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June 26, 2013

BYZANTIUM - AN INSTANT CLASSIC VAMPIRE MOVIE

The 200 year old Vampires. Courtesy Photo 



They were born 200 years ago -- and they still are sucking blood out of their boyfriends neck. Well, you have to have some nourishment don't you? 

This story is ingeniously constructed and the cinema photography is absolutely stunning. There is a creepy mystery about this deserted Island. The Vampire Girls first plunge a long Thumbnail into their Toy Boys necks and they lead the men to a dark cave. Suddenly hundreds of dark birds flock around the person who just got their blood  sucked out during this ritual. From the mountain top -- a river of blood comes down to the Vampire Girls where they can enjoy all the blood they want. This is a ritual that you won't ever forget. 

Actually the appearance of blood was reduced for your enjoyment. This is not one of those "True Blood" kind of things. Nope, these are truly high class Vampire Girls. Men didn't seem to get into it. Hey, how would they know what they are about to get into? 

Byzantium is a great looking movie. Yep, it's high class gloss. And the stars Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Artelon and Caleb Landry Jones bring out terrific narcissism in the girls. It's an astonishing movie! A Sensation!" 

The film is directed by Neil Jordan and written by Moira Buffini  (who also wrote the play that the film is adapted from.)

This film will not easily leave your mind. "It's sexy, exhilarating and   Lethal!" The movie itself is a thing of beauty and very engrossing. 

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

Opens on July 5, 2013, at Landmark's Opera Plaza Cinemas in San Francisco and Landmark's California Theatre in Berkeley

http://www.ifcfilms.com/films/byzantium  




June 20, 2013

A HIJACKING - NERVE WRACKING EXPERIENCE ON THE SEA

Pictured Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek)
Courtesy Photo 





EVERYBODY ON THIS CARGO SHIP SEEMS TO BE HAPPY - AND HAVING A SWELL TIME

Well, not everyone. There is a problem. The Ship is bound for Mumbai. Danger is right around the next wave. 

The crew has been hi-jacked by Somali pirates. This fascinating journey is incredibly believable. There are several "Clinch" your fist moments that the crew will have to endure. They run out of food, they run out of everything. The pirates don't seem to care - they are truly dangerous. Here is the smiling and good happy go-lucky cook - before they began to abuse him. Pirates don't care - they just want the 15-million bucks that they demand. You might compare it to "The Game of Thrones" - on the Sea. 

This movie will give you a Popcorn adrenaline rush. Just don't get in the way of the cleaver. These pirates are not just after the do-re-me - they want everything that they can get. If they could - they would break every frame in your body. Not a nice place to live. 

The Danish Actors really have to endure extreme torture. And why do the pirates do that? They want the money and they make the guys on the ship call they their company on shore -- and force them to give them the money deal that they want. Of course -- they get it - but they still are disturbingly ugly. Don't plan to vacation their - EVER! 

The film opens with the happy-go-lucky Chef Mikkel (Pilou Asbaek) aboard the ship MV Rozan. He hopes to get home to his wonderful wife and young daughter. The ship is headed by Ozzie captain (Keith Pearson). 

One thing I like about the tense movie is that there is no clever gadgetry. This is a real story with real people in peril. This is spectacular film making and Superb Acting. It's intensely moving. 

Now Playing at Landmark Movie Theatres 

RATING: FOUR BOXES OF POPCORN!!!! (highest rating!) -trademarkd- 

(((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))) 

*He is also a Columnist at: beyondchron.org. (for more stories) 

You can also read reviews at: Lee Hartgrave Tonight (Google) 

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Now playing at the New Conservatory Theatre



June 16, 2013

DIVINE: FULL OF HUMOR...A BLAST! BIRDS OF A FEATHER - ALL'S FAIR IN LOVE


The Wonderful Divine's - Courtesy Photo 





THE DIVINE SISTER 
AND BIRDS OF A FEATHER 


"The Divine Sister is an over the top outrageous comedy that keeps your belly laughing. The cast is simply "Divine"! The story is about St. Veronico's indomitable Mother Superior who is determined to build a new school for a convent. She deals with a young postulant who is experiencing visions. Most of them involves sexual hysteria among her nuns. Most of the Nuns are in Drag. I least I think they were all in Drag. 

A mysterious nun visiting from Berlin is up to no good. There's something strange going on under that dark flowing outfit. This is the most outrageous musical comedy that I have ever seen. And I want to see it again. 

 Charles Busch brings us this sprawling adventure. It sure it awe-inducing.It's the perfect warm-up to summer. And if it is too cold you can always hide under one of the Nun's outfits. Oh, talk about lavish costumes as they entertain us with spirited musical numbers. It's a blast of joy -- I Love it!  It's a minted American Classic. 

The show is so Riotously funny. It's one of NCTC's happiest surprises. It's a must see Blast! 

THE EXTRAORDINARY CAST ARE NOTHING LESS THAN SUBLIME. HERE THEY ARE: David Bicha (Agnes), J. Conrad Frank (Sister Walburga/Mrs. MacDuffie), Michaela Greeley (Mrs. Levinson/Timothy), Marie O'Donnell (Sister Acacius), Matt Weimer (Brother Venerius/Jeremy) and Joe Wicht (Mother Superior). This is a Dream Cast! 

Charles Busch (Playwright), F. Allen Sawyer is the superb Director. Set Design is a dream by Kkuo-Hao Lo. The lighting design is perfect, and Stephen Abts gave us perfect sound. The producers are David Madsen and Richard Norris. And I want to thank the Nuns for giving us an intermission. I'm still laughing. 

AT THE NEW CONSERVATORY THEATER - VAN NESS AND MARKET 

RATING: Four Glasses of Champagne!!!!(highest rating)-trademarked

The two Penquins: Luke Taylor and David Levine.
Plus - Elissa Beth Stebbins and Christipher Morrell
Courtesy Photo 


BIRDS OF A FEATHER -- DEEPLY MOVING - LIFE AFFIRMING

A real pair of male Penquins nest together. They are in love. But, this pair of birds are both males. However they nest together -- and just like humans they sometimes get along, and on other moments they argue a lot. One of the males wants to hatch an egg that he finds. The other penquin is not so keen about that. Hey, there are Gay Birds, just like humans. 

On a higher ledge there are a pair of red-tailed hawks (Pale Male and Lola). They build a luxurious next in a luxury high rise. You can imagine what a great view that had overlooking all of New York. Pale Male and Lola were the sensation. Everyone brought spy classes so that they could follow Pale Male and Lola. 

The story is helped with projections that show a video of the red-tailed hawks. Penquin Silo admired them so much - he seemed to be a little jealous. Silo and Roy break up - so to speak. Their love affair comes to an end. Sad. The story is as cute as a hatched egg. 

The play is 90 minutes long with an intermission. 

RATING: Three Glasses of Champagne!!! 

Now playing at the New Conservatory Theatre 
Van Ness @ Market 


(((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)))  







June 14, 2013

SWEET CHARITY: A DELIGHTFUL ENCHANTING EXPERIENCE

Molly Bell (Charity) and cast sing- I'm a Brass Band.
Photo by Kevin Berne 







TALK ABOUT A DAZZLING DISPLAY OF PERFECT PERFORMANCES -- WELL, THIS MUSICAL AT THE LESHER THEATER IN WALNUT CREEK TAKES THE CAKE. EVEN BETTER THAN THE ORIGINAL BROADWAY MUSICAL 

This American musical takes us on a fabulous journey as we follow the somewhat nutty Charity Hope Valentine. She works as a taxi dancer along with her friends, Nickie and Helen. 

Charity longs for real love, but has bad luck with men. In one scene  Charity is robbed and pushed off a bridge by an ex-boyfriend. As if that isn't humiliating enough - she has an encounter with Vittorio Vidal - a movie star. 

Charity tries to find a new job but has little luck. She runs into Oscar Lindquist as they both wait for an Elevator. When they get into the Elevator -- it gets stuck. Yep, it doesn't move. Charity takes it blandly, but Oscar goes bi-polar. They talk, while being stuck in the Elevator -- but Charity doesn't tell Oscar that she is a dance hall girl. 

After a farewell party at a Ballroom, Charity and Oscar suddenly announce that he cannot go through with the wedding, saying he is unable to stop thinking that Charity has dated other men. 

THE ABSOLUTELY MESMERIZING ACTORS ARE: James Monroe Iglehart, Tielle Baker, Molly Bell, Ryan Cowles, Brittany Danielle, Amanda Denison, Alison Ewing, Nicole Helfer, Daniel Hurst, Calia Johnson, Garrick Macatangay, Justin Madfes, Keith Pinto, Katie Pogue, Colin Thomson and Catherine Williamson. 

Believe me this is "A Great Night At The Theater!" It's a breathtaking achievement. Period." 

The fantastic Art Direction is by Michael Butler. Timothy Near gives the stunning Direction.Great choreography is by Jennifer Perry, and the triumphant musical direction is by Sean Kana. 

You're gonna love this show. It's a must see! "Better than Broadway!"

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

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

June 13, 2013

INTO THE WOODS --"GREAT SPIRIT AND CONSIDERABLE CHARM"

June 13 2013 - PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE POSTS

(left to right): Allison Meneley, Kyle Stoner, David Naughton and Courtney Merrell. 







THIS INTO THE WOODS IS UNFAILINGLY ENTERTAINING 

Sondheim and Lapine bring us in the Woods where we first hear the narrator. He also is 'The Mysterious Man' (Derek Travis Collard). The mysterious guy tells a Baker and his Wife to journey into the woods. It's in the vast woods that we get to meet 'Little Red Riding Hood (Allison Meneley, Cinderella (Courtney Merrell), Jack of the Beanstalk (Kyle Stoner, Rapunzel (Melissa Reinertson, plus two Princes (Ted Zoldon and David Naughton). They are a blast. Hey, that's only the beginning of the huge talented cast. 

In this play you will also meet a Baker (Austin Ferris), and wife (Nikki Arias). They are having trouble having a child. A Witch (Michele Jasso) puts a curse on the Baker and his wife. 

Of course there is the delightful 'Cinderella' - whose slipper as pure as gold - and Jacks cow is as white as milk. Red Riding Hood has a cape as red as blood - and Rapunzel has hair as yellow as corn. And Sondheim is running to the bank! ...Just kidding, he already has tons of money. 

Love the music - especially the sad "No One is Alone." But lets skip along into the woods as The Widow of the "Jack the Giant' seeks revenge. Austin Ferris is a charming Baker. He's a happy surprise. And his wife Nikki Arias (wife) shows us what real singing and acting is. Take my word for it....ALL the wonderful Actors are poignant, searing and memorable.

MUSIC IS BY STEPHEN SONDHEIM AND BOOK BY JAMES LAPINE. The show premiered on Broadway in 1987. Bernadette Peters played the Witch. 

'I Loved this Version of 'Into the Woods' - The show has a comedic touch and ironic edge that you won't forget. Also I can't forget the terrific band on the stage. "I have a sense of watching Genuine Magic!" 

NOW PLAYING AT "RAY OF LIGHT" (at the Eureka Theater)

Director - Eliza Leoni (fabulous!!) Artistic Director - Jason Hoover (equally Fabulous!)  www.rayoflightheatre.com. 

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

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






June 11, 2013

DRUNK ENOUGH TO SAY I LOVE YOU? AND THERE IS PLENTY!

Sam and Jack in a brooding moment
Photo: Kent Taylor





WHAM BANG!-- THIS IS A SUBLIME POLITICAL PLAY BY CARYL CHURCHILL. 

The men: Sam  and Jack -  are hot and steamy "gay" lovers. Sam is very aggressive and Jack follows with abundance. This a a brief play (45 Min) and without an intermission. Rarely do I like plays without an intermission - but this brief intense drama brings out secrets of America, foreign intervention and a lover who becomes disillusioned near the end. It has been suggested that the Bush-Blair political relationship keeps giving us Love and hate moments. They come close to breaking up -- but they can't stay away from each other. Sex -- is very much a huge part of their lives.

On this bare stage there is a nice bed. Big enough for both of the men. And believe me - they are breathless as they bounce up and down on that magical bed. They may have their political differences - but when it comes to "touch" they are exhausted. Well, they aren't that exhausted - because after the next argument they rush to get into the bed.

One of the men is very aggressive. He makes sure that the other guy bows to his wishes. Yep, in bed they completely lose contact with the outside world. The bed is center stage. But anger and anxiety seems to be heading for a crash down.

The cozy Theater Stage (The Costume shop on Market St)  is skillfully staged by John Fisher. The marvelous projections on the wall certainly do keep you engrossed throughout. I can't get it out of my mind. Stars are born here under Fisher's direction. Go see this masterpiece.

HIGHEST-OCTANE acting is a gorgeous surprise. It has everything you want in entertainment.
THEY ARE -- RUDY GUERRERO  AND SAM COHEN. (On stage they are Sam and Jack)

ALSO - CARYL CHURCHHILL (Drunk Enough to Say I Love You?) the two Ten Minute plays that are also powerful and political. Fisher direction again is inspiring and uplifting. The two short plays following the above are "Seven Jewish Children"  and "A Play for Gaza". Churchill's writing style is dazzling and gripping.

This magical evening is only 30 minutes long - and there is an intermission. Happy, Happy Days! A real intermission. No torture this time around. The entire stirring evening is nothing less than sublime. SUPERB!

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

NOW PLAYING AT A.C.T'S COSTUME SHOP in SAN FRANCISCO (between 7th & 8th Streets on Market Street)

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

www.therhino.org.    (Running thru June 23, 2013)   


June 6, 2013

THE ON DUTY COLUMNIST: INTO THE WOODS AND MORE - 6/6/2013



Carl Lumbly. Photo Jennifer Reiley 





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TERMINUS


'Terminus' is a tough talking play: "This samaritan shit's the pits" - A guy from the brink of suicide with a gun implied at first, then admits that there might be a bullet through the head.  It's his plan. 

This play is all about fear and grit. You feel that you might want to calm down, and get over it. Nope! I dread hearing things like a gun shot. And then - someone says "Got you, you gullible whore." 

This play is mired in messed up dialogue. The players never shut up. They talk constantly. Doesn't anyone ever shut up? But, you keep wondering. Surely you think someone will take a breath of air. 

No hope for that in this dreary space. The stage looks like dark ugly Shale and there is that constant fog hovering over the entire room. A girl called Helen is a F---king mess. She tells a tale about needing an abortion.  

I have to warn you about this show. The acting is indeed the highest of qualities. Nothing to worry about there. But here is what is wrong with the play. No one really interacts with the actors. And though they may look out at the audience, they are not really part of us either. 

However the salty words keep flying around: - "She got knocked up by some guy for one; she's getting a taste for cunny, two." "You know how those dirty dykes are. They are tough." Someone says: - "Just turn back!" And wouldn't that be wonderful? We could breath again. 

There are three people in the cast. Are these people just mean - or are they insane. At times I have to tune them out as they engage in endless shit. How would you like to get a fist in your face? Its not nice. Not at all. 

I guess the sleaziness causes me to get sick in my self-isolation. I must try to get over it - and hope to never see it again. 

Someone after the show said that they saw at least one smile. Really? That must of been when I was out of hell for a few seconds. But if you want more - there is horns, worms and a prick. Of course it's a male. What did you expect. I will mention again that the Actors are Superb -- even though the show seems to be in another world - the brief suspension made my eyes close now and then. Opening only to see that the clouds are still there. She is still waiting for Satan. 

This play has the Dramatic Tension of a Crime Thriller. But there is this question: 'Who are these people really? Look at the world around us. Did it change the way you want it to be? This one doesn't! 

All in all - it's full of darkness. But it is masterful storytelling. 

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



June 1, 2013

THE ON DUTY COLUMNIST: June 1st 2013

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Marvin Hamlisch at the piano. Courtesy photo 



MARVIN HAMLISCH

A TRIBUTE TO ONE OF THE GREATEST ENTERTAINERS IN THE WORLD

His first job was as a rehearsal pianist for 'Funny Girl' with Barbara Steisand. Then he got a job with producer Sam Spiegel to play piano at parties. 

His favorite musicals were 'My Fair Lady, 'Gypsy', 'West Side Story', and 'Bye Bye Bye Birdie'. His first film score was for 'The Swimmer'. Hamlisch really took off, as he wrote numerous music for Woody Allen films such as 'Take the Money and Run and 'Bananas'. 

In the 1970's their were adaptations of Scott Joplin's ragtime music for the movie 'The Sting'. In the eighties there was the score for 'Oridinary People' and everyone heard the enormous music for Sophie's Choice. 

Later he received an Academy Award nomination for the Film version of the very successful "A Chorus Line". He worked with Matt Damon and Steven Soderbergh for the movie "Informant'. Among many, many great music that Hamlisch brought to the world -- he ended with the HBO movie 'Behind the Candelabra'. He also directed that movie by Soderbergh, Damon and Douglas. It recently played for one night on the big screen at the Castro Theatre. The movie is still on HBO. 

Hamlisch won an Emmy Award, Grammy Award and the Oscar and Tony Awards. He also earned ten Golden Globe Award nominations. One of his biggest hits in 1974 was "The Way We Were". 

Marvin Hamlisch died too soon on August 6, 2012, in Los Angeles. He was only 68 years old when he died. We are grateful for all the wonderful years of music and talent he brought to us. The last time that I saw him in person was not long ago at the fantastic Venetian Room. "They're Playing Our Song" is still in all of our minds. We miss him very much at the Fairmont Hotel. I will never forget him for the wonderful times.

THE TRIBUTE WILL TAKE PLACE AT THE FAIRMONT VENETIAN ROOM - Sunday June 2, 2013.The Gala evening in 'Tribute' to Hamlisch will be Lisa Vroman, Karen Mason, Billy Stritch, Bobby Cone Thornton, Academy Award-winning songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman and other guests to be announced. Bay Area Cabaret will conclude its 2012-2013 season by honoring the memory of Marvin Hamlisch with selections from his work 'A Chorus Line', 'The Way We Were', and 'They're Playing Our Song' are just a few of the wonderful music that will be heard at the Hamlisch Tribute. This is a Don't Miss! Get your tickets now. 

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many Articles to the San Francisco Chronicle Sunday Datebook and he has also produced and hosted a Long-Running Arts segment on PBS-KQED)))