January 26, 2010

LEE HARTGRAVE REVIEWS - Animals out of Paper

 ALY MAWJI AND LORRI HOLT Photo by Jessica Palopoli

January 26, 2009

Explosive, Spellbinding

Like folds in paper – relationships always leave a mark. Ilani Andrews is a world-renowned origami artist. But she is not a happy person. Recently, her husband left her and her dog that has only three-legs bolted out the door and has not been seen since.

In her kind of unkempt apartment her doorbell rings. Someone wants to talk to her about origami. It’s raining; she does not know the person who is at her door. She tells him that she does not know him. He tells her that his name is Andy – and that he just wants to talk to her about a student that he wants Ilani to tutor. After several more rings – she finally lets him come up.

After much conversation, she agrees to meet the student. The student arrives at her home/studio. He is an annoying young man, but an origami genius. Suresh is his name – and he is a blatant troubled young man. He tells her that her studio is a mess – and that she needs to clean it up. He can’t work in all the disarray. He says all this very bluntly – not kindly.

This quirky comedy has some serious undertones. Ilani’s life is already a mess and it gets more complicated with this teenage, hip-hopping student. And Andy, the man who introduced them gets a surprise. Andy is like an origami that has been flattened by a steam Iron when he discovers that his trust has been betrayed.  As Ilani says – “So much of what I am – I’ve lost.” Yep – Rajiv Joseph, the playwright, sure has a way with words.

This story unfolds with genuine poignancy. It touches in surprising ways what really matters in life: Friendship, Connection and love. Ilani says: “I hurt everyone I meet”.  You know what? This is a play of rare joy. It’s a knockout hit.

Aly Mawji (the Student) has such scalding intensity. His performance is positively historic. You’re gonna fall in love with him. Lori Holt (the older woman) mesmerizes. Her first class acting engages you with every word and action. David Deblinger (The Teacher) is terrific! His performance is heartwarming and powerful.

 This fast-paced, gripping and provocative play will keep you on the edge of your seat. I guarantee it! It’s one of the years best.

Åmy Glazer’s directing really brings out the fullness of this powerful story. 


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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January 13, 2010



TYNE DALY IS A BIG STAR AND CUTS A WIDE SWATH as she enters from the back of the Rrazz Room. At first glance she looks like she just threw herself together.  The mauve colored dress that she had on did not create much excitement. And her hair looked wild as the wind. Daly has strong features. Her jaw line is so strong that she reminds of Ethel Barrymore. If anyone makes a movie of Barrymore – then Daly would be the best choice.

O.K. so she didn’t look like the usual over the top glam star, but she becomes more and more beautiful with each song. The magic all starts with “Some People” from Gypsy. Yes, the audience’s socks were rolling up and down and Jan Wahl’s hat blew off her head. And that was a good thing – I could see better with it in her lap.

Daly delighted us with a great rendition of Mercer’s “Oh Happy Day” – and then took us on a great trip with “There I’ve Said It Again”. Why is it so great? Here is why. Daly gave the song a delicate interpretation that made it enormously moving. Here are a couple of the gripping lyrics: “I’ve said there’s nothing to hide. There I’ve said it again.”

“Send Me To the ‘lectric Chair” is just a wonderful hoot. Daly pulls out all the stops with these lyrics: “Judge, Judge. Let me go away from here. Judge, Judge take me to the lectric Chair!” The song is about a woman who has shot her boyfriend to death. Daly sez: “That song always cheers me right up!”

Jerry Herman’s “Dear World” brought the audience to their feet for the second time of the evening. The applause was deafening and seemed to be endless. Daly was really lovin’ it as much as the audience.

She ends with the song “Thank You So Much.”  - “I think you’re darling, handsome and then some. I want you to love me and then some.  Toot, toot ta toot!” Ya know what – you just wanna get up there and hug her.

Daly Tells the Truth: “I always tell the truth, and only lie when I get paid to act,” And that’s from the book of Tyne. This is a show that you should not, or want to miss.  Hey, where else are you going to hear a couple of songs that were big hits from the Original Crooner? Rudy Vallee was before Bing Crosby.

Every now and then, you see a performance that jolts you out of your doldrums.  This is that show!

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

AT THE RRAZZ ROOM. http://www.therrazzroom.com/

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

January 6, 2010

Buzzin – Lee Hartgrave

Florence Henderson – “Cineplex Huge!”

How does she look so young? -- You may ask yourself, as Florence Henderson glides up on the stage in a snazzy, but not overdone outfit.  In Henderson’s show there is substance and not a lot of empty glitter.

Here are some of the lyrics that are in the first song that she sings. It kids around with getting older.

I have been lifted,
Lipo - ed and molded
She’s shiny –
I’ll bet she’s been dipped in Wesson Oil!

(This special material that Henderson sings makes reference to the commercials that she has done in the past. One was Wesson Oil, and the other famous one was Polident Denture Cleaner.

Henderson tells us that her teeth are not Dentures. One guy asked her – “Åre they real?” – “I patted my chest thinking that what was he was referring to.” He said: “No, not there – your Teeth” Henderson has many stories to tell in this absolutely riveting performance. The audience, including myself was in stitches. It’s not many times that at a Cabaret show, you see an audience that jumps up and gives a standing ovation. And this happened not once, but three times.

There is a really hilarious bit that she does in the show that involves passing the hat.  The old hat has something to do with her Dad – but what she does with it in the audience gives you a chance to rub elbows with the star. You get one on one entertainment. Henderson has boundless energy that made the whole evening a magical, visual evening. 

It’s surprising what people throw into the hat. “One guy gave me fifty cents” – She said.  That was I – I don’t carry a lot of money around and that was all I had.  And then looking through the hat she said – “one lady gave me a packet of Equal.” And that was only the beginning of the fun filled evening.

She jokes about the Viagra Commercials. “It tells you on the label that if you get an erection that lasts for more than 4-hours is dangerous. It takes you longer than that to get to the emergency room” – she says. And continues with this: “Would you stop by my house first?” Then Henderson sings a song from a Jewish Musical “Wish You Were Here”.

She gives us lots of great tidbits in-between the great Broadway music from shows that she has been in. There was Oklahoma, the first Revival of “South Pacific” at Lincoln Center. Then she sang with the band and chorus “I’m In Love with A Wonderful Guy!” from South Pacific. Wonderful! Her voice is still strong. She’s more than a musical star – she’s a comic and a great storyteller. I loved this one: Since she was so wonderful in the Touring ‘Oklahoma’ they asked her to audition for the movie version. “I didn’t get it” – she sighed. It went to that “Bitch” Shirley Jones -- "Of course, I kid. Shirley and I are great friends.”

The audience gets into the act too. Amazingly they knew all the words of “The Brady Bunch Song”.  Here is what she says about some of the Celebs that she has worked with: “Paul Linde – Funniest Person I’ve ever known. He could just point at something and make me laugh. Gene Hackman tried out for a part on the Brady Bunch, but didn’t get it. David Merrick was kind of grumpy. Phyllis Diller said to me one day. “If you ever know someone who needs a Heart Transplant – go see Merrick, his has never been used!” She ended with this wonderful song – “My Heart Stood Still” – Here are a few lyrics”

If you could see all the people
They’re everything I was
And everyone I would be…
All the lights of me…

And you know what? My Heart stood still. This was one of the most satisfying entertainments that I’ve seen in some time. It’s Laugh-out-loud-funny, poignant and incredibly entertaining!

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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January 4, 2010


 January 4. 2010



Florence Henderson has an amazing career that is still going on to this day. She started with the touring production of “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific.”

But she didn’t stop there. She went on to Broadway with “Wish You Were Here (1952)”. She originated the title role. Henderson has appeared in other Broadway shows, won awards and was the first woman ever to be a guest host on the Johnny Carson Tonight show.

You may also remember her long running role in the popular sitcom “The Brady Bunch). Over the years Henderson has been on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”, “The Love Boat”, The Muppet Show”, The Rosanne show” among many, many other shows.

This always-popular Singer/Actress is coming to the Rrazz Room starting tomorrow (Jan 5, 2010) thru Jan 15 at 8pm.

You may have also seen her in numerous T.V. Commercials – one was about Polident denture cleaner.  She says, however that she never did wear dentures. 

Still looking great and with boundless energy – she might even short circuit S.F’s Electric system. Henderson is an actress and singer that can really radiate joy. You can tell that she enjoys what she does. The warmth just sweeps down from the stage and hugs and cuddles you in her one woman show At The Hotel Nikko (Downtown).

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

Follow Lee Hartgrave