Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Four Guys Walk Into a Studio...

Caught the National Tour (bus and truck version) of Million Dollar Quartet at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood last night.

This quintessential juke-box musical (running at a breezy 105 intermissionless minutes) is based on a true-life one-night jam session with Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennesssee in December, 1956.

The show is really at its best in the last twenty minutes when they drop the pretense of a book, the guys don sparkly jackets and for a finale present what is basically a Tribute Concert.  They had the audience on their feet, cheering for an encore just like a real rock concert.

(By the way, what's with EVERY show getting a standing ovation these days?  Yes, we've all spent money to be there.  But do you have to "prove" you've seen something amazing by standing up for the curtain call?)

I felt sorry for Lee Ferris ( in the role of Carl Perkins.  I had no idea who Carl Perkins was.  (Maybe it's different for those in the audience older than me.)  His singing and stage moves were fine -- but I have no sense of if he "was" Carl Perkins or not.

Now Jerry Lee Lewis I remember.  Not so much for his records but for his flamboyant TV appearances when I was a kid.  And Martin Kaye ( captures the manic intensity perfectly.

Cody Slaughter ( is an actual Elvis impersonator (I think the PC term is "Tribute Artist.")  His performance is not cartoonish and he certainly has the leg and hip movements down.

But the most impressive is Derek Keeling ( as Johnny Cash.  Boy, you'd recognize that deep, deep voice in an instant.  I could listen for hours.

All in all, this show is like cotton candy -- there's not much to it but it's fun and pretty to look at.
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Sunday, June 24, 2012


Last Sunday evening I was in La Jolla to see the provocatively named "Hands on a Hardbody" at the La Jolla Playhouse.

It's a terrific new musical based on a documentary about 10 residents of an east Texas town competing to win a new truck in an endurance contest -- whoever can keep a hand on the truck the longest wins.

The show looks at the ultimate American dream -- winning something for free -- along with America's economic decline, immigration, aging and our competitive spirit.

The score is a toe-tapping rock-a-billy one -- the type of music you might actually hear in east Texas.

Doug Wright (I Am My Own Wife) wrote an outstanding book.

And imagine staging a show where the actors have to keep one hand on an on-stage truck at all times and still make it interesting to look at!  They pull it off big time.

Co-starring Keith Carradine and Hunter Foster, the entire cast really impresses.

The hope is this musical will make the move to Broadway.  If they have the dollars to do it I'm convinced it will be a hit and a major Tony contender.
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Before the show I had an excellent dinner at a surprisingly elegant coffee shop -- the Hob Nob Hill Restaurant.  A great menu, reasonable prices and some nice touches -- like a chilled fork to accompany the salad course -- really caught my attention.  I can't wait to go back.
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Without Valleys There Wouldn't Be Hills

Had dinner Saturday night at R Gang Eatery in uptown San Diego.

What a disappointment!  I was expecting upscale comfort food but got unrecognizable slop.  The service was good, I just didn't like the weird food.

Oh well.  Cross that one off the list.

Let's Write a Song About the Electric Chair

Went to the Saturday matinee performance of Kander and Ebb's "The Scottsboro Boys" -- a stunning show.

This show is an in-your-face look at racial injustice in America's history.  Using the racial stereotypes made prominent in minstrel shows, this tuner packs a wallop.

Susan Stroman's creative staging makes use of basically an empty stage and a few chairs to tell the tale.

It's a shame this show didn't do better on Broadway, though it's easy to understand how the topic didn't lend itself to commercial success.

I also had a delightful time walking around San Diego's beautiful Balboa Park.

Who Doesn't Love Pancakes?

On GeezBob's recommendation I had breakfast Saturday morning at Richard Walker's Pancake House in downtown San Diego.  Excellent!

There was a long line to get it but it moved quickly (even though the place is pretty small).  Excellent quality, terrific service and a great menu.  What more could one want?

I Feel the Need for Speed

Had an outstanding evening Friday night at the Marine Air Corps Station - Miramar. It was amazing to see the military hardware up close followed by a dinner at the Officers Club.  Even got to see the location where they filmed the famous bar scene in "Top Gun."

Sometimes Change Isn't Inevitable

Had a good lunch on Friday at the San Diego Chicken Pie Shop.  How come no one ever told me about this restaurant?

While I didn't like it as much as the Chicken Pie Shop in Fresno, that's an awfully high bar.

Turn Down the Lights

Thursday night I enjoyed attending VICA's Valley Business Hall of Fame dinner at the Sheraton Universal HotelCasa Vega, one of my favorite restaurants in the Valley, was honored for it's 56 years in business.  In the photo above the founder of the restaurant and his daughter accept their award.

Broadway Baby

"Follies" may well be my favorite musical.  Sondheim's lament looks at aging, regret and inevitable change in a heartbreaking manner. 

Set in a decrepit theater (about to be torn down to make way for a parking lot) in the 70s, the Weismann Girls (think Ziegfield) reunite for one last party on the stage they performed on decades before.

The star-studded cast at the Ahmanson Theater (nearly all of whom performed in the Tony-nominated revival) really impresses.

I can't stop hearing Victoria Clark singing "Losing My Mind" in my head.

Democracy in Action

Stopped by the Orange County Registrar of Voters Office Tuesday night to watch the counting of ballots.  Even though there was a record low turnout of voters in a Presidential Primary, the many workers on hand seemed excited to be active participants in our democratic process.
Enjoyed dinner Tuesday night at the Mandarin Palace in Fullerton.  It's no Hoy's Wok (Hollywood) but pretty close.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

I'm Still Here

Last night I visited a new supper club at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel called "The Coterie."  They've taken the main dining room and turned it into a performance space.  I enjoyed the show -- "Sondheim Unplugged," featuring one song from each of Sondheim's shows from the well know like "Gypsy" to the obscure like "Saturday Night."