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May 29, 2009

SPAMALOT - FUN-A-LOT! DVD'S - EROTIC AND AWARD WINNING.


(Pictured to the right: Matthew Greer and
Merle Dandridge. Photo by Joan Marcus)



Lee Hartgrave Reviews
May 29, 2009

Spamalot - Funny-a-lot!
Flicker Bits – Queer Hip Hop And one more thing!

SPAMALOT – HIGH OCTANE FUN

The beginning: Extremely hilarious Monty Python hijinks sets the tone for the show. Here’s how it goes: “To the North --the Anglo-Saxons. The South --the French. To the East --nothing but Celts and some people from Scotland!” A great bit is Christopher Sutton (Not Dead Fred) singing – “I’m not dead yet!” Sutton is just wonderful in every part that he plays in the insane musical. What a great talent.

The song that “The Lady of the Lake and the Laker Girls sing (Come With Me) with King Arthur “The Song That Goes Like this” is just amazing as Merle Dandridge blows everyone out of their seat with her fantastic voice. Even before she started to sing – the hormones in the audience was going crazy. She is a stunning beauty. And that voice – “Wow!” Dandridge also almost shaked the dome of the theater with “The Diva’s Lament” – and if ever there was a true Diva, it would be her.


How much funnier can a show get when you have a gold plated cast like John Cleese as God, John O’Hurley as King Arthur, Matt Allen as a Nun and Sir Galahad played by Ben Davis. And then there is the Handsome Sir Lancelot (Matthew Greer) who turns out to get into a Domestic Partnership with another lad, a King’s son no less.
For me, the most hilarious moments were when they did the send ups about Broadway Musicals like in “The Song That Goes Like this.” This is obviously a spoof of “Phantom” complete with a lighted chandelier hanging over their heads. And there are candles on the stage and even a boat effect. The chandelier falls and some of the lights explode.

At the very end they find the “Holy Grail” in a very unusual place. It was a lot of fun for the audience. That’s a clue. On the opening night Eric Idol actually came up on the stage with his business partner John Dupree. They both got a warm welcome from the San Francisco Audience following the show. But the fun doesn’t stop there.

There are some pyrotechnics employed that literally explodes over the audience. It was a fabulous evening – and for a time in Camelot – er, excuse me, Spamalot -- we were all “Knights of the Round Table!” by that GOLDEN GAY

AT THE GOLDEN GATE 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)))

FLICKER BITS: (micro-reviews)
SOLOS is a film that is inspired by true events. At times erotically intense (steamy) scenes between a student and his teacher ignite the screen. To say the least, this film was banned in its home country for the sexual content. This is a dark film that reaches into the depths of relationships that are complex. It reminds me of someone I know that visited Nicaragua. He fell in love with a young, very religious young man. The young man lets him have his way while he reads a bible. That is not what is in this film – but there are similarities.

Because the student seems to spend more time away from home (with his teacher) the mother tries to get him to stay at home, but fails to convince the boy. There are frank sexual situations. Everything that you see in this “Silent” film has more impact by just looking at the screen than words can describe.

Singapore demanded that the sexual scenes by cut out of the film.
But censorship or not – Solos has gone on to win many film awards. Not everyone will like this non-linear method of storytelling. But, from an artistic viewpoint – Solos has taken silent film into the 21st century. It’s gorgeous to look at. Solos in now available at stores (a two-disc special edition.) Disc one: The feature film. Disc Two: Deleted scenes, A 47 minute conversation with Sir Ian McKellen and a Conversation with John Cameron Mitchell (53 minutes).

You will be amazed at the fantastic pull you will get from just watching a film, without the distraction of language. The language is all in the emotion and movement. It is utterly gripping. The pacing is perfect. The characters are wonderfully drawn.


The Red Dawn production has opened new doors with this film. The direction by Kan Lume and Loo Zihan is Brilliant. The film stars are: Lim Yu-Beng, Goh Guat Kian and Loo Zihan. Sound and Music by Darren NG. All together – they make a great movie viewing experience.

The D.V.D. is available now at Stores like Amoeba records.
RATING: FOUR BOXES OF POPCORN: (highest rating) – trademarked-

PICK UP THE MIC – the evolution of Homohop RAP – WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORDS, YOU THINK OF ANGRY MALE VOICES THAT SHOUT OUT AT EVERYTHING THAT THEY DON’T LIKE. Now, comes along a new revolution in the movie “Pic Up The Mic”. Some of the straight rappers have shown were they stand, by rapping their homophobia.

Now, to be honest with you – I am not thrilled by Rap. However in this new DVD, Hip Hop and Rap has taken a new turn with the growing underground music scene where gay and lesbian artists are putting a new and fresh spin on the world of Rap and Hip Hop.
Pic Up The Mic is a documentary that covers the rise of queer hip-hop that involves a wide range of artists from Transgender, Lesbians, and Gay Men. And, probably some categories that I am not familiar with.

It is great to hear ‘different voices’ on subjects that will give a broader reach to young people. This feature length documentary shows an entire new range of possibilities in the Hip Hop world.


It was shot over a three-year period in San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Houston. “Out Artists” are everywhere these days. Hip Hopping along, even (believe it) in the Ozarks. In the film you find out what started Queer Hip Hop and why it’s catching on. LGBT rappers tell their lives through their performances. Here are the words of homohop pioneers Deep Dickollective: “Queer boys doing hip-hop is a revolutionary act!” “Queer girls doing hip-hop is a revolutionary act!” Go head and Hop on that.


This film is on DVD and available at stores like Amoeba Records. It’s a fascinating journey that probably will soon become mainstream. I think it’s a terrific way to let everyone hear these stories. Instead of a one-way street on music – we now get a ‘four lane highway’ of new important music.
RATING: THREE BOXES OF POPCORN. –trademarked-

AND ANOTHER THING!

Don’t forget (it’s free) at AT&T Ballpark with be a simulcast of “Tosca” on Friday June 5th. Doors open at 6pm at the Ballpark. Info at: sfopera.com.

Saturday June 4th you might want to go to the Theater at 511 Sutter Street to see “Love, Humiliation and Karaoke.” Now that’s a volatile bunch of stuff.

June 19th – The wonderful Aurora Theatre will open with “Jack Goes Boating”. Well, actually the REAL opening is on June 18th – but they tell some critics it is on the 19th. Tricky no?

On May 29th – you surely will want to be at the Opera House for Verdi’s magnificent Requiem. It’s a special night for Donald Runnicles also – for he will be treated to a tribute for all his years with the Opera.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you still have time. That would be “Wicked” at the Orpheum. But if you want to see Patty Duke in the show, you better catch it quick – cause she may only be in the role of Madame Morrible for a few more months.

On May 30th – Now playing is Mr. Marmalade. He’s a fictional character that a little girl dreamed up. But, what are those toys that she plays with? You will be shocked when you find out. This is a dark comedy – just the kind that you like.

AND THAT'S A WRAP!!!!

TWITTER LEE HARTGRAVE FOR LATE BREAKING NEWS


MORE REVIEWS:
www.beyondchron.org

May 27, 2009

THREE ON A PARTY. STEIN AND TENNESSEE - OH MY!







LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS
May 27, 2009

THREE ON A PARTY

WHAT A GREAT COMBINATION ‘WORD FOR WORD’ AND THEATRE RHINOCEROS MAKE --THE COMBINATION IS COMBUSTIBLE. IT’S THE MOST ADDICTIVE EVENING OF THEATRE YOU’RE LIKELY TO SEE!

MISS FURR AND MISS SKEENE – by Gertrude Stein


The plays start out with Gertrude Stein’s “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene” and it is absolutely hilarious. The short play is set in 1910 America and Paris. You will hear the word “Gay” frequently in this play – with words like “She is regularly Gay”. Almost every other word is ‘Gay’ – and used in the most intriguing and upper class way.

As you probably know – “Word for Word’s” mission is to tell good stories with simple and elegant, down to the bone acting that keeps your eyes glued to the stage. And when they say “Word for Word” they mean everything. You even hear the Author’s directions (setup) for the next scene. Plus, the staging is always fresh, and inventive.

Miss Furr and Miss Skeene (Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas) show us a fun look at these two women’s lives. It’s a Bohemian world where everyone is using coded words to mean something different than most people would think it would mean. It was an artistic time – and unusual antics in those days were not all that suspicious. There were rumors of course – but that was all there was. Most people probably just thought that the two women were eccentric, which they were, but they were also Gay -- in a quite way. Superb acting by JoAnne Winter and Sheila Balter! Also wonderful were ‘The Men’ – Brendan Godfrey and Ryan Tasker. Compelling musical interludes are by Eric Deloria on the Piano. The Blow me away directing by Delia MacDougall is brilliant.

TWO ON A PARTY – by Tennessee Williams

Following the First play is the Extraordinary Tennessee Williams “TWO ON A PARTY”. Now, in lesser hands this play might not be as fabulous as it is. And we can thank John Fisher for the imaginative and rousing presentation that is on stage. The story gets you so involved, that you don’t want it to end.

In the William’s short story (it is very autobiographical) we go along on a road trip with a very peculiar couple. It’s sex on the road for Two. And not unlike “Suddenly Last Summer” (another William’s play) the woman, of course, is the bait for Billy, who is always looking for a quick roll in the hay with another man. The 1950’s were fraught with danger and forbidden treasures. Cora hooks up with Billy (guess who Billy is?) for the trip. You could find Billy’s and Cora’s all over New York Bar Stools in the 50’s.

Both Billy and Cora have a lust for men that literally control their every thought. This is so hot – that I’m surprised that the pages of the play didn’t ignite. I think it is one of Williams’ best plays. I wonder why it has not been done more often. It is meant to be a short one-act – but it is a bit longer than that. With an intermission you would have a full-fledged Tennessee play. Believe me, you won’t want it to end. The actors are: Sheila Balter -- Bar Pianist, Ensemble. Brendan Godfrey- Bartender, Motorcyclist, Ensemble. Ryan Tasker – Billy. Joanne Winter – Cora. --“Remarkable Acting by everyone!” Totally sizzling! Here’s a line to remember: “Age does more damage to a Queen than it does to a woman!” – Cora. She also said: “As you get to know people – if you like them, they begin to look younger to you.”

Love it --- and you should see it –it’s electrifying!


SUDDENLY HOME by Armistead Maupin
The Armistead Maupin play is last. It has some fun moments in it – but after seeing the first two plays, it lacked luster. Maupin is a good writer and columnist – but for some reason his words did not work in his play. It takes place in San Francisco and has all the usual clich├ęs that might go over for a bunch of tourists, but not for us that live here and have heard them all before. It reminded me of a play that I was in once called “Cable Car Comedy”. It was a horrible disaster that was designed for Tourists. Even they didn’t like it. The (recorded) music is great in the Maupin play “Suddenly Home.” It fits the time zone of Herb Caen and the usage of “Baghdad by the Bay” – 1980’s. This tale of same sex relationships has a woman doubting her relationship. And it leaves me in doubt.

The good news is that the same great actors are in this play, as they are in the other two. They are the ones that could turn Stone into Gold. They have it all. On a dime they become, perplexed, appalled, and enthralling. Impressive acting indeed!

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (for the first two plays) RATING: TWO GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!! (for the last play)

TWITTER LEE HARTGRAVE FOR LATE BREAKING NEWS

MORE REVIEWS: www.beyondchron.org

TAGS: PLAYS, THEATRE, TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, GERTRUDE STEIN, ARMISTEAD MAUPIN, THEATRE RHINOCEROS, WORD FOR WORD

May 19, 2009

KATYA - DIAMONDS ARE A GIRLS BEST FRIEND


(Pictured: Katya to the right)


LEE HARTGRAVE - FAME REPORTER

May 19, 2009

KATYA -- HALLUCINATORY FUN

“Whether your spending time at your home along the Seine, or in the City – it is always an occasion to wear glamorous clothes Darling.” – Sez Katya Smirnoff-Skyy in ‘What Becomes a Legend Most’? Her madcap vocalizations and her diamonds made her the legend she BELIEVES she is today. This show is all singing, cocktails flowing, tall tales and fantastic outfits. There are no button-down collars or substantial lace-ups here. Katya strives for form and a rejuvenated and up-to-date silhouette. The material is silk with the freshness of cotton – making it ideal for cruising while sitting at a Bar looking for a man who has money. “I’m doing it the old-fashioned way” – Katya Sez, while holding a glass of vodka -- “All I want is to meet a nice rich banker”.

Yes, Katya talks a lot – but keeps us doubled over with laughter. She breaks out in song with something totally unexpected like the Village People song “YMCA.” And she is very picky about men. She dated Liberace for a time – but the relationship went nowhere. “I could never love a man who was more sparkly than me” – she tells us in her heavy Russian Accent. Hey, after-all, she is a Countess!

Like most Royalty – Kayta is used to wearing clothes that make her feel as if she is not wearing anything. It must be constructed with comfort and class. Good tailoring gives her freedom to move around the stage and dance while maintaining a stunning look. You’ll find no canvas sneakers on her. And rope belts are definitely out.

Is she Political? Countess Katya reveals: “I have never been a political countess!” Well, I guess that takes away the rumor that she was going to challenge Nancy Pelosi in the next election. Although, Katya IS the most fashionable.

After her husband died (The Count) she laments that she was left destitute. “I was left with only 66 Steamer Trunks, my Bentley, the House on the Seine and my Diamonds” She purrs. Then she breaks out in the gut-wrenching song from Sunset Boulevard “I’ll Never Say Goodbye.” As she leaves France – she watches the people waving their French Flags and Eating Cake. “The French have issues” – Katya says.

She talks a lot about Puccini. “He was sprawled out on top of me. Oh, I’m sorry, daaaarrrling. Puccini was my dog.” She said, while gazing at her diamonds on every finger. Katya strolls over to the bar that is well stocked with Vodka – “How wonderful for YOU to be here tonight.” I was impressed with how smooth Katya’s monologues were. She never stumbled over her lines and her timing was perfect. Particularly terrific was her speech when she bemoans the canceling of so many gay weddings due to Prop. 8, by saying: “I needed the gigs, and all the booze and left over flowers I’ve missed!”

Right from the beginning, Katya gets to the hoop-la, rolling with “I Want To Be A Prima Donna!” from the Victor Herbert operetta, “The Enchantress.” And she did a wonderful rendition of “Everything is Coming Up Roses” from Gypsy” with special material written by Katya. And her toast to equal rights in the second act was “Make them Hear You” from the musical Ragtime. There is much, much more in this riotous evening. As Katya describes herself – “I’m the Diamond encrusted Audrey Hepburn of the East, Daaarrrlings!” At the end of the show – they were shouting “Viva for the Diva!”


THE DIRECTION BY ANDREW NANCE IS FABULOUS! THE PIANO PLAYING AND MUSICAL ARRANGEMENTS ARE BY SUPER-STAR JOE KANON. HE'S JUST FANTASTIC!

AT THE NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE

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


Twitter Lee Hartgrave for late breaking news

MORE REVIEWS: www.beyondchron.org

May 13, 2009

COMIC WRITER BRUCE VILANCH AND SHARON MC NIGHT




LEE HARTGRAVE FAME REPORTER
May 13,2009

BRUCE VILANCH AND SHARON MC NIGHT


THIS TOWN IS ALL ABOUT WICKED!

Vilanch starts off the show with McNight, as they sing their version of “Defying Gravity” from the hit Musical “Wicked”, that is now in a long run at the Orpheum Theatre. This version of the song has added lyrics by Mr. Vilanch. And wouldn’t he make a great Witch?

While the show is funny and many times absolutely knee slapping – there are times when it kind of drags along. The pace is uneven. It seemed to be hastily put together. While McNight was talking and singing there was an annoying buzzing sound in the background. McNight walks over to the window and said it’s a concrete drill. In a huff – she sez: “I’ll go out there and kick somebody’s nuts!”

McNight also sang a terrific Rufus Wainwright song called “Vibrate”. It’s about a cell phone that is on Vibrate. You can imagine where that goes. She also gets ‘very bold’ wit April Winchell “My Vagina.” Here are some of the lyrics. “It’s an object to behold, my friends”. And here is another shocking lyric: “A place where a lady pees.” Only McNight, could get away with the backroom humor. Vilanch counters the song “Vagina” by saying – “I would love to see them make a movie about that. I can see the marketing now. “Vagina Monologue opens wide this weekend!”

To show what writer, actor, movie star and all around entertainer Vilanch can do – he also sings. And he did a damn good job with “The Things You do” by Ray Jessel. It was very Cole Porter sounding. Vilanch gives a lot of insight to what goes on during the Oscars backstage. And he talks about Stars that he is pals with. One is Cher. And about her he sez: “When they opened King Tuts Tomb – there was a note addressed to Cher.” Here is an audience favorite from Vilanch’s mouth. “Lets talk about Gay Weddings. It is considered in good taste to fling the bouquet of flowers in a rivals face!”

In the audience was Donna Sachet. Vilanch turns to her and sez: “Oh Hi – the light is kind!”
Vilanch is refreshingly smart and clever. He rolls those one-liners out at a fast pace. He definitely is high-voltage talent. The Bruce and Sharon show will continue at the Rrazz Room thru May 17.

AND THAT'S A WRAP!!!!

WHEN YOU GO: May 13 – 16, 8Pm. Sunday May 17, 7pm.
WHERE: The Rrazz Room, Hotel Nikko Mason and O’Farrell.
www.therrazzroom.com

MORE REVIEWS: www.beyondchron.org


TWITTER LEE HARTGRAVE FAME REPORTER FOR LATE BREAKING NEWS

TAGS: Bruce Vilanch, Sharon McNight, Rrazz Room, Twitter, Theatre, Hollywood, beyondchron, San Francisco Playhouse, New Conservatory Theatre, Orpheum Theatre, Now Public, movies, Oscars, Palm Springs.

May 11, 2009

DEAD MAN'S CELL PHONE. QUIRKY, COMIC DRAMA


(To the right: The Cast of 'Dead Man'. Photo Zabrina Tipton)










By Lee Hartgrave
May 11, 2009
(holding the fake gun)

DEAD MAN’S CELL PHONE

HE’S DEAD YA KNOW!

This is NOT a story about Sprint Cell Phone Customer service. Even though you do get a lot of dead silence from their network. No, this is not a case of ‘dropped’ calls. This is a story of a man who is having a bowl of soup in a diner. He dies, sitting up in the chair. His Cell Phone rings over and over again. It stops and starts to ring again. Across the room is a woman who is reading a book as she finishes her bowl of Lobster Bisque. The women gets annoyed. She’s thinking – why doesn’t the guy answer his phone. Soon the woman had enough. She walks over to the man and asks him why he doesn’t answer his phone. No response – so she shakes him a bit – only to find that he is dead. A dead man can ‘t answer a cell phone. So what does the women do? She answers it for him – and takes over his life as if she were a part of it.

Now this is the kind of a customer that the Cell Phone providers just love. Finally – there is a way to have someone answer a Dead Person’s phone. Have someone else keep the account open and answer the phone for him or her. I can see the marketing now. It will be listed under “Certain restrictions will apply”. It will say: “Even if you die – you must have someone answer your cell phone for you. To not do this you will be charged an hourly fee based on how many words are spoken.” Gordon (The Cell phone owner) is dead. He is not coming back to answer his annoying phone – but don’t worry – Jean the woman who took his phone will carry on. She pretends to be his employee. She answers questions about Gordon -- not even realizing that what she says may have complications.

She is lonely, and this Cell phone has given her a new meaning to her miserable life. Someone is calling her on her new cell phone. In fact this is the only Cell phone she has ever had. The phone keeps ringing and Jean bluffs her way through the conversations. She doesn’t even know what the Dead man’s business is. And Jean won’t know until later in the play that the person that she claims she works for deals in a business that is against all international laws, not to mention that it is not ethical.

The phone moves on with Jean. Gordon’s mother calls, and Jean convinces her that she talked to Gordon just before he died, and that he thought that his mother was a wonderful person. Of course, she made that up. Gordon is dead – and he couldn’t talk to anyone. The mother is a High Falutin’ bitch who crushes little knats like Jean just for the fun of it. Especially if she finds out that Jean is making every thing up. Except for the fact that Gordon (her son) is dead. That, Jean didn’t make up.

This play is a lot more than just the cell phone. It’s about eating red meat, which is discussed at length at the Dinner that Gordon’s mom has prepared for Jean who is a vegetarian. It’s about love. Jean has a three-way with Gordon’s Cell phone and Gordon’s brother, who is alive.

This is a really and truly wacky play, with some wonderful one-liners. Everyone that is psychotic should see this play – it may bring them back to reality. It helped me.

Susi Damilano, the director has given the play a rich texture that compels. It’s no-holds-barred fun. She brought out amazing and remarkable chemistry between the characters. That takes a good director.

Jackson Davis (Dwight) is Gordon’s brother. He falls for Jean who has a fatal attraction to a Dead Man’s Cell Phone. Davis is Great! Bill English plays the Dead Guy – but he gets a reprieve in the 2nd act and talks it up. Outstanding as usual! Rachel Klyce (Hermia) plays the wife of the Dead Guy. She plays it cool, but riveting! Forentina Mocanu plays Carlotta and shines brightly! Joan Mankin (Gordon’s Mother). She’s been around – and you can’t pull anything over her eyes, no matter how disconnected things look – this tough broad gazes right through you. Mankin is absolutely brilliant in this play! Put her in Fatal attraction and she’ll scare you to death. But, please turn off the cell phone.

Amy Resnick plays the little wren Jean. She’s perfect in this role. Just ditzy enough to keep us interesting – and wacky enough to make us wonder whether we should order a strait jacket for her. Just don’t give her a steak knife at the dinner table. But, as you observe her and her creepiness, she makes you laugh hard. I’d say Resnick is a comedic genius!

THIS IS A MUST SEE! RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-

HOT FLASHES!

ACTRESS/ MOVIE STAR SHIRLEY JONES MAY APPEAR IN A PLAYBOY SHOOT -- ACCORDING TO REPORTS. HER HUBBY SAYS - "WHY NOT, SHE STILL LOOKS GOOD!" JONES IS 75.

Jan Wahl has been let go from Channel 4 in the City. However, she will still be heard on KCBS and will do some freelance appearances on Channel 4.

Chad Jones has been furloughed from The Sacramento Bee. He is now freelancing. It’s the economy, of course.

Two of San Francisco Theatres will go dark. Nederlander has not renewed the leases of The Post Street Theatre and The Marines Memorial Theatre. It was a good idea to bring smaller shows to town, but it never really got off the ground. Lets hope that other venues will rent the spaces from time-to-time.

The Opera has cut back on Executive salaries to help keep within their budget. Sing - Sing a Song!

AND THAT’S TODAY’S PROVOCATIVE AND THRILLING ‘HOT FLASHES’!

TWITTER LEE HARTGRAVE FOR LATE BREAKING NEWS

FOLLOW MORE REVIEWS AT
www.beyondchron.org

May 6, 2009

BEN VEREEN EXHILARATING - LEAPS OFF THE STAGE

(Pictured to the right. Ben Vereen. Courtesy Photo)



By Lee Hartgrave May 6. 2009

BEN VEREEN A TALENT FOR ALL SEASONS

The minute Vereen walks onto the stage you know that you are looking at a star. He has the sway and confidence of a star. His outfit – a red tie and a red scarf over a black long jacket sets the tone. Dazzling is the word. Vereen captures us immediately with (Corner of the Sky) from Pippin, the musical:

Everything has its season
Everything has its time Show me a reason and I’ll soon show you a rhyme
Cats fit on the windowsill
Children fit in the snow
Why do I feel I don’t fit in anywhere I go?


The song fits Vereen perfectly, as it should. He starred in the musical ‘Pippin’ on Broadway. And you know what – you kind of feel that Vereen might have at one time ‘feel like he didn’t fit in anywhere’ – but he sure does now.

What a powerful performer. What a lucky audience -- to have him sing to us. It was an amazing evening of song and dance. How he managed to dance around on a small stage was another wonder that should be in Ripley’s Believe it or Not.


In a tribute to Sammy Davis Junior (he does not imitate, but suggests Sammy) Vereen soars with “Once In A Lifetime.” I have never, ever heard such a fantastic version of this song. This was my ‘Once in a lifetime’ moment. It was totally different, unusual and stirring. As a matter of fact the arrangements were particularly interesting. His piano player tantalizes with his musical talents. He didn’t even need sheet music. He was not just good – HE WAS GREAT! This guy knows how to turn piano keys into color crayons. Everything was a rainbow. It was an extraordinary keyboard show.


In a Sinatra Medley, Vereen talks about “The Chairman of the Board” as Sinatra was known. Vereen gives credit to “The Chairman” who opened some doors for him when he was just starting out in show biz. “He said yes, where others said no!”

– Vereen told us.
Another show- stopper was Vereen’s completely ‘new take’ on the Pajama Game song “Hey There”. It has been recorded and sung by everyone but a chipmunk – but this time it was new. Vereen took this song and turned it upside down. He added a Samba beat to it – and it took off flying around the room. And, it may still be flying around the room – saying to everyone that passes by “Hey There!”

The hands could not stop clapping as Vereen, who was in “Hair” at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco – sang “The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius.” The excitement was too much for the audience. I found out that they were not glued to their seats, when they jumped up and did some bumps and grinds along with their frantic clapping of the hands. It was like a religious experience. I think that the Broadway producers of the “New” Hair on Broadway – should come and see Vereen’s version, and put him in the show.

Vereen when talking about his early days when he was trying to make it: “I have lived long enough to “Be Colored”, I have lived long enough to be Negro”, and I have lived long enough to be Black”, and I have lived long enough to be African American.” And I would like to add to that: “He has lived long enough to become one of the greatest talents on the planet.”

WHEN YOU GO:

WED, THURS, FRI, - 8Pm. Sat & Sun. 7Pm.

WHERE: The Rrazz Room
Hotel Nikko – Corner of Mason and O’Farrell.

http//www.therrazzroom.com/

More reviews at: www.beyondchron.org

www.leehartgrave.net.

Follow Lee Hartgrave on Twitter or Just google him for late breaking news.

May 5, 2009

BEN VEREEN FROM 'ROOTS' TO 'ALL THAT JAZZ'


(Pictured to the right: Ben Vereen. Courtesy Photo)


by Lee Hartgrave

May 5, 2009

BEN VEREEN

Song, Dance, Film, and Stage – He does it all

Ben Vereen has appeared in numerous Broadway theatre shows. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972 and he won a Tony for the musical ‘Pippin in 1973.

The all-around talented Vereen has also performed in a one-man show on black history. And of course, we all remember him in film roles like “Funny Lady” and “All That Jazz.” He will, of course always be remembered as “Chicken” George Moore in the huge Television series “Roots.”

If you take a trip to L.A. you will find Vereen’s handprints in front of the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios theme park. Now that your memory has been refreshed, I can’t wait to tell you that Vereen is going to be in San Francisco’s Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko.

The Talented and versatile entertainer will treat us to a wonderful evening of memorable songs, including songs that Sammy Davis Junior made famous. Vereen understudied Davis’s role in “Golden Boy” in London.

WHEN YOU GO: The Rrazz Room at the Hotel Nikko
Corner of Mason and O'Farrell.
Tonight at 8pm, Wed. thru Fri. 8pm. Sat. & Sun at 7pm.
www.therrazzroom.com

HOT NEWS FROM BUZZIN'S 'AIRWAVES EXCHANGE'

TONY NOMINATIONS ANNOUNCED TODAY

BEST PLAY
"Dividing the Estate", ", 'reasons to be pretty", "33 variations' "God of Carnage".

BEST MUSICAL
"Billy Elliot" - the musical", "Next to Normal","Rock of Ages", "Shrek the Musical".

BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL
"Guys and Dolls", "Hair", "Pal Joey", "West Side story".

CATCH THE FULL LIST ON www.beyondchron.org.

Twitter Lee Hartgrave or Google him for Late Breaking news