles: Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies
When I first began writing this blog, I promised myself to write every something every single day, no matter how boring or silly the post turned out to be. And for a while, I kept that promise. But my little obsessiveness (or nitpickiness, if you will) when writing the actual sentences soon took its toll. Even after running the spell checker, I would re-read my posts numerous times, discovering words that, though not misspelled, were used incorrectly, or commas that didn't belong where I thought they should, or changing "that" to "which" and back to "that" because I wasn't sure which word was correct. Instead of typing new posts, much of my time was spent correcting revising and re-editing older ones. And, on more than one I occasion, I lay awake in my bed, wondering if that period belonged inside the quotation marks.
Then, earlier this year at the L.A. Times Festival of Books, I found this wonderful and informative book: Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies by June Casagrande. Everything I already knew about the English language but was afraid to use. Here I was, fretting over "that" and "which," and whether to put that damned comma inside or outside the quotation marks, and this book laid out the rules in simple terms. No need for a Ph.D.; most of the time, it depends upon what you feel comfortable using. Sure, basic rules do apply for some items, but Hell, many of the experts can't seem to agree on whether or not to write out a number or to use numerals, so why stress about it?
Where was this book while I was writing papers in college?!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Riding the Shortbus
Independent films are difficult to find in Orange County, especially if they offer some kind of gay sensibility. (Unless the film garners quite a bit of buzz, such as Capote, Brokeback Mountain, or Philadelphia.) If such an indie film happens to make its way to the OC, it usually plays at one of two theaters for at least a week -- two if we're lucky -- then unceremoniously disappears. Hate Crime offered one screening only at the Newport Beach Film Festival a year or so ago. Another Gay Movie screened for a week at the Edwards University near UC Irvine; the Spanish film Reinas for perhaps two weeks at the same theater before moving on. So if a gay or gay-friendly or an overtly sexual film makes it to the screen, it usually means a long drive North to Long Beach or to West Hollywood. One such film opened this past Friday at the Art Theatre in Long Beach: Shortbus from actor/writer/director John Cameron Mitchell.
Much controversy surrounds the film -- not because it contains gay characters, but because it contains sex. Real sex. Not silhouettes behind muslin curtains of a four-poster bed, moving to simulate intercourse for the audience. Not the camera panning toward the ceiling as the actors moan shriek scream with fake orgasms. No, this is stick-penis-into-vagina sex in front of a camera that remains fixed on the actors and the act. As you sit in the theater watching the three sets of characters, you squirm in your seat for a moment until what's going on changes from shocking to just a bit comical. James, who attempts to autofellate himself; a sex therapist named Sofia and her husband Rob going at it like there's no tomorrow; Severin, a dominatrix breaking in a new slave. Once they've finished, instead of feeling dirty from watching them, their stories unfold, showing how each character has defined his or herself by sex: James has never allowed anyone -- not even Jamie, his boyfriend of 5 years -- to fuck him and that caused a deep depression; Sofia has never experienced an orgasm and can't tell her husband; Severin doesn't find enjoyment as a dominatrix and fears that that is the only kind of relationship she can have.
Each of the characters winds up at "a salon for the gifted and specially challenged"* called the Shortbus, operated by the Mistress of Ceremonies Justin Bond. Shortbus is where the lovelorn, the sexually frustrated, the lonely people of New York go to find others like themselves. All shapes, colors and sizes are welcomed like old friends to talk, to eat, to sing karaoke, to play board games, or to have sex without feeling pressured. And it's at the Shortbus where each character learns how to define his or herself.
Mitchell's deft script, created in part with much input from the actors, is smart, funny (Sofia's experience with a remote-controlled, vibrating egg), and surprisingly touching (a scene between Ceth and Tobias the Mayor about the impermeability of human beings). The large cast delivers fine performances including those of Paul Dawson and P.J. DeBoy as James and Jamie, Sook-Yin Lee as Sofia, Lindsay Beamish as Severin, and Justin Bond as Justin Bond. And Scott Matthews' beautiful score and songs added the perfect atmosphere to the entire film.
At the Cannes Film Festival, Shortbus received a ten-minute standing ovation. What will it receive in Orange County? That remains to be seen....
* quote from Shortbus official site.
Friday, October 13, 2006
First Line Friday
The answer to last week's First Line (featuring a photograph from Yours Truly):
When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano music/lyrics by Leon René
Leon René was born in Louisiana in 1902, but by the 1950s played a crucial part in the West Coast's R&B sound writing such songs as Rockin' Robin. He also served as the head of one of the earliest black record labels in America: Exclusive and Excelsior Records (which later became Class Records). For music buffs, the original piano used to compose When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano is on view at the Mission San Juan Capistrano.
With it being Friday the 13th and October, my next First Line takes a decidedly monster-filled turn with this 1978 classic from Warren Zevon:
I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's
Going to get himself a big dish of beef chow mein
Mmmmm.... Chow mein sounds good right now. Maybe I'll head over to the local Pick Up Stix for lunch....
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
The Week in Review
After re-reading my last post, I realized I didn't end it well. I never can seem to end a post properly, allowing the thing to amble and fade into oblivion rather than tying things up nicely. Plus, I forgot to mention items about The Wiz including how the gates of Oz turned out to be giant, glittery, disco ball-laden piece of bling, or how Evillene belted out her main song as if she sang the Gospels but when she spoke, she came across as the whispering love child of Macy Gray and Harvey Fierstein, or how the pineapple upside-down cheesecake didn't sit well with my stomach so I was up until 2 AM.
Brevity might be the best way to solve my problem with post endings so instead of a series of overly long posts with bad finishes, I decided to provide a day-by-day recap of events....
By the time we made it back to my house, neither of us could move. Our legs hurt. Our faces were red with sunburn. I fell on my bed and slept for quite some time.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
A Visit to the O-Z
Sunday afternoon, we hopped into The Boyfriend's car and headed for San Diego to begin my birthday celebration. Azure skies, light wisps of clouds, the sparkling Pacific Ocean to our right, and few cars to impede our travels so we made good time, reaching the interchange of the I-5 and the I-8 in roughly an hour and a half. We exited the interstate in a part of San Diego known as Hotel Circle Drive, a street running along both sides of the interstate with hotels of every shape, size and brand name stretching as far as the eye can see. Which confused us when trying to locate our particular Comfort Inn among the four or five all within half a mile of one another. But we persevered, checked in to our large room with the king-sized bed and the view of the freeway overpass, quickly unpacked, and began the search for food.
The Boyfriend hesitantly approached an unpleasant-looking woman seated behind a desk and computer in the lobby and asked where we might find a restaurant nearby. She furrowed her eyebrows, grunted something, then handed him a photocopied list of restaurants. "Thanks," and we hurried to the car.
Minutes later, we parked at the Fashion Valley Mall and wandered from one end of the mall to the other, passing restaurant after restaurant until we found ourselves in the parking lot standing opposite a Cheesecake Factory. I don't remember what either of us ordered, but we had enough food to feed four people. Neither of us finished, and yet we both ordered desserts to take back to the hotel room for later: a slice of Chocolate Blowout Cake for him; Pineapple Upside-down Cheesecake for me. With our stomachs full, we slowly re-crossed the entire mall and made it back to the hotel with only a few moments to rest before we had to get ready.
The signs after exiting the freeway directed us to a small corner of the UC San Diego campus. We followed the trail of cars, up and down small hills, around blind corners and into an almost-full parking lot and snaked up and down a few rows looking in vain for an empty space close to the theater before giving up and heading to the farthest reaches of the lot. The short trek to the theater probably did me some good after that large dinner. Soon, though, we stood in front of the La Jolla Playhouse waiting for the doors to open and for our first glimpse of Des McAnuff's re-imagined The Wiz.
The theater was much smaller than I imagined: a round stage flanked at the back by a few rows of seats, the "Road" drifting off stage left into the main audience behind the seventh row back up stage right, the remaining eight rows quietly filling the remaining space. The Boyfriend had read that McAnuff wanted to update the show, to bring a modern Oz that fits with the hip-hop techie world of today so above the catwalks and the seats behind the stage, large TV monitors displayed the cornfields of Kansas, the roof of Aunt Em's house held a large satellite dish connected to the on-stage TV with converter box and Tivo, and the cast provided a melting pot of ethnicities. The seats quickly filled, and we were delighted to find ourselves with the "Road" directly behind us (so close, in fact, that we dodged and ducked to avoid the dancers' feet as the eased on down during the show).
Before the show began, Des McAnuff stepped onto the stage to explain that we were about to see a preview of the show, meaning that he may stop the performance to rework cues or change lighting or experiment with different ways of presenting a scene. He hoped we would enjoy the show, then returned to his seat as the lights dimmed. ...
Dorothy enters bringing Toto to sit with her in front of the TV while Uncle Henry adjusts the satellite dish. A storm seems to be approaching so Aunt Em takes the laundry from the clothes line, all the while talking with Henry about what to do with Dorothy. She calls Dorothy to help bring in the laundry, but Dorothy hems and haws about having to do such work. Aunt Em, played by Valarie Pettiford, sings to Dorothy, played by Nikki M. James about how things used to be, The Feeling We Once Had, almost bringing the audience to its feet. And that was just the beginning. The cast pulled out show-stopping song after show-stopping song. Fantastic dancing. A wonderful range of performances from comedic to heartwarming to villainous. David Alan Grier almost stole the show with his hysterical performance as The Wiz. Valarie Pettiford wrenched the emotion out of the audience as both Aunt Em and Glinda. Michael Benjamin Washington as Tinman, Rashad Naylor as Scarecrow, Tituss Burgess as Lion (who steals the show), and Albert Blaise Cattafi as Toto made the perfect companions for Nikki M. James' Dorothy.
For me, the sign of a great show is when in one scene, I become so caught up in the emotion and the magic of what's happening that I forget for a moment the rest of the audience and the theater itself. It's almost as though I'm alone in the room, and the real world has disappeared being replaced by the fantasy world on-stage. After a skirmish with the Kalidahs, Tinman and Scarecrow poke fun at Lion, making him flee from the group because of his cowardice. Dorothy tries to convince Lion of how courageous he really is, that the courage is deep inside him. Together, they sing Be a Lion, and Lion changes from the coward he thinks himself to be, to the Lion he truly is. I sit in my seat, eyes fixed on Dorothy and Lion, mouth slightly agape, holding my breath, eyes welling, and the magic takes hold.
The cast received a much-deserved standing ovation, and we regretfully left the theater, both of us talking non-stop about the show until we fell asleep.
Friday, October 06, 2006
First Line Friday
The answer is:
Everybody Rejoice (Brand New Day), music/lyrics by Luther Vandross
The inspiration for this week's comes from where I spent Wednesday during my week-long birthday extravaganza: The Mission San Juan Capistrano. Glenn Miller's recording of this song reached #2 in 1940 and was quickly followed the same year by The Ink Spots (which reached #4).
When the swallows come back to Capistrano
That's the day you promised to come back to me
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Sunday, October 01, 2006
I slept in 'til 8:30 Saturday, a luxury I don't often allow myself. I come from a family of early risers and am accustomed to being up and about by 7 AM, weekends be damned. So with this unexpected late rising, finding myself curling up beneath the soft weight of the comforter, trying not to drag myself from the pillows, I felt it necessary to take as much of the day as easily as possible. Sat on the sofa reading for an hour; stood under the shower's warm water for 20 minutes; paid a few bills; grabbed a book and ambled to the Post Office in downtown Huntington Beach, then across the street to the IHOP for breakfast. Ordered the "Big Bacon" omelet and savored the hickory-smoked bacon, Swiss and Parmesan cheeses, and the three buttermilk pancakes dripping with boysenberry syrup.
I stayed at the restaurant after finishing my food, reading a bit farther and not paying too much attention to the time. When I finally checked my watch, I hurried to the register, paid, and hurried home to change outfits. I still had one last work-related function before my vacation could officially begin, and my Area Manager was due to arrive at my place at 1 PM to drive us both to our office to pick up marketing materials and the tradeshow booth before heading to Chapman University.
By 3 PM, we'd set up the three-paneled booth, laid a banner across the table and covered it with goodies (silly putty eggs, chocolates, calendars, beach balls) and marketing pieces. At 4 PM, artists, Art Directors, Creative Directors, designers and students poured from Chapman's Memorial Hall after enjoying a day-long boot camp sponsored by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and Adobe Software to showcase the Adobe Creative Suite. We spent the next 3 hours networking, discussing the benefits of working through our agency, handing out beach balls and silly putty eggs, meeting incredibly talented artists and shmoozing with vendors such as Xerox, Apple and Adobe. All in all, a very successful event, and I even managed to snap a few pictures before the cool wind started to blow, exciting the feral parrots, cawing loudly as they flew from tree to tree.