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September 30, 2011

A.C.T'S 'ONCE IN A LIFETIME' - BRILLIANT!


Wer'e going to Hollywood. Photo: Kevin Berne
















 ONCE IN A LIFETIME BRINGS AMAZING HOLLYWOOD FLAVOR TO A.C.T.

A.C.T’S production of ‘Once in a Lifetime’ is dazzling. The show is like getting on a Hollywood treadmill that won’t let you get off. Wonderful dialogue sparkles among the brilliant sets and sensational acting. Oh, if only I could have been there in those days.

A.C.T has spared nothing to bring back 1920’s – 30’s Hollywood when Gossip Columnists ruled the day. For instance, there is the hilarious take on Gossip’s like Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper. And no one could do it better than Rene Augesen as she  plays Gossip Monger Helen Hobart. She really nailed the role. Brilliant!

This is majestic staging. It’s pure Hollywood magic. Visually, there has been nothing better on the stage this year. The razor sharp actors really keep us laughing. No fear of falling asleep during “Lifetime.” This historical play by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman is pure genius.

The wow performances in the show open fast and never slows down – and there is even a wonderful comfy train that goes by. Sure would like to be on that train.

There is so much to get excited about in this farce about romance and comedy – to eye popping exotic Art Deco scenery. And best of all, are the Actors that bring tons of wit and energy to the stage. Do you get the feeling that I love the show?

Director Mark Rucker has sent us to Hollywood in this engaging, glamorous play.
Also on the stage are wonderful old Movie Clips that were made just as ‘Talkies’ came about. Those were the days of Al Jolson -- one of the first to be in a Talkie Movie.

This is THE stage play of the year. Believe me – it’s as ‘Good as it gets!’ No wonder it’s called “Once in a Lifetime!”

Briefly the story: Silent films were on their way out. The ‘Talkies’ took over in the 30’s. A Trio of Vaudeville Actors sell their act for just $500 bucks, and they take a Train to Hollywood with Ideas of opening a school for voice training. Period Film clips are incorporated on a big screen to show us what the Hollywood product looked like in those days. And it was lots of fun.

Historical fact: Jack Oakie was the star in the movie (1932). It was long considered a lost movie, but was rediscovered a few years back and appeared on KQED. It would be great to see it again. 

THE BEST CAST THIS SEASON OR ANY OTHER SEASON:  Rene Augesen, Julia Coffey, Alexander Crowther, Marisa Dochowny, Jason Frank, Nick Gabriel, Margo Hall, Jessica Kitchens, Patrick Lane, Will LeBow, Kevin Ralston, Patrick Russell, John Wernke and Ashley Wickett.

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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Courtesy photo :Reaf - One Night Only















September 28, 2011

SARAH MOORE A COMIC TREASURE



 Sarah Moore. Photo by David Wilson

SHO HO STARRING SARAH MOORE

A CAPRICIOUS DELIGHT!

How many characters does it take to put on a show?  Sarah Moore has more characters than a bunch of Bunny Rabbits.

Moore’s alter ego, Rhonda Hammerstein (she claims to be related to the famous Hammerstein’s) is trying to make it in showbiz. She may not make it to the big Broadway stage – but the audience is just delighted. The pleasure comes in the madness.

Moore sings songs with outrageous lyrics like “Everyone Fun is Dead.” Moore’s character Rhonda is trying to make it big time on the stage. It doesn’t work for her. Rhonda then decides to join the Circus, where she blends with all the other kinky people.

Her friends are very strange. There is “Girlie Man” (and you can guess what he has in mind). And oh yes, Sho Girl meets some that are in even more strange. One character even exposes her breasts. Oh! Shame!

I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy the show this much. Boy, was I glad that I went to see Moore’s crazy bunch of friends. She’s bewitching, inquisitive and she completely astonishes.

You will marvel at her Opera Singing (It’s a complete show in itself. This is stunning artistry that deserves the raves that it gets.

Sexual innuendoes are scattered throughout Sarah’s Cast of Thousands. Yep, she’s a crowd-pleaser! The audience actually leaped out of their seats to applaud.

NOW PLAYING AT THE NEW CONSERVATORY THEATRE CENTER


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

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and has produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED. He also is an original member of the Bay Area Critics Circle. And he was a two-term President of BATCC))) 


 Courtesy of Reaf One Night only

September 27, 2011

LOVE CONQUERS ALL IN TURANDOT



Irene Theorin and Marco Berti. Photo by Cory Weaver


FOR ALL EVENTS


LOVE CONQUERS ALL IN TURANDOT

It is Puccini’s last opera. This production (Turandot) at the San Francisco Opera House is the most vivid and colorful production that I have ever seen. For that I can forgive the first two acts that were a little bit slow. But the Third Act is beyond fantastic.

David Hockney has come up with a production that is way into the future. With dazzling 3-D like visuals. Hockney made sure that the lighting enhanced the music.  The result? Electrifying!

In her San Francisco debut Irene Theorin (Turandot) is a princess who is cold as ice. Finally, in the second act the man-hating Turandot begins to melt a little as Prince Calaf manages to answer her riddles. Calaf (Marco Berti) wins over the Princess. Not easily, but he melts the frigid Princess little by little. The Princess is gorgeously dressed and completely on pitch. She eventually warms up to Calaf who sings the tuneful and beautiful aria “Nussum Dorma.” It’s always the highlight of the Opera.

On stage briefly is Liu (Leah Crocetto) who is in love with Calaf. He, of course likes here, but he doesn’t love her. Her fate? The Princess sends Liu to her death. The selfish, self-loved Turandot is not all that caring.

I don’t think there could be a better production of “Turandot.” The singing is absolutely breathtaking.

The conductor Nicola Luisotti’s conducting brings a magical blend of Orchestra and Vocals.  This Grand Opera opens new light and new visions of powerful high notes. Every movement is sumptuous.

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

This visually majestic “Turandot” will play Oct. 4 -- Nov. 18-25.  Info and Tickets: 415-864-3330.


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



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

This visually majestic “Turandot” will play Oct. 4 -- Nov. 18-25.  Info and Tickets: 415-864-3330.


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









COURTESY OF: www.beyondchron.org.

September 16, 2011

LOVE CRIME -- POWERFUL, COMPELLING







Love Crime is a very low key crime story with great acting.

  Every nuance makes you not trust anyone in any corporate office. There is enough tension to keep you squirming in the office chair. Sometimes we think we know who the plotter is and who will be the victim, and at other times you’re not so sure. Like an Alfred Hitchcock movie – this story is executed like a fine tuned piano.

This film is about dying and greed. Oddly enough, the French director Corneau Alain died a week after the premiere of his last movie.

The pace is a little slow at times but you would expect that in a movie that hangs on to dark secrets. There is no doubt about it – Love Crime is a high-class thriller, starring Christine Scott Thomas.

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. An original founder of the Bay Area Critics Circle and Two Term President)))


MOZART'S SISTER - THRILLING MUSIC


MOZARTS SISTER - COURTESY PHOTO

 

 

 

 

MOZART’S SISTER 


Here’s the deal. Mozart had a sister who was also a very good musician. In those days a woman was not allowed to play the violin, so Mozart’s sister did it on the sneak. She wanted to attend a Master’s Class in music, but her father put thumbs down on that.

The movie is filled with thrilling music and great views of gilded palaces. The future King (Dauphin) struts around the palace in his wig and painted face. He is probably Gay – but invites Mozart’s sister to his Den of Inequity where he shuts the door with his soon to be wife. But to throw off everyone on guard, he has Mozart’s sister dress as a young man. Of course, he is Gay and doesn’t get it. So when he invites Ms Mozart to his man cave he demands that she leave the boys clothes on. He tells his soon to be Queen to leave the room – apparently to have sex. Then he flings the door open and calls her a pervert and a deviate. “Get out of here he yells – and take your music with you. It’s trash.” Well – what did you expect in the 18th Century?

One great thing about this film is that the directory did not make the actors over act. Later Ms Mozart moved away from her parents. She eventually married a man with five children and she became a Countess. She died broke and exhausted. She had no money.

Marie Feret plays the role of Ms Mozart. When she sings – you’ll think that you just went to heaven. Well, I know one thing – if nothing else, she can always get a job singing. She has a fantastic range.

This movie is very well done. Not quite as good as Amadeus – but it does you remarkable insights to the 1800’s. Oh, it’s not for Baby Boomers. They would not like or understand it. Ninety percent of them don’t know who Mozart is.

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

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

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September 14, 2011

EDWARD ALBEE - DELICATE BALANCE AT AURORA


LEE HARTGRAVE – FOR ALL EVENTS



The Cast of "Delicate Balance" at Aurora Theatre

 Courtesy Photo


EDWARD ALBEE’S A DELICATE BALANCE

YES, IT’S SO DELICATE THAT YOU HARDLY NOTICE IT

Albee was once honored as “America’s greatest playwright.” Really? You could have fooled me. Most of his plays didn’t do very well on the stage, except for one – and that would be “Virginia Woolf.”  Personally, I think they should take that award back. A great playwright was Tennessee Williams – not Albee.

The first act sort of sets up the story. As usual (like Virginia Woolf) there is the incessant drinking and arguing. A love between a couple becomes very boring very fast. The boring couple gets kicked out of the friend’s house because something (will never know what) frightens them. The only thing really made clear in the nut cakes home, is the couple moved back home. I wish I could have stood up and cheered. Hey, one night would have been enough for me. And come to think of it…one Act is plenty out of the three-Act Play.

I love the Aurora Theatre – especially the intimacy of it. But with even the outstanding actors in this play – they must have a compelling script to make us love Albee. It’s pseudo psychobabble. Some news outlets are refusing to review plays, unless it is new material. The Actors in Albee’s bore did what they could. I marveled at the strength that they brought forth.

However – this will be the last time I will be tempted to see another Albee Play. I had hoped the Aurora would have revised the show (if Albee would permit) to give it more steam.

AT THE AURORA THEATRE IN BERKELEY

RATING: ONE GLASS OF CHAMPAGNE! –trademarked-

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED). Hartgrave was also a founding member of the Bay Area Critics Circle and a two time President)))

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September 12, 2011

FOR ALL EVENTS - CRITICS WORLD LEE HARTGRAVE


HENRY THE VI CAST. Courtesy Photo
FOR ALL EVENTS - CRITICS WORLD

DOES HENRY THE VI HAVE A DEATH WISH?

It would seem that way in Henry The Sixth Part Two. Henry has married the daughter (Margaret) of King Charles of France. But as we know this is a marriage of convenience. The palace is full of intrigue. Henry’s royal relatives are plotting and scheming to get rid of young Henry, so that they can take over the monarchy. However, Henry believes that everyone loves him and that they would not do him any harm.

Some of Henry’s true loyal friends are imprisoned by Henry’s relatives. The plotters imprison anyone that agrees with Henry and they sadistically murder those that try to protect Henry. Henry may be next. Even Queen Margaret is even in on the plot to kill Henry.

Henry has to make concessions to his relatives to keep from getting his head cut off. He doesn’t know whom to trust. That’s the funny thing about Henry. He thinks everyone in the end will love him. Well – they don’t. He takes a back seat to the Throne. Henry finally realizes that he might be the next target. Merrily, the relatives are very busy killing each other that they seem to have overlooked Henry – at least for the time being.

The Actors at the Box Car Studios on Hyde Street are enormously talented. Better acting would be very difficult to find. Shakespeare’s gripping story is a difficult mess. It’s hard to figure out who is who – and who did what to whom. Henry, of course is very trusting. Here is what Henry says about his plotting Uncle (the Protector) – “The Duke is virtuous, mild, and too well given to dream on evil, or to work my downfall.” Well, so much for trusting your relatives – the Duke (Uncle) plots to dethrone Henry. 

The Sets and lighting certainly made for a scary look, and the sound effects are thrilling.

THE SPLENDID ACTORS ARE: Vallarta Lichen – Ian Hops – Jeremy Forbing – April Fritz – Casey Worthington – Caleb Carbrera – Ben Landmesser – Andrew Akraboff – Allison Combs – Will Hand – and Samuel Richie. You don’t find this much talent on a small stage anywhere. Intellect and emotion coexist in this mesmerizing production.

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

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