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March 31, 2010

LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS. RRAZZ ROOM - COMPELLING CABARET

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 PHOTOS BY  PAT JOHNSON
FOR THE RRAZZ ROOM





 LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS

THE TIERNEY SUTTON BAND – TAKING THE CLASSICS TO NEW VISTAS
THIS PERFORMANCE WAS JAZZ PARADISE. I’M TALKING ABOUT TIERNEY SUTTON.

She takes the old and true songs like “Cry Me A River”, “Where or When”, “Glad To Be Unhappy” and a surprising arrangement of “Whatever Lola Wants”. That kinda - steamed up the room. Å wonderful and deep meaning “Then I’ll Get Tired of You” (Swartz & Harburg) – makes you revisit your romantic breakups.

Sutton even tackles a little Opera – (Porgy and Bess) and to show how versatile she is – Sutton brings out a lively “Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead” from the Musical Wicked – that is still enjoying a long run at the Orpheum Theatre.


Opening night was very festive. Next to me was singer Madeline Eastman – who brought some flowers for her pal Tierney. And yes, and the end of the show, there was a standing ovation.

Many of the songs that Sutton sings, brings out the pain of love lost – and yet, she manages to somehow turn that around to show you that it’s O.K. Love comes and goes. Even if it’s not returned – you’ll find another.

Suttons arrangements transcend the usual. She has been with the same band (The Tierney Sutton Band) for 17 years. Obviously, they click together. There is good and comforting rapport between them.

Sutton’s great genius is in her talents to transcend genre. She is a symphony onto herself. You kind of wonder what has been going on in her life? With this much emotion – you feel that there must be some dark times in her lifetime.

If you hurry – you can catch the Tierney Sutter Band this evening – before she goes off on tour.

RATING: THREE GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!! –trademarked-
http://www.therrazzroom.com/



MAUDE MAGGART AT THE RRAZZ ROOM  - MOVING AND ROMANTIC

Intrigue...Jealous...Love...and Escape. What could be more exciting and tantalizing? Maggart treats us to a wonderful evening of songs during the most wonderful musical era of all times. Who could not fall in love with her rendition of "Where or When"? Then she sings the fabulous "Isn't it romantic" (Rogers &; Hart). The wonderful treatment of the world-class songs doesn’t end there. You become the dreamer as she glides in "The Dreamers ((Hart and Hugh Martin)

Maggart is backed up with the wonderful talents of John Boswell Pianist). The two are meant for each other as they meld the wonderful songs of Frank Loesser, Jules Styne, Sondheim, Paul Williams and Billy Rose -- just to mention a few of the greats.

I have seen and heard Maggart several times over the years. And like a rare old wine, she completely has hit the top of her game. She has never sounded better. On each song, she goes for broke emotionally. I didn't want it to stop. Her voice is just perfect for the great music. Not all of the songs are all drama - no indeed, she has a few very funny lyrics from some obscure songs that are just hysterical.

To say that Maggart delivers a radiant performance is really not enough. It is a visually fascinating as well. One of the things that really intrigued me is that Maggart is a little quirky. That I liked a lot. She just doesn't sing - she becomes that singer of the era. There is nothing egotistical about her or the show. Maggart is a fantastic singer. The more I think about her – the more I miss her. Can’t wait to see her again.

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

therazzroom.com.

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

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March 15, 2010

LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS

DEN OF THIEVES

This is a funny insight about people who must make moral choices. Oh? You didn’t know that there was a 12-step program for Thieves. It’s called Thieves Anonymous.

This play is the funniest, fantastic laugh-riot you’re likely see this year or any other. Å Counselor knocks on a door of a minor thieves apartment. The girl does do a lot of shop lifting – but only for junk food. The Counselor suggests that she join Over-Eaters Anonymous. He says: “I’m a member. I haven’t touched refined sugar in years. Would I lie to you?” Well, yes and no! Cause the Counselor kind of falls off the wagon later on.

Then we meet the girl’s ex-boyfriend. He is a streetwise person who is looking for partners to rob a nightclub. He knows where the money is. He just needs to find a good safecracker. And lo and behold – the Angelic Counselor has some experience with that.

Den of Thieves author Stephen Adly Guirgis (he also wrote the fabulous (Jesus Hopped The A-Train) – has his ear to the ground when it comes to street talk and bringing religion into the mix of things.

Other characters in this laugh-a-minute show are a ditzy sex dancer (lap dancing anyone?). Then there are the Mafiosi who don’t think kindly about having their safe cracked. Of course, the group of misfit thieves - botches the job and gets caught. Now the Mafia guys have to decide how to kill them.

This is one of those plays that’s difficult to bring to light on printed pages. After all – it is the actors that make this play or not. And – SF is blessed to have that exhilarating cast. Every pause, every word is a Gem. Timing is everything – and the Actors on the SF Playhouse stage are experts at it. Then there is Susi Damilano – one of the Bay Area’s best directors. She is the one who brings this script to life. Every nuance, every step has her stamp on it. IT’S MORE FUN THAN A JOHN HOLMES BLOW-UP DOLL!

And here is another amazing thing. It’s the set design by Bill English. It’s Altman-esque. What an imagination – and you will be amazed at the whiz-bang changes that are so fast that you think you’re seeing a magic show. How does he do it? It’s hard to imagine a more talented designer/actor/artistic director.

THE SUBLIMELY SMART, SEXY, WITTY AND WELL-ACTED PLAYERS ARE: Kathryn Tkel, Casey Jackson, Chad Deverman, Corinne Proctor, Peter Ruocco, Ashkon Davaran and Joe Madero. I HEARD 500 CHEERS!

Yes! Seeing Thieves is the most fun you’ll have this year. “It’s A Blast!”

AT SF PLAYHOUSE

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

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

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March 7, 2010

THE SUGAR WITCH - AUDIENCE SCREAMS WITH LAUGHTER

 Michael Phillis and William Giammona in The Sugar Witch. Photo: Lois Tema



LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS

THE SUGAR WITCH – WILL BEWITCH YOU

You know what? The Sugar Witch has that same tragic and haunting feeling that I got when I saw Scorsese’s movie “Shutter Island”. 

The action takes place in the deep swamps of Florida. The trees have that strange hanging moss and there are horrible sounds in the night. Hey – I’m ready to leave already and nothing has really happened yet.

The first act is really sensational as the cast glides between humor and tragedy. The Bean family was once a prominent family. Old man Bean was a powerful source in the town. But, he’s dead now – and he has left many secrets behind. The Bean house is in shambles. If the wind blows too hard it might fall like a deck of cards.

All that is left of the Bean family is young Moses (his son), played by Michael Phillis. His warm and open personality has to deal with a lot of stuff around that house. His sister (A.J. Davenport) is ‘not quiet right’. But, may be more cunning that you think. Out of the forest one day – a pretty little Lass --(Amelia Mulkey) skips into the yard and asks to see Moses. Well, he’s not there – but she is smitten by him -- and insists on waiting for him. And who wouldn’t be? However Moses has no feeling for her, and tries to discourage her.

Then there is Kendra Owens (Annabelle) who practices Witchcraft. She says that the house is haunted. And if it were me in the place – I would turn tail and leave as fast as I could. Cause it sure looks and sounds haunted to me. Annabelle, who worked for Old Man Bean and has remained, says: “Those sounds you hear – they are flying cats.” They sure sound like it to me. I kept checking my shoulders to make sure that one didn’t land on me. Annabelle is an African American Women. And she knows where and when to spread salt around the house to discourage the evil spirits. But is it working?

The first act is dazzlingly written. In spite of the poor living conditions it becomes a spiky and insightful comedy, with an underlying darkness that gets darker as it goes along.

In the second act – the play gets downright spooky and dangerous. There is a lot that happens in that act and no hokey poky voodoo is going to chase those ghosts away. Some bad things happen – and I mean REALLY bad things. The flying bats get more restless and there is blood to clean up. Secrets come out about Annabelle and Moses – really surprising stuff.

The actors fire on all cylinders. Also what is suspected in the first Act, verifies it in the second act. You will suspect and be right that there is an attraction between young Moses and Hank (William Glammona). Both men are attracted to each other like fireflies in the night. Sitting by the outdoor fireplace they literally glow.  Think of Paul Newman without his shirt – and you get the picture.

There are more surprises. The young pretty girl who has a hankering for Moses has disappeared, and her Granddaddy (Jay Smith) comes a calling at the Bean residence. He suspects something and threatens to get the police.

Nathan Sanders is a grab-you-by-the-nuts playwright. The audience actually screamed with laughter in the first act – and slunk down in their seats in the second. Not because they didn’t like it. They were scared.

This is probably the best cast that I seen at NCTC this season. Dennis Lickteig, the director got it all right. Just one little suggestion – the 2nd act could by speeded up just a tad.

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

ÅT THE NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE CENTER

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

LEE’S MUSINGS: So, “Hurt Locker” won over “Avatar”. I’m glad. It won both ‘Best Director” and “Best Picture” that doesn’t happen often. And this is the first time a woman has won as best director. I guess we won’t be hearing her ex-hubby saying “I’m King of the Hill” – will we?

Buzzin is getting a little tired of the weirdness of George Clooney. Could all that nice guy stuff just be fake?

Item No 2: No that doesn’t mean go to the bathroom. I got this notice from twittergrader.com. My rank is 1,527,978.000. I’m graded at 76 out of 100. Check it out on twittergrader. Fascinating – this Internet stuff.











March 2, 2010

LEONARDO DI CAPRIO IN SHUTTER ISLAND. STUNNING!

Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island
COURTESY PHOTO


LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS

FLICKER BITS
Micro Reviews of Movies 


SHUTTER ISLAND WILL MAKE YOUR HAIR STAND ON END

Not everything seems what they are in this film, that revolves around Leonardo DeCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. They team up as a pair of U.S Marshals. And they travel to coastal island to find an escaped mental patient.

While at the mental facility they are met with hostile guards and directors of the compound. It’s hard to tell for a while, who are the patients and who is not.

At times -- everyone seems like they had just had a lobotomy. There is always the feeling in the air, that this is a dangerous place to be.

This is a thriller that really is a thriller that harkens back to the wonderful mystery films of yesterday. There is no doubt about it – Shutter Island will keep you on the edge of your seat. In fact, even if you have the urge to go the bathroom – you will not be able to leave the screen for a moment, afraid that you will miss the next exciting moment. Think of movies like “Snake Pit” that starred Olivia de Havilland and even “Baby Jane” that starred Bette Davis.

There are superb performances by Ben Kingsley (the head of the institution), Michelle Williams (portrays DiCaprio’s deceased wife) in an especially horrific flash back. Mark Ruffalo, as DiCaprio’s sidekick – couldn’t be smoother and better. Max von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson and Jackie Earle Haley round out the astounding supporting cast. But, it is really DiCaprio that stirs up a crescendo of emotions. He is thrillingly spellbinding.

There is disturbing violent content. Some rough language and a little nudity.

Martin Scorsese had taken us on a trip that will stay in your memory for a long, long time. In fact – seeing it again and again would not be a bad idea. Scorsese has directed a work of “Pure Genius!”

NOW SHOWING AT THEATRES EVERYWHERE.
IT IS #1 IN GROSSES AT THE BOX OFFICE

RATING: FOUR BOXES OF POPCORN!!!! (highest rating) –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)))

 
(Themes: Doctors, Patients, Missing Persons.)

(Keywords: doctor, nurse, island, marshal, mental-institution, tense, scary, emotional, popcorn, rating, director, movies, film, Di  Caprio, Mark Ruffalo.)

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