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January 26, 2009

DOLLS: OUT OF THIS WORLD FUNNY

Pictured: Michael Phillis in Dolls

BUZZIN’ LEE HARTGRAVE
January 26, 2009

DOLLS –STARRING MICHAEL PHILLIS

A SMART, CLASSY AND FUNNY OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD COMEDY!

Pardon me if I gush, but Michael Phillis (Actor and Playwright) is by far one of the Bay Area’s most talented actors. His new play “Dolls” comes with lots of bite…laden with funny twists that blends humans and dolls in a rollicking tale of redemption, and a teenagers wide eyed fixation on his dolls. To him they are real people. And you know what? …The Cool special effects made a believer out of me.

The humor is sharp and quirky. Some of the Dolls are Super-hero action figures – but even they can become obsolete in this fast moving delightful play that wanders in an out of the real world. Hey, if you really wanna have a good time – you sure can find it in Dolls with its cheeky highflying excitement as we listen to what the Dolls have to say about their lives. And they are wiser than you might think. Even Dolls have their likes and dislikes and yes, there is a class system in the Doll world, just like the human world.

Some live on the top shelf and others are relegated to the bottom drawer. But as one Doll tells us (an action figure) – it’s comfy and cozy in there and a lot of space. Because he now had a broken hand, which made him limp wrested -- he was no longer a valuable action figure. His disfigurement took him out of battle, so to speak, but it didn’t shut him up.

During orientation day when a batch of new freshly-unboxed Dolls arrive (the audience) at the Teenagers home – the new Dolls are greeted by an unstable porcelain Southern belle that tells the new arrivals what they can and cannot do. You also get fashion tips from the “Fashion Dolls” (male and female). One of the Dolls says during the orientation that most of the Dolls are made in China or Taiwan, except for few that you will find on the Top Shelf. The Porcelain Doll says: “I’m known as TOP SHELF” She continues – “Today, it’s all about you, so lets start with me.” Oh, and you’ll also find a Barbie knockoff on the 3rd shelf. You see -- Frank (the Teenager) is known to buy “Ben’s” (as opposed to Ken’s). The off Brands are cheaper.

There’s nothing like a Star on fire. And let my tell you – Michael Phillis is THAT Star. His Beam shines so far that you will follow him anywhere. “Dolls” is the season’s most enchanting surprise. This play is just hilarious and heartfelt. I never wanted it to end. I have never really seen anything quite like it.

In fact – guess what? I went home to play with my Dolls.

THE DIRECTOR ANDREW NANCE, Completely knocked this one out of the park. The pace is consistently funny! John Kelly gave us some great and unusual lighting design. And Matt Stines gives us the extremely, great stirring sounds that are enough to make you cheer. Michelle McCoskey gave the scenery lots of “Pop” with her scenic painting. AT THE NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE CENTER. www.nctcsf.org.
RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-

THE DAY

FA-LASH: TONY AWARD WINNER 'SOUTH PACIFIC' WILL WASH UP ON OUR SHORES AND THEN SET UP SHOP AT THE GOLDEN GATE THEATER.

The cast names have not been released yet for the musical that started out in 1949 (based on James Michener's) "Tales of the South Pacific." The production will be the same as the whiz-bang-word-of-mouth production that was in New York. The entire show has been re-worked and re-sizzled. You can get your advance tix (available only through 'Best of Broadway subscriptions). For more info about the show and times go to: www.shnsf.com.

YOU CAN FOLLOW LEE HARTGRAVE: GOOGLE HIM TO SEE WHAT ELSE HE'S DOING.

January 20, 2009

20th CENTURY

THE 20TH CENTURY
by Lee Hartgrave
Janurary 20, 2009

Reporters greet the arrival of Oscar (Dan Hiatt) and Star Lily Garland (Rebecca Dines) as they get on the 20th Century. Photo by: Mark Kitaoka

FAILED CHARM SLOWS DOWN TRAIN

CHUG, CHUG, CHUG THE 20TH CENTURY TRAIN HUFFS AND PUFFS, BUT NEVER MAKES IT UP THE HILL. The Theater lights go up on the stage. The conductor welcomes us to the 20th Century Train that is known for its glamor and movie stars who used to ride on it in the Thirties. The good news is the Train on the stage is a fabulous recreation of the luxury trains of the day. I have seen this play, plus the musical version several times and this is the first set that actually looked like the inside of the luxurious train. The light fixtures are perfect deco and the furnishings are wonderful for lounging in the Club Room. The sumptuous State Rooms were meant for long travel. With that in front of me, I thought we were finally going to see this play done the way that it should be – full of fun, smart Alec remarks and tons of spirit that would recall that era. I was wrong.

The Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur play has received mixed reviews over the years. For some reason no one seems to be able to make the story move quick enough. It becomes Amtrak on the way to New York from Chicago. Yes, with a lot more chic, but nevertheless – an endless ride. Quite frankly, I don’t know what is wrong with it. The acting by Rebecca Dines and Dan Hiatt is good, (but Hiatt is no John Barrymore). The play has been reworked recently by Ken Ludwig, who cut down the characters from 50 to 10 that doesn’t seem to make much difference in the movement. I say ‘movement’, because that is what is missing. At the end of the play there is some incidental music that I call ‘moving music’. This is what is needed. It needs more segments of ‘moving music’ throughout the play to give the story a feeling of excitement and yes, movement. I know I am over using the word (movement) – but I want to make it clear why the play has dead spots that could easily be filled with music energy.

The story is about a high-ego producer-director (Hiatt) who tries to trick his former protégé and star Lily Garland (Dines) to sign a contract of a new play. Lily is now an Oscar-winning movie star (and acts like one) who is having an affair with her young agent George (Geno Carvalho). There are character actors such as a Religious nut, (Gerry Hiken who is very much fun as he posts “Repent” signs all over the Train.) Then there is another comic relief actor (Jackson Davis), a doctor who is trying to peddle his play version of Joan of Arc.

Alas, it was hard to get too excited over the few Breadcrumbs that were strewn about the stage. The play just plodded along. But what is great, are the costumes by Fumiko Bielefeldt that bring 30’s Hollywood to life. That is worth celebrating.

Robert Kelley Directed the TheatreWorks production. www.theatreworks.org.
Thru Feb. 8, 2009.

At the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts.

RATING: THREE GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!! –trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook section and produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS-KQED)))

FOLLOW LEE: Just Google his name.

January 16, 2009

RICH AND FAMOUS AT A.C.T.



RICH AND FAMOUS
by Lee Hartgrave - January 16, 2009

Pictured: Bing (Brooks Ashmanskas) and Mary Birdsong in 'Rich and Famous') Photo by: Kevin Berne.com

ACCLAIMED AUTHOR JOHN GUARE REWRITES ‘RICH AND FAMOUS’

R & F tries and tries to be funny – but ‘funny’ seems to elude this play with music. This rewrite by John Guare is very similar to Mel Brook’s “The Producers.” It is hard to say what has gone wrong here – but I know one thing--there wasn’t much spark on that stage. The play is comprised of four segments, and most of them go on way too long to keep your interest.

Here is the story: A playwright (Bing Ringling) has written over 843 plays. None of them have ever been produced. Finally one of his plays is produced on Broadway. He hopes that this play (844) will be the one that will make him a Rich and Famous playwright – adored by all of Broadway. However -- his hopes are dashed, by the producer, (a woman), that wants it to be a flop. The play was on its way to flopping anyway with an inept cast. The playwright wants to replace one of the cast members with a friend of his that is a successful movie star.

The story weaves in and out of real time and fantasy. It’s hard to know what is really going on and what is just some nutty psycho-delic (made up word) stuff in the mind of the playwright. Technically Rich and Famous should have been a big hit because it has all the elements to be just that. The cast is really exceptional and the sets are to die for. The music is not all that original, but fits into the plot well. So, what is the problem? Well, there doesn’t seem to be any ‘heart’ in this play. Maybe the real playwright John Guare should visit The Wizard of Oz to get a real heart.

I’m sorry to say that the rewrite didn’t work. It’s just not funny. Sure, you might snicker a little now and then, but don’t plan on it being flat out hilarious. Cause, it ain’t! A.C.T may just be stuck with its biggest flop of the season. Something really interesting happened when the play was over. Usually it takes some time to get out of the Theater as people stand around blocking the aisles gushing with each other about the play. Not so this time. It was a breeze to walk down the aisle. The audience couldn’t get out fast enough. Even the older people with walkers, had them in high gear.

No, Bing will not become ‘Rich and Famous’ in this story. I too would like to be ‘Rich and Famous’ – and I want an intermission. But that didn’t happen. The play is almost two hours long. Now, even when you fly on an airplane – they warn you that you should not sit for over an hour without getting up and walking a bit. It’s dangerous – you could have a heart attack. Plus – older people have to go the bathroom more often. They can’t sit that long…even to be ‘Rich and Famous’!

THE FOUR MEMBER OS THE CAST ARE HUGELY TALENTED: Brooks Ashmanskas (Bing, the playwright). Mary Birdsong is just fantastic (she plays at least four different characters). Gregory Wallace also plays many characters, as does Stephen DeRosa.) Their timing was perfect and the acting magical. They did their best to keep the play afloat.
AT THE A.C.T. THEATRE ON GEARY STREET.

RATING: TWO GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!! –trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and produced a long-running Art Segment on PBS – KQED)))
Follow Lee Hartgrave: Just Google his name.

January 13, 2009

MUD - IT'S THE REAL DEAL RAW AND RIVETING!

Pictured: Garth Petal, Alan Kaiser, Marilet Martinez in "Mud". Photo Rob Melrose

January 13, 2009
By Lee Hartgrave

MUD

MUD IS A SHOW YOU WILL REMEMBER!

THE INDUSTRIAL MUSICAL SOUNDS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SHOW SET THE TONE OF THE PLAY. AS THE CRANKING HORRIFIC MUSIC WAFTS AROUND THE THEATER, YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE GOING TO BE TRAPPED IN SOME SERIOUS UNPLEASANT MOMENTS.

The first scene: There is an ironing board. Men’s white shirts are hanging to dry. Behind the ironing board is an Iron Pot sitting on a beat up Hot Plate. Mae enters the room and starts to Iron shirts that she is pulling from a basket.

Mae lives with Lloyd, who is not the brightest bulb in this neck of the woods. Mae’s father brought Lloyd, who was an abandoned child home. He was raised with Mae. They live in rural parts in the middle of nowhere. They are completely broke. It’s doubtful that they have two quarters to rub together. Mae Irons shirts just to keep her and Lloyd in bread and soup. The room itself is enough to keep you in constant depression. Neither one of the them can read, although Mae does a little better then Lloyd, who is totally illerate. Also Lloyd in not well and he won’t go the clinic to find out what’s wrong with him. He argues with Mae goes to school when she can to learn to read and write. Lloyd just sits around and rots.

They have had an affair, although they are not married. But, now Mae is tired of him just laying around and doing nothing. “I work”, Mae says. I Iron clothes so that I can buy the things that we need to live, and I go to school.” Lloyd comes onto Mae. “I can still get it up Mae” – he says. “No you can’t get it up. You’re sick Lloyd, and you can’t get it up. You stink. Nobody wants to be near you. The dogs will puke when they get near you.”
“F%ck you Mae – I can get it up, you whore.” – says Lloyd as he rubs himself down there.

There is a “Tennessee Williams” feeling to this play. It’s real, it’s brash and hits you like a steamroller. But, as bad as things are – they get worse as a man with no home comes to visit. His name is Henry. Mae hopes that he can read a medical brochure to see if she can find out what is wrong with Lloyd. Henry is not all that helpful, even though he can read a little better. The answer is still that Lloyd needs to go to the clinic. Finally Lloyd goes to the clinic. “They want me to take some pills and they want me to buy them” – he tells Lloyd. Henry avoids offering any help, except to tell Lloyd that he needs to do what they tell him. Lloyd does get his pills, but I won’t tell you how he got them.

Henry moves in, replacing Lloyd in Mae’s bed. Then an accident happens and Henry becomes partially paralyzed. Now Mae has two imperfect men to take care off. She wants to get on with her life. Mae wants to go to school to learn things. When she walks out the door, Lloyd is destroyed. He completely falls apart as he blends into the Mud and dirt on the floor. His torn socks are like a statement of his life. The ending is heartbreaking, and indescribably moving! Prepare to be riveted. This play shows you the thin line between love and hate. The acting is absolutely brilliant by these masterly actors: Alan Kaiser (Lloyd), Marilet Martinez (Mae) and Garth Petal (Henry). The spectacular directing is by Paige Rogers. The fascinating, complex play is by Maria Irene Fornes. Liliana Duque designed a perfect set, and Cliff Caruthers sound design chilled me to the bone. Bessie Delucchi’s Costume designs were right on target. Clear your calendar to see “Mud” – a heartbreaking story of resilience, hope, and how far people will go to get it.

PLAYING AT THE ‘CUTTING BALL THEATRE’ (At Exit Theatre) on Taylor Street.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (Highest Rating) –trademarked-
AIRWAVES EXCHANGE (Hot Stuff)

MOVIE STAR ARLENE DAHL will be interviewed on the Castro Stage on Sat. January 24, between screenings of two of her films – favorites that she made back-to-back in 1956: Slightly Scarlet and the rarely screened femme-fatale classic ‘Wicked as The Come.’ The theme of this years Noir City is ‘newspaper noir,’ with many of the films set in the world of newspapers, or, in some cases, publishing or radio. You can expect a lot of quick and tart dialogue. Just the kind that I like. Producer-host is Mr. Noir himself, Eddie Muller and co-programmer Anita Monga. Together they have made a special effort to have Noir City’s daily double bills reflect actual 1940’s-era theater programming. With that in mind, they have sought out rare, legitimate B films -- shorter movies that were intentionally made to fill out the second half of a program. Muller told me: “I think this will probably be as close as you’re going to get to actually going to the movies in 1948.” The Noir City festival is produced under the auspices of the Film Noir foundation, a nonprofit Corporation dedicated to rescuing and restoring America’s noir heritage. All proceeds from the festival directly support the foundation’s mission of finding preserving, and restoring films.

The Festival runs at the Castro Theater Jan. 23 through Feb. 1, 2009. Muller says: “Two movies for 10 bucks. The best deal in town. San Francisco fans deserve nothing less. Also available is a Festival Passport to all the movies ($100). These films are a tribute to the legacy of America’s fourth estate, in all its flawed and fabulous glory.” Info: www.noircity.com.

HOT GOOD NEWS…The New Conservatory Theatre has extended the run of “Zanna Don’t” a gay High School musical fairy tale. Dates added – Jan 18 – February 1st. Get out your wand and get ready to click your heels together as you visit a Gay High School. Info: www.nctcsf.org.

INDIE FEST is coming Feb. 5-22, but you don’t have to wait to go the Benefit/Launch Party on Jan 23 at the Elbo room, Valencia at 17th with” Shotgun Wedding Quintet, Ex-Boyfriends (the best kind), Polio del Mar and exciting festival previews. The party is 21up; cover is $10 bucks, and all proceeds benefit the 11th SF IndieFest. CARTOON DUMP with Frank Conniff (Mystery Science theater 3000 will be at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, SF, 8pm $20. Whazit that? Cartoon Dump combines sketches, songs puppets, stand-up comedy and crappy cartoons (the worst Cartoons…EVER!) -- TO CREATE A UNIQUELY DISTURBING AND HILARIOUS EXPERIENCE. Buzzin likes disturbing! Info: www.cartoondump.com. P.S. The Eighth Annual SF Sketchfest features appearances by ‘The State, Tim and Eric and Martin Mull.’

SF SKETCH COMEDIANS ‘KILLING MY LOBSTER’ RETURN TO FULL LENGTH PLAY TERRITORY WITH THE WORLD PREMIERE OF MATT PELFREY’S COMIC HOLLYWOOD SATIRE ‘PURE SHOCK VALUE’
(PSV). THE PLAY WILL BLAST THROUGH THE DOORS OF THE EXIT THEATER FEB. 26 THROUGH MARCH 22 2009. You remember the KML group, don’t you? They are the group who brought us the absolutely and crazy “Hunter Gatherers”, by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb. Pure Shock Value centers on three-film industry bottom-feeders on the brink of abandoning their Hollywood Ambitions. This is surreal comedic journey through the underbelly of Hollywood, far from Beverly Hills three-picture deal and multi-million dollar profits. The author Matt Pelfrey is the resident playwright at the award-winning Furious Theatre Co. in Pasadena. Here are a couple of his plays that have been produced around the world. “Honkies with Attitude”, and ‘Jerry Springer is God.’ Tix and Info: www.killmylobster.com and nightly at the door.

THEATREWORKS will present the “Twentieth Century” that had a long ride on Broadway and has played almost continuously around the world. In the movies Gloria Swanson played the role of the Diva. Charles Bruce Milholland bases the stage play by Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur in a new adaptation by Ken Ludwig. In this nutty comedy, Broadway and Hollywood collide in the 1930’s. Opens Jan 17th (Saturday) at 8PM. Info: www.theatreworks.org. Or 650-903-6000.
Lily Garland stars as the Silver Screen Starlet who is on the fast moving ‘Twentieth Century Train.’

PHANTOM: LOVE NEVER DIES. Well, not as long as Andrew Lloyd Webber is around it won’t. Phantom: Love Never Dies is the sequel to the long running Phantom of the Opera, and it has planned openings soon in five U.S cities, and China. Lloyd Webber says: “The one which really interests me would be china…I think to open Love Never Dies in Shanghai would be an enormous thing.” The sequel will be set around ten years after the first Phantom. The Phantom has relocated from the Paris Opera of Gaston Leroux’s original novel to Coney Island in Brooklyn, the beachside amusement walk for New Jersey and New York. Lloyd Webber told the Times: “it was the place. Even Freud went because it was so extraordinary…people who were freaks and oddities were drawn towards it because it was a place where they could be themselves.” O.K. from that I get that the Phantom did not die in the Opera House. And since there is a shortage of creepy places to live – why not Coney Island? Who will play the Phantom this time on stage? Here are some names being bantered around: Gerard Butler, who played the role in Joel Schumacher’s 2004 film adaptation, and Hugh Jackman, who is now starring in Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia. Jackman -- has appeared in “Sunset Boulevard, Oklahoma! And The Boy from Oz.

TENNESSEE IN THE SUMMER is a play that I saw many years ago at the Surf Theatre near Ocean Beach. ‘Tennessee’, is written by Joe Besecker, a legend playwright, who has written at least 25 plays, if not more. The play will open at the New Conservatory Theatre on Jan 22 through Mar. 1st. It’s a fascinating probe into the psyche of playwright Tennessee Williams. Besecker has put together a powerful and insightful look into the private life of Tennessee Williams. Box Office: 861-8972. Recommended.

RITA MORENO, WILSON CRUZ (Broadway – Rent-, T.V. – Noah’s Arc, and film star; SPENCER DAY, LORETTA DEVINE, TUCK & PATTI, TERESE GENECCO, TIM HOCKENBERRY, SHARON MC NIGHT, SHAWN RYAN, BURN THE FLOOR (cast members for the hit Latin Ballroom dance show.) What do all the above talents have in common? Well, here’s the scoop. They are all going to be in ‘ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE’ at the POST STREET THEATRE – ON NIGHT ONLY. Presented by the Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation, this ‘Help in on the Way’ show is a Valentine Benefit Concert that will Benefit 3 Bay Area AIDS Service Organizations. Mark your Calendar for a wonderful evening of singing and fun on Feb. 9 2009.You’ve got some love in you – so lets all get together and pass it around at this all-star Valentine themed benefit concert. Tix: www.helpisontheway.org.

YOU KNOW YOUR WAY TO SAN JOSE – NOW FIND YOUR WAY TO SOME GOOD THEATRE IN ROSS. WARNING: Adult Language. The Ross Valley Players present, David Mamet’s 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning play, Glengarry Glen Ross. It’s about a small-time real estate salesman trying to make a living by any means necessary by pushing plots of land on reluctant buyers. Mamet got inspiration for the play on his experiences in a Chicago Real E$tate office. I injected the $ sign. Of course, even though the name ‘Ross’appears in the play, I’m sure that the realtors in Ross are nothing like the ones in Glengarry Glen Ross. Jan. 16 through Feb. 22. www.rossvalleyplayers.org.

SHE’S BACK!: THE GREEN WITCH WILL BE FLYING THE SPACE OVER THE ORPHEUM THEATRE BEGINNING ON FEB. 6TH. She’s Green, you know. Witches are hard to get rid of – especially when they are this popular.

FLICKER BITS: IT’S THEIR’S TO HAVE: BEST PICTURE: ACADEMY WINNER’S? – THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON. ASTOUNDING! WINNER: BEST ACTOR – MICKEY ROURKE (Wrestler). GREAT, BELIEVABLE ACTING. WINNER – BEST ACTRESS, ANGELINA JOLIE FOR “The Changeling’. EMOTIONAL TRIUMPH! These are my picks and I’m sticking to it.
You can also read Lee Hartgrave at: www.beyondchron.org.
www.nowpublic.com

AND THAT’S A WRAP!

January 6, 2009

VOYEURISM - BLOGING--LEAD TO MURDER IN PLAY

Pictured: Anne Darragh, Arwen Anderson,
Lance Gardner, Liam Vincent
Rebecca White (Kid).
Photo by:James Faerron


VOYEURISM, TEENAGE BLOG LEADS TO MURDER
By Lee Hartgrave

T.I.C. – A WILD ECCENTRIC RADICAL PLAY

T.I.C MEANS ‘TENANTS IN COMMON’, but the tenants living in this building have absolutely nothing in common. There is a daughter who hates her dad. “He’s not my real father. He fed-exd his part of me to my mother.” Another of the tenants is a ‘flasher’ that wears a Trench Coat that is easy to open on a moments notice.

There is a mysterious bomb maker that is definitely up to something. Oh, there is a Gay Guy who has sex with his computer. Later the Gay Guy hooks up with an angry T.I.C mentally disturbed musician that writes horrible music, and sings just as badly. Right from Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane, is an overly emotional, high-strung woman that wants sex so much that she will even consider having sex with anyone that walks. Sound like the building you live in?

The dialogue goes from being hip to screwball. Comic books come to mind. The action is fast. The conversations are glib and sometimes profane. Back to the daughter, who reminds of a Starbucks worker – is really high-end ‘valley girl’ talk. She annoyed me to the point that I wished she would be the one that gets killed. Not only does this creepy brat have a computer that she uses to record every movement of the other tenants, she places little cameras all over the place so that she can take pictures of them and use them on her blog. I’m wondering – why is this little bitch so unhappy? Well, it turns out that she is unhappy because she has just lost her mother, and now she has to live with a Gay man, who is her father, even though she might have been conceived with a Turkey Baster. This hate relationship runs throughout the play. At first, it was a turn-off. I wanted to get up and slap her. But, as the play goes along and the focus leaves the little whiney turd, I then began to see the humor in the play. In fact, I laughed the hardest at the most offensive and blasphemous moments. The more outrageous it became – the more I liked it.

One of the tenants does a protest against wheat by whacking at a roll of wheat with a hatchet. Now, wouldn’t that just be the best neighbor you could have? Loved this line. When a T.I.C. was asked: “What kind of work do you do?” The answer: – “I’ve never had a job, I grew up in Marin.” The Flasher announces to all, as he stands totally nude: “Your future doesn’t have to be limp” – then he shakes his limp tool. I think you get the picture. Handsome Tool by the way.

T.I.C is an artful and riveting play. It’s Neverland Ranch gone wild. You’ve just got to experience this merry romp for adults. This is “A Blast” that you’ll be telling all your friends about. The humor is absolutely astonishing. This non-stop action packed 90-minute play is faster than a high-speed train. The Encore Theater has put on “A Howl of a Triumph” with T.I.C. Yep; the Encore Theater is flying high with new works. With a Top-Flight cast, great set, terrific lighting, and Directing. The Magic Theater just crackled with excitement. The Buzz after the show was enormous. Everyone was floating. No doubt about it…this was a great moment in Theater History.

Of course it took the talents of playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, who wrote the play, and the Direction by Ken Prestininzi; He took this simmering stew and shined light on this world premiere Gem. The Actors are totally amazing. Meet the electrifying cast: Arwen Anderson (Sabra), Anne Darragh (Claudia), Lance Gardner ((Shye), Michael Shipley (Dad), Liam Vincent (Terrence), Rebecca White (Kid). Wow! What an appealing cast! Here’s the deal – “I want to see this again!”

NOW PLAYING AT THE MAGIC THEATRE AT FORT MASON
Production by Encore Theatre

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) – trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Sunday Datebook and produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))

See Lee also at: www.forallevents.com.
www.nowpublic.com. www.beyondchron.org

January 5, 2009

AMANDA KING - GRADE 'A' - A TRIUMPH

Pictured: Amanda King sings Gershwin


AMANDA KING – GRADE ‘A’ – A TRIUMPH!

Happy New Year! And it got off to a great start at the Herbst Theatre with a concert by the exciting and innovative San Francisco Chamber Orchestra with Vocalist/Chanteuse Amanda King. The evening started out with an exquisite rendition of Handel’s ‘Water Music Suite No. 2. In D Major, which was written in 1717. It was a very good year – I remember it well. What I liked about the ‘Water Suite’ is that it actually has a melody. It was very Royal sounding. You could call it Music for a King. Aided, of course by talented strings.

Then it was Mozart’s time in the spotlight with his Violin concerto No. 1 in B-flat Major. Robin Sharp, the violinist is just terrific, and she actually didn’t need any conducting. The wonderful melody just wrapped around us all.

Then there was a new piece (1970) by Valerie Coleman, which is billed as a Concertino for Piano and Chamber Music (2007). It was a confusing mess. The music is abrasive – but would make good background music for a horror movie. You might even call it ‘Psycho’ music'. Coleman has thrown everything into the pot. There is a little bit of Porgy and Bess, with a little ‘Home on the Range’ music and then there were even some strains of Broadway Music. I’m sure that even John Wayne would have been confused. However, the Orchestra did a marvelous job. They did take a chance though, that this confusing mix might endanger their instruments.

Just before Amanda King came out to sing “Gershwin” the Chamber Orchestra gave us some Haydn. It was the Symphony No. 45 in F-sharp minor. There are four elements to this – Allegro assai, Adagio, Minuet & Trio and Presto; Adagio. Forget the first two, they are aptly named – they are described “sharp and minor.” However, the Minuet & Trio and the finale were fun and delightful.

The evening was topped off by the ‘Jewell of the Nile’ – Amanda King, who treated us to five wonderful Gershwin songs. King was of course, backed by the fantastic Chamber Orchestra. She came out on the stage dressed in a classic black gown. The only glitter was a stunning brooch that sent shafts of light around the room. King started off with “Our love is here to stay.” The lyrics came out like butter: “the rockets may tumble, but our love is here to stay.” – King’s performance was flawless. It was glorious!

She got huge applause from “Can’t take that away from me” and she Zoomed, Zoomed her way through “Slap that Bass” and garnered huge applause. “Someone to watch over me” was stunning and tender. King left us with the upbeat “S’Wonderful” – it was Sassy!
What I like about King, and there are many, many things to like -- is that she sings the verse to the songs. It’s not just a good idea -- it’s a great idea. By the way, the terrific arrangements were by Jeff Neighbor. During the Gershwin set – he played the double bass.

The evening ended with a fun auction. Whoever in the audience bid the highest amount of money to help keep the Chamber’s free concerts going, would be able to direct the Orchestra for the last number (Auld Lang Syne). The music Director Benjamin Simon, cajoled the audience to get the amount as high as he could. “Come on, he said. "Don’t be afraid. It’s easy to conduct. They don’t pay attention to the conductor anyway. They won’t even look at you. Just wave the baton around. No one will care." With that, he was able to raise $300. The winner, and guest conductor from the audience with the $300 bucks turned out to be Noah Griffin – who at one time was a regular talk show host on KGO. Before conducting the song, Griffin huddled with the Music Director – and then he began to conduct the Orchestra. He was wonderful. Griffin had all the moves down. Conducting is really show biz in my opinion, and Griffin pulled out all the stops. He seemed to know all the flourishes. Looks to me like he might have a career as a Conductor – assuming he wants one.

This was a Concert to remember. For more about the Chamber Orchestra. How to become a member and a schedule of “Free Concerts” check out: www.sfchamberorchestra.org. or call: 415-248-1640. To listen to Amanda King sing: Check out her web page on ‘you tube’.

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED)))

Lee can also be seen at: www.beyondchron.org
www.nowpublic.com