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Jethrien and I saw BNL in concert at BergenPAC in Englewood last Friday. It occurred to me that they've been performing for over 25 years at this point, and their special guests noted that they'd been performing for 55 years.

The oldest member of the Persuasions, incidentally, is 91 years old. And he's still got hella charm. When the lead singer started talking about whether their style of music was doo wop, or gospel, or motown, the older guy piped up, “We're folk musicians. We sing music for folks!” They did a lovely opening act of their own stuff, then came back for a bunch of sets with BNL—they apparently cut an album together, which I'm likely to buy.

Back to BNL, I think the group lacks some of the energy they had when I saw them 15 years ago, but that's logical given both time and the fact that Steven Page stopped touring with them some years ago. They dropped a bunch of the stage banter and goofiness I remember from that earlier show and their published live tracks. Ed took over some of Steve's classic vocals, and members of the Persuasions covered some of them. They did a nice mix of new and old material, and hit all of the classic hits. I think they realize that much of their audience is only middling on their latest albums and still want to hear “If I Had $1000000.”

As an aside: Jim Creeggan is the single ganglyest individual I think I've ever seen. I think he's only gotten ganglier with age.

Overall: Not the best concert we've seen, but we've also seen some really fantastic concerts in the past few years, so the competition there was fierce. Still a lot of fun.
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Garfunkel and Oats - I found this short TV series reminiscent of The Monkees, with loosely-connected goofy slice-of-life plots and musical breaks interspersed. They got an impressive collection of guest stars crammed into the eight episodes. It’s fun, but I’m not surprised it didn’t find an audience—their style is really better suited to Youtube shorts than a full 22-minute episode.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox - The Flash deals with a totally broken timeline in which Aquaman and Wonder Woman are poised to destroy the world. If you haven’t read the original comics and have a good enough knowledge of DC characters to recognize everybody, you’re going to be seriously confused.

Star Trek Beyond - This was a lot of fun, and better than Into Darkness mostly in that it didn't have many of the problems, not that it was a notably better movie on its merits. There wasn't much we hadn't seen before, there were some nice plotholes (though not nearly as huge as the previous two movies); but the dialogue and character interactions were snappy and the whole ensemble cast got to show off. Arguably the best of the three new Trek movies.

Sunday in the Park with George - On one hand, this was a very well-presented show with an excellent score and very talented performers. On the other hand, the material is so much “artistic” wanking it’s not even funny. Look at all the amazing references to art history I’ve made here! Share my ANGST about ART! (Also, I didn’t realize that a song from tick, tick…BOOM! was a direct parody of a song from this show.)

tick, tick…BOOM! - I realized shortly after she walked on stage that Hawkgirl was playing Susan. What I didn’t realize until reading the Playbill was that I’d also probably seen her as the leading player in the recent revival of Pippin (the one with Terrence Mann as Charles). Which makes it a super-shame that there’s basically no dancing in this show, because she was amazing in that. I was underwhelmed by Johnny because he either sang with an insanely nasal voice (which grated on me) or a Ben Folds-esque rock voice (which would have worked as a stylistic choice if he’d actually been consistent with it). Michael didn’t match my personal vision of the character, but the actor did a nice job anyway. And despite its resonance with me dying down after I turned 30, finished my MBA, bought a house, and had a kid, I still do really like this show.

Pentatonix – 2016 World Tour - Much more of a classic arena “rock concert” than pretty much every other concert we’ve been to recently, which was a nice change of place, though I’ll admit the more “intime” venues are more my style. They got a bunch of audience members up on stage for one song, which made this the Best Birthday Ever for one 14-year-old fan. Also, we got $7 ice creams, because the Prudential Center wants to grow up to be Madison Square Garden.
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The theater company formerly known as the Attic Ensemble (mostly defunct at this point) does an annual murder mystery fundraiser at a local church. This is my fifth performance with them, which included two shows where I died, one show where Puel died, and one show where I murdered Jethrien. Shockingly, I both survived this one and wasn’t the murderer (much to the chagrin of half the audience—I got a lot of votes).

I played Ricky the Revealer, a wannabe blogger who showed up at this high school reunion/homecoming because he lost a bet to a reader. Notable accomplishments include taking a selfie with the corpse:
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And carrying around my laptop with my blog on it as a prop. If you’d like to read the blog, I uploaded a pdf.

The Attic folks are already requesting that Mary write parts for Jethrien and ARR into the next show.
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The Book of Mormon - It’s interesting in that when Jethrien and I see a play that’s terrible, we can pick it apart for hours, but this one left us without much to say. It was fun, it had some clever bits, it is, as I noted at intermission, “exactly what I should have expected.” It’s thought-provoking only if you’ve never had your ideas about religion or your white privilege ever challenged before, and it does both in a very soft way. Despite the toilet humor and cursing, this is as family-friendly as it gets—they want to get middle America to think about what religion means without scaring them, and that succeeds wildly. (Heck, the Mormons themselves apparently ran ads in the programs for a while.) I’m glad I saw it, I had fun; but I see no reason to buy the album and I’ll probably forget most of the details within a month.

The Tomorrow People (2014 TV Series) - It’s interesting to watch this following Sense8, because it’s a very similar premise (people with telepathic superpowers are hidden among normal humanity, watch these characters discover that they aren’t normal), but where Sense8 reveled in breaking episodic TV tropes, this plays them entirely by the book. White boy “chosen one” with daddy issues turns out to be more powerful than everybody else and saves them all, but decides to try working for the villains to hunt down the truth about his missing father. I made it two episodes before deciding that, although I thought the overall concept was cool, I didn’t care about the characters or the actual events.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey - While this is arguably a “thriller”, I’d really put it more in the thoughtful sci-fi category. We get a variety of viewpoints about a post-apocalyptic world and the people who live in it, most notably that of the brilliant-but-weirdly-sheltered Melanie. (It’s a zombie story, and I’m frankly sick of zombie stories, but it’s a wonderful take on the genre.) I devoured it in two days; and I totally recommend it.
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What do I get my father for his 65th birthday? Tickets to see a band he first listened to 50 years ago!

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Overall: It was a nice mix of older and newer material with some fun accompanying videos and the band obviously having a great time. Good show, would monkey around again.
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Canadian folk/filk artist Heather Dale wrote a musical that was intended as a Wicked-style version of the Arthurian legend, a two-woman show starring herself and CJ Tucker. I joined the Kickstarter and got a DVD of the stage production.

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Overall: I love Dale’s music; I have all of her albums. I keep watching her tour schedule to see if she’ll be in the NYC area. But this is rough and has a bunch of the standard problems of filming a stage show; it’s not the vehicle I’d use to introduce someone to her.
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”Where do I put this fire, this bright red feeling? This tigerlily down my mouth, it wants to grow to twenty feet tall…”

It’s been 20 years since Paula Cole released an album called This Fire and had radio hits with “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone,” “Me,” and the insanely-overplayed theme from Dawson’s Creek “I Don’t Want to Wait.” Twenty years have not dulled in the slightest Paula Cole’s ability to fill a room with raw emotion.

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Overall: If you have an opportunity to see Paula Cole in concert, do it. She’s amazing.
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I’ve gotten a concert bug lately, and this was the first of several we have tickets for. It’s nice to be able to take an evening and go see a band or a singer, particularly one I’ve liked since I was 15. This is less a review and more a collection of rambling thoughts about the concert.

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Overall: A++ Would Concert Again.
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- Noises Off (Roundabout Theater Broadway Revival) - This show is so awesome, and they pull it off like a goddamn ballet. Perfectly choreographed. Also brought back a lot of memories for me. (Oh, and Selsdon is being played by the guy who played Niles the butler on The Nanny.)

- South House Jersey City - The drinks are fun, but the food is only middling. Certainly not bad, but not as good as you can find elsewhere. I had the BBQ ribs and potato salad, and in both cases, my homemade ones were better.

- Last week, ARR requested that we go out to dinner at a sushi restaurant. (!!!) We took him to More Express (which is More merged with The Box…or something?) and he took down two pieces of kani sushi, most of a California roll, and a bunch of fried rice. Edamame were not the hit we’d hoped for, as he lost interest quickly, but watching the sushi chef work was apparently fascinating. The waitress commented on how well-behaved he was.

- I’ve been keeping a watch for other concerts to attend, but recently passed over the chance to see Meatloaf (who I’d like to see, but not for $200/ticket) and Sister Hazel (when I realized that they’ve released five albums since I last bought one). I’m trying to see if we can make it to either a Shawn Colvin or Jewel concert; or possibly the best of acappella finals.

- I’ve been setting out traps and poison for mice for the past month, and this morning discovered that a cockroach problem I thought had been solved has recurred. At which point I said, “Screw it, time to call the professionals.” An exterminator I found on Angie’s List will be coming by on Friday, and I signed up for their “one-year everything protection plan.” I’m throwing money at this problem because it’s pissing me off.

- ARR is three years old. How did that happen?
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We didn’t even know that Vertical Horizon was still together, much less touring, until we saw an advertisement at the Weird Al concert a couple of months ago. So I bought a copy of their new album and tickets to see them at B. B. King’s in Manhattan.

It was delightful.

It’s a small venue, so the full house was probably a few hundred people, but it was a very appreciative crowd and we had decent seats that had a nice view but weren’t blasted by the speakers. Vertical Horizon is clearly still doing this because they love it—they were having such a good time. They obviously love what they do and appreciate their fans, which makes for an awesome show. There was a lot of encouragement to sing along, which I have never in my life objected to.

Jeff LeBlanc, the opening act, was decent and reminiscent of the earlier acoustic albums VH did. I wasn’t impressed enough to buy his stuff, but I appreciated his set.

It was interesting the songs they chose for the set: They played the big radio hits from Everything You Want, obviously, and four songs from the new album Echoes from the Underground. They specifically called out clamor for some of the older stuff, and played two songs from their first two albums back-to-back. But then everything else was from Go, and I think Burning the Days was ignored entirely. Which was fine with me, as I think it’s kinda weak, but it was interesting to note.

Scannell told the story of how he wrote the bridge of “I’m Still Here” while he had a 104 degree fever. So the line, “Maybe tonight it’ll be all right / I will get better” is not, in fact, some deep musing on life or self-improvement. It’s about Advil.

He also noted his amusement that a country singer covered one of his songs and he, having no experience with country music at all, realized retroactively that he’d written a country song. (It’s “Best I Ever Had (Grey Sky Morning),” by the way.)

Also, as a note to myself, when you ask the bartender for “something fruity with rum in it”, you’re likely to get something delicious but strong. I enjoyed my hurricane but felt it the next morning.

If I have one complaint/regret, I wish I had some way to communicate to the band that “Famous” was our wedding song. (I didn’t think they were going to play it, but I was okay with that.) They seem like folks who would appreciate that.
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The Wilsor Theatrical Group, the new theater company that’s taken up residence at the Barrow Mansion, put up Jonathan Larson’s Tick, Tick…BOOM! last weekend, and circumstances allowed for us to actually go see it.

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Overall: I’m not terribly interested in the shows they have planned for the rest of the season, but that’s the selection of shows, not the company. If they put up something else that appealed to me, I’d totally try to check it out.
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Things I didn’t think I’d get to do: See Ellen Greene live on Broadway.

Reprising the role of Audrey that she created thirty years ago, Greene’s voice isn’t quite what it was but he comedic chops are even better. And boy oh boy, did the audience love seeing her. I haven’t been in an audience this appreciative in a very long time. It was the kind of show where the actors are clearly having so much fun, and the audience just ran with it.

I suspect the script-holding “staged reading” nature of the show was of most benefit to Jake Gyllenhaal, who flubbed at least two lines that the audience would notice and one other that I picked up just from knowing the show really well. He was a very serviceable nebbish/hipster Seymour, though.

Eddie Cooper was downright amazing as Audrey Two, standing out from an overall very strong cast. And getting a young boy to play/carry the small plant before it “grows” into Cooper was a bit of brilliance.

(Professional review with more details.)

Overall: Such a fun night of theater. And it reminded me that pretty much the entire score and the majority of the script is still locked in my memory from sixteen years ago—so should it be any surprise that Ellen Greene can recreate a role from 30 years ago so well?

The River

Feb. 3rd, 2015 11:35 am
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“On a moonless evening, a man brings his new girlfriend to a remote cabin for a night of trout-fishing. But before the night is over, it becomes clear that nothing is as it seems… and as memory collides with desire, the truth becomes the most elusive catch of all.”

My mother and I went to see The River, by Jez Butterworth, which Hugh Jackman is currently starring in. My mother, as most people reading this likely know, is a professor of English Literature. And this play begs to be deconstructed.

I need to spoil a bunch of the exposition and twists to discuss this at length. )

Overall: This has some funny bits and was interesting to analyze, though my mother noted the biggest strike against it was that Jackman never once removes his shirt.

Lost Lake

Nov. 19th, 2014 03:47 pm
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This is the second thing I’ve recently gone into blind, just on the strength of the creative team, and I wasn’t disappointed. The play is written by the author of Proof and it stars Traci Thoms (of RENT and Wonderfalls, among many other things; she’s got the greatest “Are you kidding me?” bitchface the stage has ever seen). Now, if you don’t like the “two people on stage slowly revealing their secrets amongst wit, angst and snark” genre of theater, you’ll hate this, but it’s a very good example of that genre if you like it. Also, the set and lighting design are beautiful (and there’s one REALLY good set change that you’ll know when you see).

I don't want to say anything else--unlike the Times review, which I read after seeing it, and felt gave too much away--but if you're in NYC and a fan of the genre, see this.


May. 30th, 2014 08:12 pm
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Idina Menzel plays Elizabeth, a 38-year-old who comes to NYC after a divorce to pursue either love or career, and we see to parallel timelines in which a fateful choice defines how her life turns out. Definitely aimed at the aging RENT and tick…tick…BOOM! fan base, this show features pleasantly normalized lgbt relationships and isn’t afraid to work blue. If that sounds good to you, or you just like hearing Menzel belt out some rock opera, go see it.

And now, SPOILERS! )
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I have had a special love for this show since I was around 7 and was introduced to “Corner of the Sky,” and at 16 I played Pippin when my Youth Council Theater Arts program did the show.

Mith, don’t read this until you’ve seen it. I don’t want your opinions to be colored by mine. )

Overall: Man, I love this show. See it. It’s worth it for the acrobatics alone. Or just for Andrea Martin. Or for the chance to see Terrence Mann live on Broadway again.
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