September 27, 2010



JANIS PAIGE WAS A HUGE PRESENCE IN THE 40's, 50's, 6o's and 70's, and she is still putting on a show of all shows. She does it all. She sings, she tells stories about her showbiz days in movies, Broadway and Las Vegas. Each story is revelatory and fun to hear. Paige, of course was friends with fellow performers Frank Sinitra, Fred Astaire (was in a movie with him). All in all she has been entertaining all of her life. She worked for all the power house movie directors and movie studios. And at 88 years old -- she still remembers all the words to the songs and never missed a beat on her background stories of Stars that she worked with. 

There is so much charm in this show filled with love. We loved her - and she loved us. It was mutual, and that is what makes her so irresistible. Paige is Witty, Wise and full of happy surprises. For instance - I was bowled over with her sincere, wonderful version of "Never Said Goodbye" form the Musical 'Sunset Boulevard." The was no need for hysteria in that song -- it was absolutely fabulous with Paige's soft and emotional rendering. If that doesn't get to you -- then maybe you need a medical checkup. Cause, if you don't feel anything-- then you're dead. 

Janis Paige is backed by her pal and piano player Bill Schneider. Together they make beautiful music. 

Paige is really a trouper. She has to remember all the words because she is practically blind and can't depend on notes. When Critic Richard Connema took a picture of Paige and myself after the show -- I had to tell her who I was because she couldn't see me. By the way, she looks great and even kids about 'Did she have some work done or not? She said: "Oh yes - she had work done!"  Paige looks to be more like she's in her mid-seventies or less. Looking that glamorous at that age is astounding. I must talk to her doctor -- to see what he can do for me. 

Paige does a tribute to Fred Astaire and to Frank Sinitra. She also did a tribute to several Song Writers that she worked with over the years. One of the songs that will stick in my brain for a long time is the Jack Siegel song "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart".  The melody is so captivating and the lyrics so sincere that it's hard not to well up with emotion. 

PAIGE is a Triumph! I would like to See it again. And Again."  But alas - tonight is the last night at the Rrazz Room. The show is at:

September 24, 2010


ACT’s ‘Scapin’ – “Amazing”

Berkeley Rep ‘Compulsion’

ÅIDA – “Enormously Gorgeous!”

RRAZZ has superb lineup;


SCAPIN is as close to a huge hit as any play could be.  The play has seen many changes over the years and around the world.  But in San Francisco Bill Irwin the adaptor, has written into the already tangled plot many new visual stunts and some interesting new words that were not in the original Moliere play.  The audience reveled in the anachronisms and funny business.  Bill Irwin (Scapin) – “When you chase them sir – they stay Chaste.” I think you can figure this one out: - “Now, SHE has a nice trunk!”

Here is the somewhat tangled plot: Without the knowledge or permission of his father Argante, – Octav (the son) married Hyacnith. Then there is Geronte’s son Leander, who falls in love with the gypsy girl Zerbinetta. He needs and gets a large amount of money to ransom his Gypsy love away from the Gypsy band.  Scapin tricks Leander’s father to get the money.

The scenic design is terrific.  The buildings on either side really stand out in a deep Courtyard. With the two twin buildings, it gives the actors plenty of doors and windows to play some of their hijinks.

A lot of the fun comes from the wonderful costumes. Most especially Scapin’s outfit has that Circus Clown look. But, there is a big difference in the clothes of the Wealthy and the workers.  If you were thinking ‘Scapin’ as one of the workers – you would be right.

This Scapin is a work of pure, awe-inspiring Fantasy. A surprise package of fun with untamed imagination.  The Actors are deranged and inspired. You’ll find yourself smiling all the way home.  I did.

THE WACKY AND GREAT CAST: Gregory Wallace – Jud Williford (Got most laughs) – Bill Irwin – (perfection) – Keith Pinto – Ben Johnson – Ashley Wickett – Steven Anthony Jones – Geoff Hoyle – Patrick Lane – Omoze Idehenre – Rene Augesen (The Gypsy Woman).  They are really TOO Cool to miss!

GREAT AND AMUSING MUSICIANS: – Randall Craig and Keith Terry.


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

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


The big draw to this strangely creepy play is of course Mandy Patinkin (Tony & Emmy Award winner) who probably will be showered with more awards as the show moves on to New York.  But, the big question is, will Patinkin stay with the show?

Based on the obsession that Meyer Levin had for Anne Frank. Levin wrote a review of the Diary of Anne Frank. I became a best seller.  He wanted to turn into a play on Broadway. He didn’t get what he wanted.  The producers and others thought that his play was “Too Jewish”. Levin thought it was not Jewish enough. He wanted everyone involved with the play to be Jewish. Someone else wrote a play that was similar. There was, of course lawsuits. Levin claimed that the other author took his material.  Meyers claim did not hold up.  In this play he is not called Meyer – the name is changed to Mr. Silver to avoid any problems with the play.

Along the way we hear about a bitter feud between Mr. Silver and Lillian Helman. Frank Silver says: They snatched my book and they raped it!” Frank is told again and again that his play will never be heard. Franks wife was getting weary of the entire play thing. After all Levin had written many successful scripts for the screen. And, all of his books (including Anne Frank) were best sellers. It still was not enough. His family life was crashing down around him.  Here is one of his outbursts: “They have De-jewized the thing. Those ‘Double Day’ Wasps!”  The more he seethed and ranted, the worse things got.

Look, here’s the thing. It is an engrossing story – but I didn’t quite see the reason for the Life Size Puppets. They didn’t do much. Sure, their hands moved a little and the Puppeteers made them walk a bit. It was interesting for a brief time. There was one scene while Frank and his wife was in bed – and the puppet of Anne Frank suddenly appears in-between them.  Yes, strange and creepy, but it was effective.

My guess is that without more changes (which will happen) the play will not be a ‘Buffo hit’.  Not the fault of the cast. They couldn’t be better. Here is another oddity. Levin wrote a book “Compulsion.” – and that’s were they got the title to this play. Maybe it’s a reward for his play not making it to Broadway.

One last thing --  How many Anne Frank stories and plays are we going to see? Yes, it’s a sad story about Anne Frank – but we all know it. There is no new way to present it.  You can throw all the Puppets at it you can find – but it’s still all about Anne Frank. In the end – Mr. Silver was heading for a nervous breakdown. I also, was almost there.

RATING: THREE GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!! (Mild Review) –trademarked-


TONIGHT through the 26th is Mary Wilson. Not only is she one of the original “Dream Girls” – she has written some Best Selling books based on her showbiz career. She has been requested to sing before Kings and Queens all over the World and she made notes of every conversation while making a curtsy.

Her method of writing is to keep notes. When she performed with big Bands and Groups – they would talk backstage and Wilson made notes in her diary so that she would not forget what was said. Those notes became a Book. At the show tonight in the glamorous Rrazz, Wilson will sing some songs from the beginning of the “Dreams” to some current songs.

At the Marines Memorial will be a memorable evening with adored comic KATE CLINTON. She is incisive, biting and hip. I hope she will do the “Cell Phone Routine” it is so funny. But if not – she will still have us laughing in the aisles as she brings to the front of the stage all of society’s absurdities.

Kate Clinton will fire you up with Political jabs. It’s no secret that Kate Clinton is a Lesbian – but everyone will be able to relate to the jokes. It’s not all about being Gay – her show is more of a window on the world – and the situations that elected officials have made fair game for all comics.  It’s fun for all ages – however a few remarks may be only for adults.  She came out of the closet many, many years ago and is still enjoying the daylight.  The closet is dark and stifling.

The Kate Clinton show starts at 8pm. Tix are selling fast – so get yours now.  Sat.*Sep. 25*


AIDA AT THE SAN FRANCISCO OPERA HOUSE IS A VISUAL STUNNER from beginning to end. The richly imaginative sets and the colorful costumes bring to life the mystery of a Princess that has been captured and made a slave. Her cult immortality gets more interesting as we follow her journey in song, as she dreams of being freed and able to return to her country.

I really was very fond of Scene Two – the “Temple of Vulcan. ” It is stately good listening. In Act Two the Victory march, though Grand, seemed to be a little crunched together as they all came in from the left side of the stage. I liked it better in other versions, when they came down a stairway (middle stage) marching into the City. The attractive dancers were a little too vigorous for the Ancient times. It certainly wasn’t Egyptian style.

Although the singing was not always what I had hoped for -- there were excellent moments. It is easy enough to follow what is going on with the very readable subtitles above the stage.  Always dramatic is the Male Chorus. No need to crank up the volume for them.  Their voices are truly glorious.

Aida tugs at your heart as her father is dragged in front of the crowd in Chains.  The distressed Aida can hardly control her emotions.  But, there he is – her father and King in Chains. What an emotional scene.

This production is a visual feast of beauty. It ends of course with Radames grieving from his tomb. The Lovers Aida and Radames have both been sentenced to a long and slow death. Heartbreaking.

THE CELEBRATED CAST: *Italian Soprano Micaela Carosi (Aida) – Dolora Zajick plays Amneris, and tenor *Marcello Giordani  debuts as Radames. – *Marco Vratogna is Amonasro and baritone *Hao Jiang Tian sings the role of Ramfis.  And of course cheers to the fantastic renowned San Francisco Orchestra and Chorus.

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




September 16, 2010


Sheryl Lee Ralph Original Dreamgirl


Original ‘Dreamgirl’ Sheryl Lee Ralph has done it all. Everything from film, T.V. and the Broadway stage. She originated the role of Deena Jones on Broadway. That got her both a Tony and Drama Desk Award Nomination for Best Actress.

“My Career has been a busy one”, she said.  “There was T.V. – “It’s a Living”, “Designing Women” and many other T.V. shows.”

In the movies you may remember her in “Sister Act II” with Whoopi Goldberg. She has also been in movies with Denzel Washington, Robert DeNiro, Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover.

Ralph also has Children. And while I talked with her on the phone – she kept running back and forth to see what her kids were up to. “They make me laugh so much. They are a handful” – she said. SLR is a really nice person. “She said about her children: “Love is the greatest gift to be given and shared.”

Ralph promises to give out a lot of that love at the “HELP IS ON THE WAY” show at the Marines Memorial Theatre. And what is really going to be fun – is that she might even sing with the current “Dreamgirls” who are now performing at the Curran. Of Course – none of the “Dreams” will sing any songs from “Dreamgirls” – their contract doesn’t allow it.  I asked Cheryl what she might sing: “I really haven’t made up my mind yet,” - she said. So – it’s going to be a surprise.

At the “Help Is On The Way” -- Cast members chose their own songs.  And there will be some thrilling and exciting voices on that stage. For instance – there is the mysterious, sexy voiced Tim Hockenberry – the fabulous Jason Brock and Syesha Mercardo from American Idol. This is going to be a high-energy music, dance and comedy night that you won’t forget.

The One Night only Show raises funds to benefit The Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights ÅIDS. And this is a cause that Sheryl Lee Ralph cares deeply about. She has always been there to fight AIDS.

THIS JUST CAME IN FROM KEN HENDERSON: “A number of people have told us that they’d love to come to our “One Night Only with the cast of “Dreamgirls” but that money is just too tight right now. To help out – we are offering $25 balcony Tickets for just $15 -- -- a $10 savings while those tickets last. To take advantage of this off, just call our box office manager at 415-282-5492 and ask for the Recession Special. We want everyone too see this show Ken told me. 

KATE CLINTON -- "LADY HA HA" WILL BE AT THE MARINES MEMORIAL (Presented by the Rrazz Room) on Sat. 25, 8pm. Hot Tix are flying out of the Box Office. 

Soon: 'Banana Shpeel' (Cirque du Soleil) will slip around at the Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco on Sunday, Oc.t 17 - 7:30 PM.  

Ånother Dreamgirl - Mary Wilson will be singing at the Rrazz Room this month. Check out times and date at: 
(((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)))
-These updates are Courtesy of 


September 13, 2010




I counted several hundred uses of the word F%*k. All in all there are several words that could be considered obscenities. But, hey – everyone uses them anyway. And they are so much more vivid when sung in Opera Style.

The Opera is based on the popular Chicago Talk Show – “The Jerry Springer show. "And, just like the T.V. program – the Opera has dueling couples swearing at each other and security has to keep them from throwing the chairs at each other. Sure, it’s Trailer Trash - and that’s what I love about it. How often do you get to hear an Opera sung by Jesus, Mary and the Devil?

We even get to visit hell with the sufferers singing in Wagnerian style. In this show you get hints of Phantom of the Opera, Evita and Les Miz. The singing is ‘FanOperaBitch.’ The language is bound to stir some controversy, but this audience relished every little ‘nasty’. They seemed to love making light of ALL religions, plus the Ku Klux Klan.  No one is safe.

Some people may be offended with the obscenities, profanity and blasphemy – but if you are the fluffy, tender type – then my advice would be for you to stay home. In fact it even says in the program: “Jerry Springer, The Opera” is intended for mature audiences only. It is controversial material, written to shock and challenge your perceptions. If you’re upset, or offended by the content -- we’re sorry, but no refunds will be provided. If you choose to exit the theatre, please be respectful of those who have a sense of humor.” – Ray of Light Theatre.

Some of the songs may make you squirm like “Diaper Man” – On the Springer show, he sings about how he loves to have someone wipe his rear. “I Just Wanna Dance” reminds of an Opera ‘Chorus Line’.  You know what?  This huge cast (over 40 actors/singers) is just like a Broadway Quality show. Better in my mind – than Mel Brook’s “The Producers”. 

Not surprisingly – there were probably many Christians in the audience. Of course, these are the educated ones that know humor when they see it.  Satan – “The Prince of Darkness” has that mysterious Phantom look. He is mesmerizing. Jesus sings to Satan – “Actually, ‘I’m a little bit gay’.

This is possibly one of the best shows to come to San Francisco. It was once set to open at the Orpheum Theatre as part of “Best of Broadway”  – but was cancelled for some reason. There is no doubt about it. Jerry’s Opera is original, and provocative. It’s definitely Grand Opera with some hard-ass lyrics.  And yes – you will hear rhythmic chanting of the F- Word.  You may see it differently – but I see a brilliant work of Art.  It is first-rate, imaginative and brilliantly performed. Oh, by the way – the Opera singing is right up there with all the Opera Diva’s in the world.

Here are a couple of fun things – that I loved, but you might hate: “Chick with a Dick!” “F-you. F-you Back” “ “Who you calling Asshole, you Asshole.” These are what you hear as Springer interviews his guests on T.V. On the actual Springer T.V. show they deleted those words – but we knew what that were saying anyway.  Then – all of a sudden we get the “Dancing, singing ‘Ku Klux Klan.” And – someone sings about “Mary” – “She’s a teen-age whore.”

Oh S#*T – I’ve run out of time.  But, I’m warning you – “You gotta see this Brilliant, adroit, inspired and joyous musical! 

There is so much great talent in this show. Wish I could fit them all in. Here are some: Patrick Michael Dukeman, Keith Haddock, Bill Tankovich, Tom Farris, Tracy Camp, Rebecca Pingree, Jessica coker, Jordan Best, Johnathan Reisfeld (Satan) Chris Yorro (Jesus) Manuel Caneri, Timitio Atusio and J. Conrad Frank.  Boy – what a powerhouse of Talents.  INCREDIBLE!

Direction by M. Graham Smith is Fantastic.


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 Årts Segment on PBS KQED)))

NOTE: THIS REVIEW IS AN ADVANCE REVIEW COURTESY OF  It will be available on Friday the 17th on beyondchron.

September 5, 2010


Marlena Shaw at Rrazz Room. Photo Pat Johnson




Shaw is electrifying. So powerful, captivating and brilliant
Is Marlena Shaw with her musical treats. There is the spellbinding “Go Away” Lyric: (Go away little boy. I think I found me another man) – and when she sings it – she means it.

“New York State” is absolutely charming in a bittersweet version of the famed song. Lyric: (You face is charming, but it’s the wrong place)

Shaw likes to joke around in-between songs: “I can tell you right now – I’m getting my social security.” I told her right after the show that she looked great and that she looked like Jane Russell in her Prime. “Well, I don’t know about that she laughed.” 

She tells a wonderful story about a Pink Taffeta Dress that she bought. When she got it home – she found that it didn’t fit – but she decided to try to lose a little weight so that she could wear it.  One night she had decided to try it on since she lost a few pounds. It was missing from the closet. She heard something rustling in the bathroom. She looked in and found that ‘her man’ was wearing it. I guess that was the end of that relationship. To make sure that we got the point she belts out the song: “You’ve Changed!” Which can mean a couple of different things.

But that didn’t stop her from singing the Gospel sounding song “Keep On Trustin.” What a wonderful dynamic blend of jazz and Gospel.

On a Tour of Japan – she told us about what she called ‘The Bitch Tour.’ “But, that’s not a bad thing” she says. – “Bitch is just another name for someone who gets things done.” So, I guess she might fit into that category – cause she sure gets things done.

Her “Street Walkin’ Woman” is a hoot. One of the great things about Shaw is that you hear every word. She gets your attention and holds it.

Marlena Shaw is a true classic treasure. I sure hope that she comes back to the Rrazz Room soon with her Orchestra: Larry
Dunlap, Piano. Jeff chambers, bass. Eddie Marshall, Drums. THE BAND IS LIKE A ZILLION LCD LIGHTS! 

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 KQED PBS)))


HEY BUDDY – WANNA HAVE A GOOD TIME? Well – tonight the Rrazz Room is the right place to be. Steven Brinberg as Barbra Streisand comes up to the stage (He looks exactly like Barbra and sounds amazingly like her). Then David Burnham comes into the room and the sing together a wonderful “With A Song In My Heart.” 

Later Burnham, who was on Broadway in the glorious musical “Light in the Piazza”, does a wonderful intro in how his audition went for the job as the handsome Italian suitor in the musical. Then he got serious and sang one of the songs from Piazza. Wow! What a voice. Why, I didn’t have to even leave home. I could have just opened up the window eight blocks away and listened to the extraordinary 4-G voice.

There is so much to listen to in the show. Burnham really
Gives a pulsating version of the timeless “Over The Rainbow”. Forgive me Judy – but this version is “Ridiculously Great!”

I really fell madly in love with “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Simply Barbra (Burnham) joins in near end). Also I discovered that Brinberg is not on a one track record. He also does an Amazing, Cher, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt and Betty Davis. They all sang “Alfie” in their own individual styles. It was totally amazing.

Burnham, who sang “I Have Dreamed” from an animated sound Track for a movie – is exquisite! Another of Burnham’s home runs was “Send in the Clowns.”

Brinberg does what he calls – The Pioneer Medley -- With humorous renditions of the following: “Home On The Range”/Don’t Rain On My Parade/On A Clear Day and The Way We Were. 

And you won’t want to miss Burnham’s take on the song from “Wicked” “As Long As You’re Mine”.  Don’t get any ideas – he’s probably taken.

Both performers ‘Go the distance’ to bring this ‘Fresh, fun and romantic evening to SF. I think you’re going to find it irresistible!”

David Burnham and Seven Brinberg at Rrazz Room. Photo Pat Johnson.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest Rating) – trademarked. 

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