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November 15, 2010

TEMPEST ON SLIPPERY WATERS - PERFECT GANESH 'A SLOW JOURNEY'

LEE HARTGRAVE TONIGHT

Theatre - Movies - Cabaret - About Town

STORMY WEATHER AT CUTTING BALL THEATRE

Innovation is fun for some plays -- however it doesn't always work. There is nothing enchanting about this presentation at the Cutting Ball Theatre. Oh, the actors are great -- they did what they could (following the Directors demands). I was very disappointed. The language of Shakespeare got lost among all the histrionics.

The set is interesting, with a modern desk and a modern chaise lounge. On the desk is the Boat that they are supposed to be riding on. It is a small model that the actor holds in his hands and rocks it back and forth -- as if it were actually on the open sea. I wanted to squash the boat. It was very annoying and not at all humorous. 

This play has Shakespeare's grand verbiage -- but it doesn't resonate on this stage. There they are,  in what looks to be a big swimming pool-- that I assume is supposed to be the Ocean. There was no water in the Pool -- but there were visions of it at times on the back of the stage. I must say that the sets were the best thing about this pretense. The lust was a bust. 

The Tempest may have been fun in Shakespeare's time -- but his words - especially about Caliban (the native savage)  are cruel. That was then -- and this is now. If you stayed through the entire evening (a boring three hours) - then you now know what "Water Boarding" is all about. 

Where was the magical moments? They must  have been on another stage, somewhere else. I saw no magic. Just a bunch of over-wrought shouting. I would have loved to give this show a 'rave' review -- the Cutting Ball Theater has always brought great and wonderful stories along the years, but every theater group can't win all the time. This one unfortunately,  is one of those times. 

RATING: TWO GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!! -trademarked-

WHERE? NEW CONSERVATORY THEATER 

NOT PERFECT GANESH 

I Can't believe that I had to suffer two nights in a row with two overwrought plays. First there was The Tempest. Then the next evening - it was the mind numbing presentation of "A Perfect Ganesh''. Oh sure, the play has a few terrific moments. There was some great interaction between the two women - one catty and the other comforting. Both women friends probably should never travel together on trip to India or anywhere. Maybe a short shopping trip to Walmart might have been smarter. 

Looking around, I could see the audience impatience. After all the evening was at least three hours long. Who wouldn't be bitchy. Actually bitchy is not strong enough. If I had an axe in my media bag -- I would have chopped the stage into pieces. That is how impatient I became. It was 'The Tempest' all over again I thought. Part of the problem with this play and "The Tempest" is that they are are both trying to put on an extravaganza with only a few actors playing many roles. Not only is it confusing to the audience -- (and it might save money) it is boring as S**t! 

Lastly - there is no drama. The pauses between what is being said on the stage are 'meneopausal'. I am capable of analyzing things myself, when there are things to analyze. And what I saw -- what the absence of real drama. The McNalley play may have been better with a larger cast.

RATING: TWO 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)))
(ABOVE REVIEWS WILL APPEAR ON WWW.BEYONDCHRON.ORG. )




















LEE HARTGRAVE TONIGHT - Tibet In Song


   Nov. 14 2010

-      Movies – Cabaret – Theatre – Night Clubs –

TIBET IN SONG

It starts out as a pleasant documentary in the beautiful countryside of Tibet. Then along come the Chinese who takes away the tranquil lives of the Tibetan people. I would call it brainwashing -- as the Chinese blast musical themes with what they call “Publicity Groups” that are installed in each Tibetan Town.  The Chinese know that the Tibetans love their folk music with their own songs  “the Drinking Song”, The Milking Song”, The Butter churning song” and The Roofing Song.” Yes, the Tibetans were very fond of music.

The Chinese Government picked up on this love for music by putting up “Huge Boxes” – Speakers in each town. The ‘blasted’ message was always the same – wipe out the culture of Tibet…turn them into Chinese. They replaced with words that praised Chairman Mao.’  Lyric: ‘That’s Chairman Mao’s Radiance and that Laugh is Mao’s Goodness.’ Yeh – that’s a laugh.  You could call it ‘Poison Radiance.” Chinese pop schlock – didn’t impress the Tibetans.

The movie is part Documentary, part Tibetan history and Chinese cruelty. Many fled. The chaos pushed them out of their homes as the bombs showered them with so-called love bombs.

Still to this day – the Chinese are still working their “Mind Draining” Publicity. But, it’s not working.

RATING: THREE BOXES OF POPCORN!!! – trademarked- 

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

Erich Bergen - Courtesy Photo
TONIGHT:  One Night Only Cabaret. 7:30 Pm. Last chance to get a ticket for a musical evening that stars member os the tourst cast of "West Side Story", along with Erich Bergen (Jersey Boys), Jai Rodriquez (Rent, The Producers) - plus Jazz Singers Weslia Whitfield and Kalil Wilson. Where? - The Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter St. 






November 5, 2010

CHITA RIVERA AT THE VENETIAN ROOM - MARCUS, SECRET OF SWEET

CHITA RIVERA ONE NIGHT ONLY AT THE FAMED VENETIAN ROOM


 LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS
 
Marcus or the Secret of Sweet – “Ticking Bomb Suspense”;
Madama Butterfly – “Brilliant”;
Chita Rivera at The Venetian Room;
Jeffrey Johnson – as Little Edie Beale at Rrazz Room
REAF  ‘One Night Only’ with ‘West Side Story’ Cast


MARCUS IS A HIGH-SPEED TRAIN WITHOUT BRAKES

You’ll need to be strapped into your seat for this genuine and nerve-racking and intense puzzle.  The language is pretty raw, but rings with authenticity. The story is told like a novel. When someone is leaving the stage, they say: I’m leaving now. When Marcus is about to smile, he says: Marcus is going to smile now. You’ll get into the swing of the stage directions (word for word).

We expect to see great Theater at A.C.T, and that is what you will see. This is beyond what you might expect. The language is not mythic – it’s the real deal: Here’s sample – a girlfriend of Marcus’s says to him: “With all the dick in the world and you had to suck his?” Here’s another truism – “You Gay! Ray Charles could see that even if he Blind and Dead.”  And here is more raw talk – “What’s on his mind?” – another friend says: “probably -- some dick.”

When Marcus is suspected about being too sweet (Gay) his mother says “Ain’t nothing ‘Sweet’ about a false son.”  This is a story for all times. One minute it radiates joy and the next it is an ecstatic phenomenon.  There is no doubt about it…this is life and a supreme lesson in living. One minute it’s slightly threatening and rowdy, the next it has fabulous excitement and energy that could short-circuit PG&E.

There is a lot more to this intricate story, but I believe that you will be more ecstatic, -- if I don’t tell you too much. I will say that this is more than just a ‘coming of age’ story – it is also about humanity and how we feel towards others. The writing is really crisp and real. The direction is superb as is the sets and the lighting is terrific. You could wait decades to see a show like this.
This is your chance to Play and Be Sweet! 

HERE IS THE BRILLIANT AND OUTSTANDING CAST MEMBERS

Margo Hall plays several characters that are right on target.  Hall is a wonder to watch and should be on Broadway. Jared McNeill gives a world wind performance.  He is totally fascinating and drips with talent. Shinelle ├ůzoroh and Omoze Idehenre, the friends of Marcus are such a joy to watch. Both remarkable. Richard Prioleau (Marcus) is fascinating. Gregory Wallace never seems to get a bad role. He is still giving us ‘Ingenious’ acting. Then there is Tobie L. Windham. It would be hard to find a more talented actor. He is Grand.

Written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and Directed by Mark Rucker. Couldn’t be a more ‘Triumphant’ team!’

AT THE AMERICAN CONSERVERATORY THEATRE

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

ONE OF PUCCINI’S BEST – ADDICTIVE – THRILLING

The San Francisco Opera Production of Madama Butterfly is deliciously unsettling.  The Maestro (Nicola Lisotti) gives the score the importance that it deserves. The blending of the orchestra and the voices is masterful.  This results in an interesting and thrilling, fragile, but beautiful threading of sound that ultimately brings the Opera to indescribable beauty.

The diva’s voice builds enormously as she defends the absence of her husband as she sings “Un bel di” (One fine day). Nothing can compare to this marvelous and gorgeous aria. The Diva’s (Svelta Vassileva) vocal facility and beauty lifts you into a new exhilarating experience.

The Orchestra pounds home the orchestral climax of the love duet with great imagination. Act two especially is entertainment in overdrive. The second act is Heart-stopping. It’s glorious, but at the same time devastating. The Diva’s ‘Death Scene’ is absolutely stunning.

Here is the story:  Passion, intrigue and comedy bring about many political ramifications. An American Pinkerton (Steffano Secco) is on duty in Japan.  His singing is powerful and moving. He meets Butterfly and decides that he would marry her. He brags to his friends that in Japan – you can stop a marriage just like you would drop a lease agreement. 


The set, costumes and music bring us to another world and another time.  Passions, and grudges lead to the death of ‘Butterfly’ – brought about by lust, rage and Butterfly’s sweetness. The result: “Heartbreaking.”

Butterfly is easily one of the best Opera’s ever.  It will keep you on the edge of your seat.  Make no mistake about it – this is a total sensory, and sensual experience.  One that I hope you won’t miss. 

AT THE SAN FRANCISCO OPERA HOUSE

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

CHITA RIVERA – FOREVER A LEGEND

It was in 1944 when Rivera’s mother enrolled her in the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet.  When she turned 15, a teacher from George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet spotted the talented Rivera and one other student that stood out in the crowd. The two students went to an Audition in New York City, accompanied by Doris Jones who ran the Jones-Haywood School. Rivera wowed them and was given a scholarship.

In later years Rivera has dazzled the world with roles in “West Side Story” – and she rocked the world with the song “America.” Then there was “Chicago,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and the seductive role in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” She has been nominated for nine Tony’s and President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  And recently, she toured in “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.”

Chita’s voice sounds more like mid 40’s than mid 70’s. Everyone that has met Rivera says the same thing: “She is a wonderful humble person with no attitude. Really down to earth for a world class star.”

Many people who saw Chita in the Broadway Musical also think that she was in the movie. And, of course some have said to Chita “You were wonderful in the movie – I just loved it.” But Chita is used to correcting people – “That was Rita Moreno in the Movie – it wasn’t me.”

One man shouted out to her at a Cabaret – “You are brilliant. My other favorite dancer was Cyd Charisse. Man what a pair of legs.” Well, at least he didn’t get them mixed up.  They both have great legs.

Talking of getting mixed up. I watched a You Tube clip where the hostess kept getting her mixed up with Moreno. Chita was very gracious at correcting her.  When you’re on T.V.  you have to be sure about whom you are interviewing.

Now Chita Rivera will bring the Fairmont’s Venetian room back to life with her sparkling wit and marvelous music. By the way she has a new solo studio album, “And Now I Swing” – Check it out - you’re gonna love it. One of Chita’s favorite places to perform is Feinstein’s in N.Y. – she is quoted as saying – “I get the energy from the audience in that club.”

Someone asked her: “did you take on the Jets (West Side Story)? She said with a grin  “No, I didn’t take them all.” 

Remember – you are going to see the Original from West Side Story – Chita Rivera – NOT Rita Moreno.

Chita is exciting and entertaining. Let go and enjoy the ride with this career topping stunner!


WHERE: THE FAIRMONT HOTEL VENETIAN ROOM, Friday Nov. 6th.  They have a gorgeous Restaurant just before you enter the fantastic Venetian Room. You’ll like that too.

JEFFREY JOHNSON AS ‘LITTLE EDIE BEALE’ AT THE RRAZZ ROOM

Here’s what they are saying….

Jeffrey Johnson as ‘Little Edie Beal’ is flawless! – Sandra Bernard. “He --(Jeffrey) explores a lost chapter of the ever fascinating Edie Beale Saga.” – Charles Busch.  Johnson has been showered with many more accolades about his ‘Edie Beal’ performance.

Jeffrey says: “Many people know about the Edith Beale play called “Grey Gardens” – a famed Mansion that became an eyesore.”

The Beale’s were related to Jacqueline Kennedy. As the play, the musical and the documentary reveals – Jackie Kennedy did give a little money to her poorer relatives.  But not much.

Jeffrey was mesmerized, by the quirky Edie Beale and that is how he came to put on this show he calls “Edie Beale – Live at Reno Sweeney.” He says: “Two years ago Gerald Duval wrote the show and it was a big hit at Joe’s Pub in New York.” The amazing thing is that Jeffrey really looks like ‘Little Edie”.

“Edie Beale did not have a very long Cabaret career. It lasted only seven days. At Reno Sweeney’s – a very hot club then, she sang songs like “Tea For Two”, “Time Goes By”, “So You Want To Be In Pictures” – Jeffrey sez.

This is a Test Drive – bringing the show to San Francisco. With the fame and notoriety, I can’t imagine the show not selling out. The Play and the Movie Documentary certainly did very well.  Oh, and by the way – Artistic Director Gerard DuVal worked on Les Liaison Dangerous through his ‘Ganynemede Arts’. 

Oh, and yes – there was also a “Grey Gardens” musical. Same script as the movie and the play.  Here is another comment that I picked up about Jeffrey’s show: “Jeffrey Johnson gives a remarkable performance. Fascinating!”

NOW PLAYING AT THE RRAZZ ROOM FRIDAY, NOV. 6TH AND SATURDAY NOV 7TH. 1030 pm.


SEXY REAF SHOW – ONE NIGHT ONLY: AFTER HOURS
With the touring cast of “West Side Story and Erich Bergen from the long-running Jersey Boys – Jai Rodriquez, known as the culture guy on “Queer eye for the Straight Guy, as well as roles in ‘Rent’ and ‘The Producers’ – plus popular songstress Wesla Whitfield and opera/jazz star Kalil Wilson – and other Special Guests.  WHERE? At the Marines Memorial Theatre.









November 2, 2010

CHITA RIVERA AT THE FAIRMONT

ENTERTAINMENT TODAY..

Now is the time for all good singers to step up to the edge of the stage.