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March 25, 2013

HOT TIX! + NOT SO HOT TIX!

NELLIE MCKAY Courtesy Photo




HOT TIX
BERNADETTE PETERS 

You won't want to miss out at The Marsh in Berkeley (2120 Alliston Way). Why?  - you may ask. Well, here's the reason: It's a World Premiere of "A Killer Story". This thrilling crime drama by Dan Harder (Zipperz) plays with exciting elements of  
film noir on the stage. Hey, this is modern times - and its set in the exciting digital age. Opening night is Saturday, April 20, 8pm, 2013- but do come early and enjoy noir era nosh, fab cocktails, and a nostalgic pre-show cabaret performance beginning at 7:15Pm.  This is absorbing stuff. You and your friends will jump to get those HOT TIX! 
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THIS HOT TIX WAS SOLD OUT (a one night stand) at the Gorgeous Fairmont Hotel Venetian Room. However - you know the men's chorus known around the world as "Chanticlear". Wow! - They are just fantastic. Oh, and there is this also. NELLIE MCKAY was the Jewell of the Nile with the Chanticlears. McKay also plays the piano, sings, tells jokes and  the audience stands up and cheers all evening. As if that wasn't enough - I was trying to beat the crowd out of the swanky room -- when someone grabbed my shoulders. I turned and looked to see who it was. It was the Star of the Evening. She said "I just have to hug you - I Love your Hat - you're so cute!" Then poof- Nellie McKay just vanished. Well,  exciting as the moment was - I wouldn't call it a long relationship. 
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NOT SO HOT TIX

WRITER SARAH RUHL IS NOT DOING SO WELL WITH HER EARLIER PLAY, "EURYDICE". The play has it's moments on the Custom Made Theater. But, in spite of Ruhl's writing talents this one doesn't ascend to much. It reminds me of my High School days when we had to present those kind of flaky and silly. I still think of all those Greek plays -- that were in their time probably thrilling. Not so now. 

Yes, it is meant to be whimsical. And the Actors are supreme - as they always are at Custom Made. Liz Ryder's original music fits in perfectly to the script just doesn't get to break down the Gates of Hell to retrieve anything. The set is interesting and serves the purpose. 

Sorry to say -- in spite of the great setting and the terrific acting and excellent production values --  it just didn't bowl me over.  The play takes 85 minutes with no intermission. The cookies in the Lobby took less time and were more fun. 

HERE ARE THE FANTASTIC ACTORS: Jessica Rudholm, Fred Pitts, David Naughton, Eric O'Kelly, Jeremy Parkin, Helen Pappas and Stefin Collins. 

DIRECTOR: Katja Rivera. Production Concept - Brian Katz

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

  













March 21, 2013

PATTI LUPONE -- HAS SPUNK AND SASS!




PATTI LAPONE  - Courtesy Photo 



PATTI LUPONE AT THE RRAZZ ROOM

IMPRESSIVE - THAT'S WHAT THE AUDIENCE WANTED AND THAT'S WHAT THEY GOT. Her singing is total entertainment from start to finish.  Patti is on the stage comfortable as she can be. Lapone  throws her love to the audience - and everyone just beams with excitement. 

The evening was spectacular fun. When I first entered he Cadillac building on Van Ness Street, the Line of fans were clear out the door onto the sidewalk. This is what I think -- I think that the audience believes that LuPone can do it all. Well, they are right.. See gives us everything...personality, and a miracle voice... in a fantastic showroom (The Rrazz Room). 

There is no kidding around here. Except - when LuPone does take us on a few marvelous jokes along the way. But, mostly what we get is one of the most exciting moments in the world. She can do anything with her voice. Just to take a line from an old song -- I was humming this in my mind. "She Can Do Anything - YES, she can."

LuPone gave us many songs to treasure during the evening. There are many to love. Her are a few that bring back memories. Lupone sez that she does like to bring out tinges of Edith Piaf and Lotte Lenya - with the help of pianist Christopher Fenwick. Yes, I missed hearing those heavy duty songs from "Sunset Boulevard and Evita. But, no matter what she sings and where it is from -- her remarkable charm is exceptional. In the fullest sense of the music -- she arrives as the "Complete Star." 

LuPone's set at the Rrazz, went on quite long. But believe me, it was worth it. You'll be stunned with her undeniably powerful voice. She is as fascinating as a singer can get. Even more so. You've never heard or seen anything like it. She came back out on the stage to thunderous applause. Only a fool would want to come back on the stage -- but LuPone gave us more joy. The show ran over thirty minutes. Shall  we Dance? 

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

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






March 18, 2013

POP! SHORTIES -- LIVELY DEAD METAPHOR

Renee Augesen and George Hampe. Photo:  Kevin Berne



BOY WAS I SURPRISED AT THE A.C.T. THEATER  

This is the best "Dark Comedy" that I have ever seen. If ever there was a stark and explosive evening of smiling -- this play is the most outrageously entertaining show that you will ever see. I can't get it out of my mind. 

The play begins with Dean Trask (George Hampe) - a Veteran Gun Sniper who has just returned from the sound of haunting guns. His troubles began at home when Dean goes to an interview with a government job counselor (Oliver Denny). Soldier Dean has plenty of problems. His wife is pregnant and his father is losing his mind and his mother (the adorable Sharon Lockwood) is distressed - but she manages somehow to keep the family going. 

The Handsome Dean Trask keeps calm, but he is steaming inside. Actually, he could charm the leaves off the trees, even though he is a trained sniper, who is a determined killer. But something holds him back from firing too fast. You see, he has to plan carefully, about what he is about to do. There are several people that Dean would like to knock off. Especially Helen Denny (Rene Augesen). Denny constantly smiles at everyone - even though she is really tough as nails under those pasted wet red lips. 

Deans Father goes through the wringer with dementia. Tom Bloom (the Dad) spurts out more three letter words that you can fit into a mailbox. His constant shocking words like "F...you" - is one of many. Actor Tom Bloom is the Star of all Stars in this play. Wow! Even the many older women in the audience were bent over with laughter. 

And the beautiful politician Helen Denny, reminds of the aggressive and uptight Republican who thinks that she is a reincarnation of God. Just don't let her have a weapon. 

THE WONDERFUL SPECIALIZED ACTORS ARE: Renee Augesen, Tom Bloom, Rebekah Brockman, Anthony Fusco, George Hampe and Sharon Lockwood 

FANTASTIC STAGE MANAGEMENT IS BY: Kimberley Mark Webb, Megan Q. Sada (Assistant Stage Manager and Amy Beckwith, Stage Management Fellow

GEORGE F. WALKER -- IS ON MY A-LIST! 
The Superb Direction is by Irene Lewis. 

NOW PLAYING AT THE A.C.T THEATER ON GEARY STREET 

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

(((LEE HARTGRAVE HAS CONTRIBUTED MANY ITEMS TO THE SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE DATEBOOK AND HE ALSO PRODUCED AND HOSTED A LONG RUNNING ARTS SEGMENT ON PBS - KQED)))





March 16, 2013

HISTORICAL BOLD DRAMA. IT SIZZLES!





Velina Brown and Dawn L. Troupe. Courtesy Photo 

A SURPRISING AND BOLD STORY ABOUT TWO AFRICAN- AMERICAN WOMEN IN THE LATE 19th CENTURY - DARE TO BECOME LOVERS

 The Playwright Shirlene Holmes, has brought the most endearing love story to the San Francisco Stage that I have ever seen. The simple sexual charm makes you want to hug them both. They know that the town people is  spreading gossip around about their unusual relationship. 

Gossip or not - these ladies immerse themselves with hope and love. They find the courage to dismiss what the neighbors think about them. Their lively discourse is a little uneasy at first -- but the relationship blossoms into sharp lively captivating moments. And Oh - the humor is so provocative and sly. The effecting performances are truly honest and compelling. "EXCELLENT GREAT ART!" 

NOW PLAYING AT THE EUREKA THEATRE 

Amazing Direction by John Fisher. The Stars are Velina Brown * and Dawn L. Troupe.*  Time and place: The mid-1890's in the South. 

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

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

March 13, 2013

THE LISBON TRAVIATA -- JEALOUSY - OBSESSION





HILARIOUS FUN -EXTRAORDINARY


JEALOUSY PLUS OBSESSION is at the top of this comedy/tragedy. There are two Acts in this play. The first keeps you laughing as Mendy takes over the stage, with his engaging bitchy comments. He talk constantly about Maria Callas, the Opera Singer. Mendy actually wants to be just like Callas. He has lost one of the singers Records. Yes, they had big records that you put on a phonograph in those days. And no they didn't have any Apps then or a Crank on the side of the machine.  But for a very fluttering vicious Opera Queen, Mendy is one of the most memorable characters that I have ever seen on the stage. Here is a quote - "How many tears are we supposed to shed?" Here's another zinger "Sutherland? I hate Sutherland!" referring to another Opera Star. Love this snippet: - He has Balls - he just doesn't wear them on his sleeves!" 

Most of the talking is from Mendy who constantly obsesses about Opera singers. Menday and his friend Stephen, go on and on about various Opera Singers. Who is the best and isn't? Well, it turns out that it always ends up being Callas. The first act is absolutely hilarious. The second Act is very serious. No jokes here. Mendy's friend Stephen is trying to make kup with Mike (Phillippe Gosselin). But like a house of Phonograph records -- the walls fall down around them. A young good looking man comes out of the Bathroom naked (Adam Roy). Stephen is having a nervous breakdown that turns into an emotional palette. 
Courtesy Photo - NCTC

Stephen is plotting on how to get rid of the younger man who is showering together with (his lover Mike). It all ends up badly in the last act. Not what you would expect during the ending of the last Act.  "See It! Explosively Good!" 

THE POSTIVELY TERRIFIC CAST: Philippe Gosselin, Adam Roy, Michael Sally and Matt Weimer. 

Written by Terrance McNally. Directed by Dennis Lickteig. Time: 1988. Place: New York City. 

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

March 11, 2013

OZ THE MOVIE - A MASTERPIECE

Courtesy Photo - Picaso

OZ- THE GREAT AND POWERFULL 

The Star of "OZ" is the handsome James Franco. This movie is not just huff and puff stuff - it's great fun to watch. To the contrary - "OZ" is something special. There are three Witches (sisters) flying around the palace, and they know how to strike lightning bolts like you've never seen before. You might think that they are all just Love and Kisses. Nope, they are not. They all want to get rid of Franco, the Magician - in a puff of smoke. 

Well, not every Witch wants to be "Queen" for a day. They want to be Queen forever in the magical world of Oz. And the Witches Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams are the meanest of the Queens of the Poppy Fields just outside of OZ. The Queens fly around to control OZ. Gee, seems just like politicians to me. There are two really evil Witches - the third Witch is kind and gorgeous She will be the Queen. 

The filming is extremely Magical. Colors pop up in front of your 3-D eyes as you focus on magical, wizardly illusions. What we are seeing is some of the greatest screen powers in the world. There are hints of the original "Wizard of Oz"  that starred Judy Garland as she skipped down the Yellow Brick road. In this "OZ" there weren't any dwarfs singing along a Yellow Brick Road -- but there is one cute little monkey with the brightest blue eyes you've every seen. The Monkey follows  Handsome Franco wherever he goes. You will cheer up with a couple of songs - but remember, this is not a musical. The Bad Witches won't allow anyone  to be that happy. 

OZ is a little long - but not boring. It keeps you on the edge of your chair. The 3D effects are excellent. Somewhat like the award winning movie "PI". 

Near the end of "OZ" you see the most spectacular part of the film. It's very exciting and amazing. "Oz" is Terrific, and Hilarious! The all-star cast will dazzle you with tremendous performances! 

RATING: Four Boxes of Popcorn!!!! (HIGHEST RATING) - TRADEMARKED- 

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