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April 29, 2011

MILLS BROTHERS ARE MILLS-TASTIC! AT THE RRAZZ ROOM


THE MILLS BROTHERS – MILLS-TASTIC 

I’ve been in the Entertainment Business for more years that I care to mention.  As a Disc Jockey in Chicago, Gary Indiana, San Francisco (Radio, TV) I played many, many Mills Brothers songs. Now the Mills Brothers are still going strong on stages around the World. And guess where they will be on April 30? – At the Rrazz Room. Donald Mills was the last of the Brothers, but the talent goes on with family members.

Their original hits “St. Louis Blues” and “Bugle Call Rag” were some of the Mills Brothers early hits. In 1943 they sent the airwaves into a tizzy with “Paper Doll” – a wonderful sweet ballad that became a huge hit. And who could forget the ever-new sounding “You’ll Always Hurt the One You Love.” And – ain’t that the truth?

Ask anyone – or most anyone -- what they think of the Mills Brothers, and they will say that they surely are one of the greatest, influential jazz vocal groups of all time. They are particularly amazing on songs like “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” and “Bye Bye Blackbird.” The Brothers said: “Those ARE really great songs and we might do some of them at the Rrazz Room – but we haven’t really decided on the final set for the show yet.” Hey, maybe they’ll even toss in “Lazy River”.

The Mills Brothers history goes back at least 50 years. There has been a movie about them (The Mills Brothers Story) it’s available on DVD. Get ready – cause a performance by the “Mills” is totally engrossing. The ‘Brothers’ recorded mostly on Decca Records, where I met them when I did PR for Decca Records. They were moved to “Dot” records – and had the big hit “Get A Job” – a song that had a lot of doo-wop sounds in it. We are amazingly lucky that the younger generation (John Mills, the second) is continuing to bring this great music to the world. With him on the stage is Elmer Hooper of the famed ‘Platters’.  Can’t wait to hear these great talents in person again.

WHEN: APRIL 30 (Sat) 3pm) and May 1st – Sunday - 3pm, 8pm.

April 15, 2011

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS - STRIKE UP THE BAND - NO EXIT


 LEE HARTGRAVE TONIGHT

Tennessee Williams revival – Superb;
Strike Up The Band – Enchanting;
No Exit – Hell is on the way!

ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE – STIRS AND INTRIQUES WITH PROVOCATIVE PERFORMANCES

This is a brilliant, superbly directed play, with impeccable acting. The power and intimacy of this Tennessee Williams love story will sweep you away…and it will haunt you long after it ends. Williams has written an absolutely electrifying masterpiece! The Aurora Theatre production has triumphed again.

A Father belittles his eccentric, fluttering daughter (Alma). He shames her every chance that he gets. She has secret yearnings for a handsome neighbor (John Buchanan). Her bedroom window looks directly into his bedroom. Her misery gets even more complicated when one night she sees the handsome young Doctor and his mother together on his bed. The mother is rubbing her son’s feet and playing with his hair. She even kisses him on the lips. This is torture for Alma, as she watches this incestuous game playing. The mother has other plans for her sexy son, and they don’t include the ‘needy’ Alma who is having palpations as she yearns to be on that bed without the mother. 

The Tennessee Williams play in the Aurora’s hands is the best production of this play that I have ever seen. It’s amazing how they can turn a stage from nothing into something. The sets are a true marvel. One minute you’re inside and the next you’re outside in a park. Amazing! “Sumptuously gorgeous!”

THIS IS THE REALLY SPECIAL CAST: Beth Wilmurt (Alma)- Charles Dean (Alma’s Father) – Amy Crumpacker (Mother) – Marcia Pizzo (Mrs. Buchanan) – Thomas Gorrebeeck (Alma’s love) – Ryan Tasker (Salesman) – Leanne Borghesi (Mrs. Bassett) – Beth Deitchman (Rosemary). Excellent lighting by Jim Cave. Great period Costumes by Laura Hazlett. Fabulous magical set Design by Liliana Duque Pineiro. Seductive Directing by Tom Ross.

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

STRIKE UP THE BAND – SURPRISE OF THE SEASON

This 1927 musical is as fresh and sophisticated as today. What was old is now NEW today. The original Gershwin score of “Strike Up The Band” is flat-out fun, and we get to laugh a lot at the left-wing politics of the 30’s. It’s a spooky spoof on war. Spooky, because we are currently fighting several uncessary wars.  The Glitz and Glamour in this production is awesome. The 42nd Street Moon Theatre cast is -- “The Best Party in Town. Forget 3-D when you can see a live musical in 4-D. This total crowd pleaser is “Sensational Broadway quality.”  Believe me – it’s entertainment on Hyperdrive. ‘S’ stands for Sumptuous! It’s everything that Hollywood forgot how to do.

THE EXTRAORDINARY CAST: Luke Chapman, Ben Euphrat, Gabriel Grilli, Stephanie Rhoads, Sharon Rietkerk, Samantha Bruce, Michael Scott Wells, Eric Wenburg, Benjamin Knoll, Benjamin Pither, Jack Sale, Zachary Franczak. The Swiss Misses are: Amie Shapiro, Samantha Bartholomew, Megan Amanda Hopp. Dance Captain: Gabriel Grilli. Marvelously directed by: Zack Thomas Wilde.

ORCHESTRA: Dave Dobrusky and Nick DiScala. They make the musical score sound like a full-fledged orchestra. You will Cheer!

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


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

NO EXIT – “HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE!”

In the play “No Exit” the most famous line is: “Hell is other people.” Three people who are strangers to each other find themselves in a sort of self-imposed hell. They go to a strange Hotel. Once there one by one a very off kilter Bell Boy escorts them to a room. Playwright Sartre wants you to explore what would happen if you went to a Hotel Room and find that you are locked in. There are no windows. They are bricked in. There are no mirrors – so you can’t see yourself. But, you won’t be alone. Two others, looking for something, join you in the locked hotel room.

I guess if this is Hell – then it’s not all that bad. But then, it is a prison. However – they begin to get on each other’s nerves. There is the look of fear, anger, disdain, grief and brief moments of joy in their trapped hotel room. 

It becomes a little repetitive. To the point where you begin to go mad. I’m serious – you actually feel imprisoned. It’s an interesting production with the use of large screens – that show people going into the room, and then they appear up on the screen. I have a feeling that some of this was pre-recorded. In some of the Screen shots – they looked a little different. Then, again – I might have already gone mad and not realized it.

In the room the prisoners go head to head. They argue – they snarl at each other -- then they even have sex. Oh, not all together – but two of them do. There are hints of other sexual proclivities. All in all, this play (80 minutes) is unsettling. I was exhausted. Is there a stretcher near by?

Then there is this. Are they dead? Have we been imagining the whole thing? Have I gone nuts? Yes – I have! I’m still raving and clawing at the walls.

It’s a mystery. And one, that I have not solved. Maybe when you see it – you can figure it out. All I know is that the prisoners expect eternity. Well, when I figured that out – at the end of the applause – I bolted for the side doors to get out.

There IS a message here of redemption and forgiveness. Or -- maybe not. You might think about having a drink first before you get involved. Great acting and visually stunning!

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


FAA=LASH BUZZ:

FULL CAST ANNOUNCED FOR THE A.C.T. WORLD PREMIERE PRODUCTION OF ARMISTEAD MAUPIN’S ‘TALES OF THE CITY’.

The wonderful and fantastic Judy Kaye will play the role of Anna Madrigal. Betsy Wolfe is in the cast and has been with the show since its inception, as Mary Ann Singleton. Acclaimed 
comedienne Mary Birdsong plays Mona Ramsey. Tony Award-nominated actor Manoel Felciano will play Norman Neal Williams. And the celebrated Richard Poe returns to A.C.T. after four decades, as Edgar Halcyon. The Wedding Singer’s Matthew Saldivar will be Brian Hawkins. Award-winning Wesley Taylor will be Michael “Mouse” Tolliver. This musical will be the talk-of-the-town. You can join ‘Tale Chasers’, A.C.T.’s email fan club, for exclusive first look, presale tix info and special offers.

AND THAT’S A WRAP!!!!