Thursday, June 28, 2007

All Roads Lead to Xanadu

Had lunch on Wednesday with Rochelle Lewis at the relatively new Danny's Venice Deli. It has the wonderful combination of an old-fashioned deli menu with fresh ingredients and modern cooking.

But mostly I was tickled by it's location, just steps from the beachfront walkway in funky Venice. I think Olivia Newton-John roller-skated right in front of this building in the movie "Xanadu" -- now a new musical on Broadway.

I wasn't wearing leg-warmers or doing sidewalk chalk art, but they would have welcomed me if I were.
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The restaurant's comfortable interior.
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Interesting art for a restaurant. I kept thinking if it was green it could be a Head of Lettuce.
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Sometimes I have politics a little too much on the brain. I complimented the hostess on the restaurant's fine statue of former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley only to be informed it was Duke Ellington.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Behind Bars

Watched the 1950 Warner Bros. classic "Caged" tonight -- often mentioned as one of the best women's prison movies of the era.

Eleanor Parker (as the 19 year old sent to prison) and Hope Emerson (as the most evil prison matron ever) were both nominated for an Oscar.

And Agnes Moorehead turns up as the reform-minded prison superintendent.

And in keeping with the theme, last night I watched "Hell's Highway," a 1932 RKO picture about a prison chain gang starring Richard Dix.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Dog-Gone Good

Saw an excellent production of "Come Back, Little Sheba" at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City last night.

Best known as a 1952 movie starring Burt Lancaster and Shirley Booth (in a performance that earned her an Oscar) this production stars S. Epatha Merkerson, of TV's "Law and Order," in a touching portrayal of Lola -- a middle-aged woman trapped in an airless marriage wondering where her youth has gone.

Her lost doggy, Little Sheba, becomes a metaphor for her glory days gone by and throughout the show she returns to porch to call out, hauntingly, "come back, little Sheba."

What starts out as a light-hearted look at middle America takes a dark and sudden turn in the Second Act when Lola's husband, sober for a year, falls off the wagon.

Impressive acting turns by every single member of the cast.

Celebrity Sighting: Saw Lance Bass at the 7-11 near where I live tonight. He was buying potato chips. You'll have to read his blog to find out what I was buying.
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What was going on in Los Angeles on Saturday that created so many motorcades?

First, around 2 p.m. I saw a motorcade of police detective cars with their blue and red windshield lights on going east on the Santa Monica Freeway.

Then half an hour later I saw a motorcade of about 20 motorcycle officers going west on the Santa Monica Freeway.

Finally, around 11 p.m. I saw a caravan of buses getting a police escort going south on Highland Avenue at Santa Monica Boulevard. You can see the motorcycle officer had stopped cross traffic to let these VIPS go through the intersection.
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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Only AARP Members Need Apply

Finally had the chance to see the 2006 Tony Award for Best New Musical winning show "Jersey Boys" tonight at the Ahmanson Theater in downtown Los Angeles. I have to admit I was underwhelmed.

This show is completely based on nostalgia for the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons -- and since I don't have any it was like showing up with an invitation to the wrong party. Frankie Valli's success in the 60s came before I was old enough to pay attention to music.

But lots of Grandmas around me were bopping to the music like girls in bobbie-socks (which they probably were 40 years ago).

If this year's Tony Award to the edgy "Spring Awakening" was a matter of "art over commerce" then "Jersey Boys'" victory last year was a matter of "commerce over art."

After all, the teens and young adults of the 60s are the exact target demographic today for producers looking to sell $100 tickets to musicals.

As for me, I'm looking forward to the jukebox musical bound to hit Broadway 40 years after the breakthrough of Devo -- right about 2021.

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Before the show GeezBob and I had dinner at the relatively new "Liberty Grill" on Flower Street near the Staples Center. They serve upscale comfort food set amongst an Americana decorating scheme.

I'm not a very adventurous eater and lots of times when I go to a restaurant there's only one item on the menu I'd even consider ordering. Here, I had lots of options and settled on the meatloaf.

The food was good and the service was excellent.

Their business seems dependent on what's going on at the Staples Center and the Convention Center (both a block away). So that may be why the restaurant was so deserted at 7:15 on a Friday night, or it might be because -- like lots of downtown restaurants -- it's over priced.
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Thursday, June 21, 2007

So They Opened Their Big Mouths, And Out Came Talk. Talk! Talk!

Watched an interesting movie tonight -- MGM's 1929 classic "The Broadway Melody," a giant leap forward in the craft of film-making.

It was the first feature length movie-musical and was the first talking film to win the Oscar for Best Picture.

Two small town performing sisters move to New York City in search of the big time. One finds success, the other less so. And, of course, this affects their relationship.

The movie makes NYC in the late 20s seem like once giant dance party.

Lots of great lines like, "It's better to star in Peoria than to starve on Broadway."

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stuck by an Icky Thump

Worked late today and then I was surprised at how TERRIBLE traffic was on the drive home.

After sitting in my car going nowhere for 20 minutes I remembered The White Stripes had taken over the iconic former Tower Records location on Sunset Boulevard (2 blocks from where I live) and were performing numbers from their newly released album "Icky Thump" tonight.

Meg and Jack owe me one.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ssshhh...No Talking

Watched a 1925 silent movie starring Lon Chaney -- "The Monster" -- tonight at home.

Innocent people get trapped in a sanitarium where the crazy patients have taken over.

Johnny Arthur plays a Nervous Nellie who, of course, saves the day.

S'Wonderful Weekend

Saturday night I caught Hershey Felder's one-man show "George Gershwin Alone" at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood.

Many violinists, cellists and even bassists travel with their own beloved instruments. Felder travels with his own nine-foot Steinway Concert Grand Piano -- and this beauty is center stage for the show.

Gershwin, known as the "piano pimp," is one of America's most beloved composers. Though his life was cut short by a brain tumor at 38, he left behind classics like "Rhapsody In Blue" and "Porgy And Bess."

In the first two thirds of the show Felder (who also wrote the show) tells of Gershwin's life in New York and Hollywood. In the last third of the show Felder invites the audience to sing along to their favorite Gershwin tunes. Felder proves himself to be very witty, and personable, during his interaction with the audience.
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Saturday afternoon I took in the Dodgers vs. Angels game -- the Dodgers were shut out 3 to 0.

I thought it was funny to see a fake Cable Car pulled up to the Left Field Gate to urge Dodgers fans to vote for Russell Martin to play in the All-Star Game (to be held in Pac Bell Park, er, SBC Park, uh, is it called AT&T Park now?)

Aren't we supposed to hate San Francisco?
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Friday night I had a traditional dinner at El Coyote on Beverly Boulevard in Hollywood. The restaurant's fake flowers are as garish as the rest of the decorations.
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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Father's Day Preview

Watched a 1994 movie tonight that's been on my TiVo for a year and a half -- "The Sum of Us."

From Australia, it stars a very young Russell Crowe and is about a widowed father and his adult son who live together. While each searches for a relationship of their own, the closeness of the father/son bond keeps getting in the way.

The final scene is filmed in Sydney's beautiful Royal Botanic Garden, in a spot I was at just over three months ago.

It Was Bound to Happen

The June 26th opening of "Xanadu" has been delayed due to a roller skating accident.

James Carpinello, who skates the lead as Sonny, was injured Tuesday during a rehearsal of the show. (Sure glad I saw it Saturday night.)

Playbill has the details here:

I wonder if the same problem plagued "Starlight Express?"
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Prosecuted or Persecuted?

Spent tonight at home watching an old movie, Alfred Hitchcock's 1943 film "Shadow of a Doubt."

I know TiVo recorded it for me on November 17 -- but I don't know if that's 2006 or 2005! I have a bunch of old movies on TiVo just waiting to be watched.

This film, starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten, is about a woman who suspects her Uncle -- who recently returned to his family -- is actually the Merry Widow Murderer.

It's set in Santa Rosa and it's great fun to see the scenes shot there. Some of the buildings, like the Clock Tower, can still be seen today.

And this film marked Hume Cronyn's silver screen debut.

Why do I keep running into former District Attorneys? Tonight I saw former Los Angeles County District Attorney Ira Reiner leaving a grocery store as I was going in to do a little shopping.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Tonys After Glow

Watching last night's Tony Awards in person at Radio City Music Hall was thrilling.

I underestimated just how well "Spring Awakening" would do. But I remember how excited I was leaving the theater last December when I saw it.

Lots of VIPS on my flight home from JFK today. Renee Zellweger sat across the aisle to my right. And former Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro -- who ran a spectacularly bad campaign against Hillary Clinton last year for U.S. Senate, and switched halfway through to run against (and get creamed by) Andrew Cuomo for New York Attorney General -- sat one row in front of me.

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Your's Truly.
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Seated before the Tonys begin and ready to be entertained!
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The entire team behind "Spring Awakening" crowded the Radio City Music Hall stage (and it's a BIG stage) after it won the Best New Musical Tony Award.
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I met my friend, Elizabeth Hunter, for lunch on Sunday at Katz's Deli on the Lower East Side. When we talked about getting together Elizabeth suggested we meet for a "brunch-y thing" on Sunday and when I asked if could meet at Katz's she was nice enough to say yes. I LOVE Katz's, but I don't think anyone would ever describe the deli food here as "brunch-y."

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I have some fun photos from Sunday to post but I'm having trouble getting the software to work. I'm going to try again when I get home tonight.

It turns out I was right on 18 of my 25 Tony predictions -- an accuracy rate of 72%.

Once I'm back in Los Angeles I have to catch up with what happened to the other Tony -- can't wait to watch the final Sopranos episode.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Earlier in the day I went to see The Roundabout Theater Company's production of "Old Acquaintance" currently in previews at the American Airlines Theater.

It's the revival of a play that opened on Broadway in 1940, but is best known as a 1943 Warner Bros. movie starring Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins as two lifelong friends who are also rivals.

Harriet Harris takes on the flashier Hopkins role and nails it. She does this great 1940s voice and commands the stage every second she's on it.

Sweet and Sour

Saturday was a day full of theater in New York City.

The gals and I went to the matinee of the beautiful revival of the 1929 play "Journey's End" about World War I. Written just ten years after the end of the First World War, this play examines the humanity of soldiers and the inhumanity of war. With searing performances all around, this show leaves its audience emotionally devastated.

When reading the credits during intermission I was delighted to learn that Tony nominee Stark Sands, who has a major role as fresh-to-the-army Second Lieutenant Raleigh, has a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California.

This is not a "happy" show but one I'm so glad to have seen. Sadly it didn't catch on at the box office and will be closing tomorrow. Straight plays continue to struggle on Broadway.

Switching to this evening's performance, I'm head over heels about "Xanadu." I haven't had this much fun in a theater since I saw "Hairspray" in its out-of-town tryout in Seattle in 2002.

You may remember the 1980 movie starring Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly. ONJ played a Greek mythological Muse who decides to help a struggling sidewalk chalk artist open a roller disco. It's considered by many to be one of the worst films ever made. Some say it single-handily killed the movie-musical genre for 20 years. The Golden Raspberry Award, which goes to the worst movie of the year, was created in reaction to "Xanadu."

And it's this history, along with nostalgia for the 80s, that makes it one of the funnest stage musicals I've ever seen. The winks and the nods to the audience begin from the get-go and it's like you're part of one big inside joke -- what a hoot!

I salute Douglas Carter Beane -- whose script for "The Little Dog Laughed" I found offensive -- for writing a very witty, laugh-out-loud book for this musical. (It was also fun seeing him in the back of the audience watching the show and taking notes.)

Still in previews, I hear Olivia Newton John is planning on attending Opening Night June 26th.

Now it's time for my annual Tony predictions. Follow along Sunday night and see how I do. (Please tell me you weren't planning on watching the "Sopranos" finale instead of the Tonys. Priorities, people, priorities.)

Best Play -- The Coast of Utopia

Best Musical -- Spring Awakening (a last minute switch by me from "Grey Gardens")

Best Book of a Musical -- Grey Gardens/Doug Wright

Best Original Score -- Spring Awakening/Duncan Sheik & Steven Sater

Best Revival of a Play -- Journey's End

Best Revival of a Musical -- Company

Best Special Theatrical Event -- Kiki & Herb Alive on Broadway

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play -- Frank Langella/Frost/Nixon

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play -- Julie White/The Little Dog Laughed

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical -- David Hyde Pierce/Curtains

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical -- Christine Ebersole/Grey Gardens

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play -- Ethan Hawke/The Coast of Utopia

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play -- Dana Ivey/Butley

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical -- John Gallagher, Jr./Spring Awakening

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical -- Mary Louise Wilson/Grey Gardens

Best Direction of a Play -- Jack O'Brien/The Coast of Utopia

Best Direction of a Musical -- Michael Mayer/Spring Awakening

Best Choreography -- Bill T. Jones/Spring Awakening

Best Orchestrations -- Bruce Coughlin/Grey Gardens

Best Scenic Design of a Play -- Bob Crowley & Scott Pask/The Coast of Utopia

Best Scenic Design of a Musical -- Allen Moyer/Grey Gardens

Best Costume Design of a Play -- Catherine Zuber/The Coast of Utopia

Best Costume Design of a Musical -- William Ivey Long/Grey Gardens

Best Lighting Design of a Play -- Jason Taylor/Journey's End

Best Lighting Design of a Musical -- Kevin Adams/Spring Awakening
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Kerry Butler can do no wrong! I first saw her in 2002 as Tracy Turnblad's sidekick, Penny, in "Hairspray." Then I saw her as Audrey in the Broadway production of "Little Shop of Horrors." In Xanadu, she takes on the Olivia Newton John role of Clio the Muse, complete with an hilarious Australian accent. She is perfect, perfect, perfect in this role and this show is going to make her Broadway Gold.
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James Carpinello, who I saw in the road tour of "Saturday Night Fever" at the Shubert Theater in Los Angeles, is captivating as the struggling Venice-Beach-sidewalk-chalk-artist-who-opens-a-roller-disco Sonny
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Tony Roberts, who plays the role originated in the movie by Gene Kelly, is in fine form in "Xanadu."
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Mary Testa -- who I saw in December in "Regrets Only" -- is one of the leads in Xanadu. She and Jackie Hoffman stopped the show early on with their rendition of "Evil Woman."
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The hilarious Jackie Hoffman ALMOST got away before I could snap a photo. She's already a star, but this show is going to make her an even bigger star. Know for chewing the scenery, "Xanadu" gives her the chance to really chew the scenery, literally. All of her comedic talents are on display -- big time.
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Saturday began with brunch at the Russian Tea Room. The food was fine but the kitchen was VERY slow.
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Myrna, Marcia and Renee (l-to-r) visit with Harriet Harris (second from the right) during our post-theater dinner at Angus McIndoe on 45th Street. Harris, a Tony winner for "Thoroughly Modern Millie," is probably best known for playing an agent on "Frazier."

Tomorrow I'm seeing Harris in the matinee of her new show "Old Acquaintance." It's a small world in the theater district.

The gals and I saw different shows this evening. They went to "Grey Gardens" but didn't like it. Apparently it remined them too much of Paris Hilton.
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