Theater Review: “Dear Evan Hansen”

  • “Dear Evan Hansen”
  • The Music Hall – Kansas City, Missouri
  • October 15, 2019

I’m going to borrow Anna Kendrick’s introduction of “Dear Evan Hansen” at the 2017 Tony Awards to describe the show best: “A letter never meant to be read that tells a lie never meant to be told.” Exactly.

Evan Hansen (an AMAZING Stephen Christopher Anthony) is a young man about to start his senior year in high school. We meet him sitting in his room, his arm in a cast from a tree-climbing accident, working on a letter…to himself. Evan has had some issues in his life and part of his therapy is to write himself a positive letter each day. But he’s not feeling positive. Evan is shy and quiet and friendless. He lives with his hard working mother – when she’s not working she attends classes to be a paralegal – and feels all alone in the world. He writes his letter, but it’s not positive. And when it’s finally read, it changes Evan’s life in ways he never intended.

Winner of 6 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” is a show that will make you examine your life and the choices you made in it. Taking place on an almost bare stage with an abundance of video screens, “Dear Evan Hansen” shows the impact a simple misunderstanding can make in a world dominated by social media.

The cast is superb. Mr. Anthony repeatedly brought the audience to tears with his portrayal of a boy who wants desperately to be loved and accepted. The supporting cast is equally strong. As Evan’s mother, Jessica E. Sherman portrays a woman who only wants the best for her son but can’t find the way to tell him. Her love is obvious to everyone but Evan and you can feel the pain she feels by not being able to communicate with Evan. Take away the music and this show would have won a Tony for Best Play.

But the music is there and it is amazing. With so many Broadway shows using either popular tunes or adapting from films, it’s a treat to see an original show with an original idea. If you want to see Broadway at it’s best, you can’t go wrong with dropping “Dear Evan Hansen” a line!

“Dear Evan Hansen” runs in Kansas City through October 20th. For information on the show and other upcoming tour dates, click HERE.

Concert Review: Hugh Jackman – The Man. The Music. The Show.

 

  • HUGH JACKMAN – THE MAN, THE MUSIC.  THE SHOW.
  • The United Center – Chicago, Illinois
  • October 11, 2019

Most people know Hugh Jackman as the claw sprouting X-man known as Wolverine.  And if that’s all they know him as, shame on them.  True fans know him as the Oscar-nominated, Tony Award winning actor whose been singing and dancing for years.  And it was those fans that were in attendance at the United Center in Chicago as Jackman continues his very successful tour.

The show kicked off with a rousing performance of “The Greatest Show,” followed by “Come Alive,” both from the very popular film “The Greatest Showman.”  While performing, Jackman noticed a fan holding up a sign stating it was her birthday.  He very graciously bent down to give her a hug as well as take a selfie with her.  He then noted that it was technically his birthday already in Australia (he turned 51 on October 12).  While addressing the audience he noticed a young boy down below in the floor audience who was dressed up like Jackman in “The Greatest Showman.”  He climbed off the stage to say hello to the boy and received a huge hug from the boy.  Returning to the stage, he explained how his first stage musical was “Beauty and the Beast,” then proceeded to perform the song “Gaston.”

He shared some information about his wife of 23 years and then sat down at the piano to play (and sing) “All the Way.”  After a medley saluting New York City he told a story about how he had worked on “The Greatest Showman” for eight years before it was made.  He also noted how there had been multiple workshops for the film and that Keala Settle had participated in all of them.  He then introduced Ms. Settle, who pretty much brought the house down with a rousing rendition of “This is Me.”  After performing a song from her upcoming album, Jackman returned to the stage and closed the first act with a few numbers from “Les Miserables,” accompanied by an enthusiastic group of singers and dancers.

The second act opened with a clip of Jackman receiving the Tony Award for his portrayal of songwriter and performer Peter Allen in “The Boy from Oz.”  Jackman took to the stage AS Peter Allen and sang a few of the songs Allen had written/co-written in his career.    The amazing dancing continued as he performed a song – “A Million Dreams” – which included sign language which was part of the choreography.  Between numbers, Jackman continually told great stories and would occasionally wander into the audience to greet concert goers.  At one point, he addressed the audience as honestly as I’ve ever head a performer, thanking all in attendance for not only supporting him but for taking the tine and spending the money to do so.  This is a man who not only appreciates his fans but goes out of his way to let him know so.

A couple of Aboriginal songs, complete with Didgeradoos helped close the show, along with Jackman doing a moving version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  All in all, it was an amazing night with an amazing talent!

Mr. Jackman’s tour is continuing throughout North America.  To see if he’s coming to your town, click HERE!

SET LIST

The Greatest Show, Come Alive, Gaston, All the Way, New York, New York/On Broadway/Empire State of Mind, This is Me, Harder, Valjean’s Soliloquy/I Dreamed a Dream/One Day More, Not the Boy Next Door, Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)/Don’t Cry Out Loud/ I Honestly Love You/ Quiet Please, There’s a Lady on Stage/ I Go to Rio, Tenterfield Saddler, A Million Dreams, Luck Be a Lady/ Singin’ in he Rain/ I Got Rhythm/Steppin’ Out With My Baby/ Sing Sing Sing, 42nd Street/Thunderstruck, Art Song, Inhibition, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, From Now On, Once Before I Go

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Actor Michael Pare’

I first saw Michael Pare’ when he appeared on television’s “The Greatest American Hero,” but it was his performance as Eddie Wilson in the film “Eddie and the Cruisers” that cemented him in my mind as an actor to watch.  While on his way to Nevada to shoot his latest project Mr. Pare’ took time out to talk to me about his latest film – “Once Upon a Time in Deadwood” – his aspirations to be a chef and how Rick Springfield almost ended up playing Eddie Wilson.  (I should also note that this interview is posting on his birthday so, from all of us at Media Mikes, HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL!”

 

MIKE SMITH:  You studied to be a chef.  Was that your original career goal?

 

MICHAEL PARE’:  Yes.  When I was in high school, my first job where I had to pay taxes, social security and everything was in a fast food restaurant.  Then I got on at a regular restaurant that served steaks and everything else.  I was pretty good at it and I liked the life.  So in my junior year I heard from a co-worker about the Culinary Institute of America.  I got a recommendation from my boss and I applied and got in.  At the time it was known as the best cooking school in the United States.  I attended for a year and was given an internship at Tavern on the Green in New York.  They eventually offered me a full-time, six days a week job.  So I moved to Manhattan, which is where I was discovered.

 

MS:  Do you ever give the Craft Services people on set any pointers?

 

MP:  (laughs) No, but there are a few directors I’ve cooked with.  Uwe Boll and I used to have a sauerbraten contest every time we worked.  Cooking is something that a lot of people share.  In all of the arts food becomes an important part of your life.

 

MS:  How did you get into acting?  What took you from the kitchen to the soundstage?

 

MP:  I got discovered by an agent.  There was a bar where my girlfriend waitressed at that was kind of a show business bar.  It was right across from where they broadcast the news for ABC. A lot of people in the business hung out there.  The agent noticed me and asked me if I was an actor or a dancer.  I told her I was in the restaurant business.  She kind of pursued it and talked me into taking a few classes.  I did and I liked it a lot.  My first classes were at Carnegie Hall.  I’d go to class during the day and work the night shift at the restaurant.  I studied for two years and then auditioned for ABC’s talent development program and I got it.  They brought me out to Hollywood and put me on “The Greatest American Hero.”

 

MS:  You made your feature film debut as Eddie Wilson in “Eddie and the Cruisers.”  How did you get the role?

MP:  Marty Davidson, the director, called my agent and asked me to come in and meet him.  That was it.  I met with him about four or five times.  Marty was a very artistic guy.  He put the cast together and we had two weeks of improve and then we shot it.  I did it on hiatus from “The Greatest American Hero.”

 

MS:  Is it true that Martin Davidson would threaten to replace you with Rick Springfield?

 

MP:  (laughs)  Yes, but he only had to do it once!

 

MS:  I like Rick Springfield (Ok, I’ve seen him in concert a dozen times so I REALLY like Rick Springfield) but I don’t think he would have been a good Eddie.

 

MP:  It would have been a different movie.

 

MS:  Exactly.  Did you know while you were making the film that it was going to be regarded the way it is now?

 

MP:  No.  At that time I was still a young actor and didn’t know the potential of things.  I had only done two seasons of “The Greatest American Hero” and a movie of the week, so it was all like a dreamland.  I didn’t even think about marketing.  When I was back on “The Greatest American Hero” I was telling another actor about the film and he told me “you don’t have nothing without distribution.”  I had no idea what that meant.  I told him, “well, I shot it and they’re happy…that’s all I can say.”

 

MS:  Anyone ever ask you to sing “On the Dark Side” at karaoke?

 

MP:  (laughs)  If I do karaoke it’s Johnny Cash.

 

MS:  What drew you to your latest role in “Once Upon a Time in Deadwood?”

 

MP:  I’ve done a few westerns so when Jeff Miller (the film’s co-producer/co-writer) called me up and said he had an interesting project with this guy named Robert Bronzi I called up Danny Baldwin.  I knew he had worked with Robert and I asked him what he was like.  He said that Jeff and his team were very creative… very open minded.  So I said “ok.”  And then when I met Rene’ (director Rene’ Perez) he was surprised as he expected to meet someone who was a little more “beat up.”  I’m a pretty healthy guy.  That was it.  We shot in a little western town in central California up near the Sequoias.  We used blanks and squibs as opposed to all of the CGI stuff that is so popular now on low budget movies.  It was a great experience.  Nice cast.  Rene’ is very creative.  He’s the DP and the director.

 

MS:  Do you enjoy the genre’?  Do you have a favorite role-type?

 

MP:  I like all of them.  If you do it so long you play everything.  And you hope one of the roles will be successful, you know?

 

MS:  What are you working on now?

 

MP:  It’s called “Bridge of Doom” We’re shooting in Caliente’, Nevada.  It’s the military reaction to the Zombie Apocalypse.  When I heard that I was like, “great…we never hear about that part.  It’s always about the civilians out in the middle of nowhere.

Oscar Winning Film Editor Paul Hirsch Talks About His Career and His New Book

Oscar winning film editor Paul Hirsch has been fortunate in that he has worked numerous times with two of Hollywood’s best known filmmakers, Brian DePalma and John Hughes.  He also won an Academy Award for his work (along with Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew) on one of the most popular films of all time, “Star Wars.”  With a book highlighting his career about to be released, Mr. Hirsch took the time to answer some questions about his lengthy career.

 

MIKE SMITH:  What drew you to become a film editor?

 

PAUL HIRSCH:  A number of things.  I was fascinated when I first saw a Moviola.  I was blown away by a festival of Orson Welles films.  I liked working with my hands, and was drawn to the tools.  I loved movies.

 

MS:  Other film editors I’ve interviewed had mentors they admired.  I recently spoke with Arthur Schmidt and he told me that he learned under Dede Allen and Neil Travis.  Did you have someone whose work you admired and/or who took you under their wing?

 

PH:  Brian DePalma was my mentor.  He encouraged me, empowered me, validated my work and deeply influenced me.  I was cutting his films from the age of 23, and so never worked under a professional feature film editor.  I learned by doing and studying how films I admired were cut.  I was sort of like the art students you see in museums, copying the masters.

 

MS:   How did you come to edit “Hi Mom” for Brian DePalma?

 

I had cut the trailer for “Greetings,” thanks to my brother.  When they got the money to do a sequel, titled “Son of Greetings,” Brian hired me to cut it.

 

MS:   Five or your first six films were with DePalma.  He is well known – and often criticized – for his use of split-screen (the prom from “Carrie” being a great example).  Was that something you discussed in the editing room or was that his original vision?

An example of the split screen process used in “Carrie”

PH:  Split screen is Brian’s thing.  I can’t take credit for it, but I do love and appreciate the tension that can result from juxtaposing images on the screen, even if, or rather, especially if, the screen isn’t actually split.  I’m referring to deep focus shots, which have become a lost art, where you have a near object on one side, and a distant one on the other.  Brian did that a lot, using split diopters, with tremendous success.

 

MS:   A lot of the young filmmakers in the 70s (DePalma, Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas) were very close with each other.  Is that how you were hired for “Star Wars?”

 

PH:  Yes.  Brian screened the final cut of “Carrie” for George and Marcia Lucas on their return from principal photography on”Star Wars” in England.  They needed help, and turned to me.

 

MS:  How difficult was it editing a film where you sometimes had to wait months for a finished special effects shot?

 

PH:  We had ways around that.  We would cut in place-holders or a piece of leader that we estimated was the right length.

 

MS:  You, along with Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew, received the Academy Award for your work on “Star Wars.”  Where do you keep your Oscar?

Richard Chew, Marcia Lucas and Paul Hirsch hoist their Oscars with presenter Farrah Fawcett

PH:  It’s on a bookshelf in my office.

 

MS:  You’ve done eleven films with DePalma but, surprisingly, not ‘The Untouchables.”  Was there a reason you didn’t cut that picture?

 

PH: I moved to the West Coast after “Blow Out.”  I didn’t cut a picture for Brian in the ensuing ten years.  We next worked together on “Raising Cain,” when he was living in California.

 

MS:  You also worked a lot with John Hughes.  How was he to work with and were there any major differences in the way he and DePalma approached a film?

 

PH:  John was a lot of fun to work with until he wasn’t.  He was a brilliant artist, but had mercurial moods.  But I had a great time working with him.  John was a writer, primarily, and his medium was words, by and large. Brian is a great visualist.  His ideas are primarily graphic, both in terms of camera movement, which no one does better, and in terms of visual story-telling, that is to say, how scenes can be constructed in the editing room.

 

MS:   Hal Ashby was a great film editor who went on to become a fine director.  Have you ever wanted to direct?

 

PH:  I did want to for a while, and then the fever broke.  I like working all the time, and editing afforded me that.  To me, directing was like perpetually running for office.  I’m more of an introvert, and editing suits me just fine.

 

MS:   Your most recent film was the Tom Cruise version of “The Mummy.”  What is the biggest difference between cutting a film now and forty-plus years ago?

 

PH:  There’s a lot more reliance on vfx now, which consumes a lot of time and energy.  And when I started out, directors were given much more discretion.  The director was the key creative figure in the package, often with final cut.  That happens less these days.  If a director had a hit back then, the studio would ask, “What do you want to do next?”  Today, the projects are developed by the studio, and the director is “cast” the same way you would choose an actor for a role.  Producers and studio executives are much more involved in the editing process these days.

 

MS:  What can you tell us about your new book?

Mr. Hirsch’s book will be released on November 1st and is currently available to order now on Amazon.com and other sites.

PH:  It’s an account of my adventures in Movie-land, my experiences of the last fifty years and what I learned during that time.  I write about the various projects I worked on, and the fascinating people I encountered.  I share some of the insights I picked up along the way as I made my way into the industry.  It’s not a how-to book, which I consider boring.  And it’s not a gossipy tell-all where I get revenge on the jerks I met along the way, which really weren’t that many when I think about it.  The people I got along with are much more interesting.  I meant it to be entertaining above all.  I hope people will read it for pleasure. I’ve had a number of friends read it.  Editors in particular seem to like it, but I think anyone who is curious about what goes on behind the scenes in our business will find it fun to read.

 

MS:  Are you working on anything new?

 

PH:  I’ve been working on the book for many years, first writing it, and then editing it.  I only just recently finished going over the page proofs.  I’m going to take my time now, reading scripts, and will see if anything pings my interest.  I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.

Concert Review: “The Beatles – White Album 50th Anniversary Tribute

  • A TRIBUTE TO THE BEATLES WHITE ALBUM
  • Kauffman Center For the Performing Arts – Kansas City, Missouri
  • October 3, 2019

 

It’s often said of a great actor “I’d pay to watch him read the phone book.”  Well, this evening in Kansas City, I saw musicians who’d I pay to SING the phonebook.

Imagine having the opportunity to see these people in concert:  Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross, Mickey Dolenz, Joey Molland from Badfinger and Jason Scheff from Chicago.  Now imagine seeing all of the on stage at once, which is exactly what I did this evening at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City.

They hit the stage, along with a talented group of musicians, to help pay tribute to the 50th Anniversary of an album simply titled THE BEATLES but known to fans all over the world as “the White Album.”  Great musicians performing great songs.  How can you lose?

There are 30 songs on the White Album, and, while not all of them are represented, the ones that are sound amazing.  Like the album, the show opened with Dolenz singing “Back in the U.S.S.R.”  Even at age 74, Dolenz filled the auditorium with one of the most recognizable voices in music history.  I caught the Monkees when they toured in 1986 and Mickey was the indisputable ring leader.  Nothing has changed.  It’s obvious he’s here to have fun and you can’t help but indulge him.  Rundgren, who I’ve been a fan of since he was in the band Utopia – AND WHO IS CRIMINALLY NOT IN THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME – spelled Dolenz on lead vocals with “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey,” pointing at the former Monkee while he sang.

After a few more songs, Dolenz announced that the audience was in for a special treat, as each of the main band members would also be performing a couple of their own hits.  He kicked this portion of the show off with “I’m a Believer,” followed by “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”  Then it was Molland’s turn and he entertained with a couple of Badfinger hits – “Baby Blue” and “No Matter What.”  Scheff, who very capably replaced Peter Cetera when the latter left the band Chicago, took center stage next with a mellowing version of “After All That We’ve Been Through” before switching gears into a rousing “25 or 6 to 4.”  It was then Rundgren’s turn.  Did I mention that, despite four decades in the music business and dozens of hit albums produced Todd Rundgren is NOT in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?  He began his mini-set with “I Saw the Light” and added “Hello, It’s Me.”  That song is almost 50 years old but I sing it at the top of my voice every time I hear it, and tonight was no exception.  Thankfully the rest of the audience joined me.  Cross finished the mini solo concert with his hits “Sailing” and “Ride Like the Wind.”  A few more Beatles tunes and it was intermission time.

Rundgren, Cross and Dolenz

The show resumed with Cross alone on stage and he began the second act with a beautiful version of “Blackbird.”  The rest of the show was a constant barrage of Beatles song after song, each musically impeccable and perfectly sung.  In the second act, Rundgren began having fun.  He donned a couple of different outfits for a couple of songs, handing out flowers to the audience during “Sexy Sadie” and taking aim at the audience with an over-sized squirt gun while dressed as  hunter during “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill.”  Dolenz also had some fun with the audience, informing us that we were so great the band decided to also perform the entire “Abbey Road” album.  As the band played the opening riffs to “Come Together” I thought he might be serious.  Sadly, he wasn’t, though he joked that if they did play it he’d definitely need to be put into intensive care  The highlight of the show, to me, was Rundgren’s  kick-ass rendition of “Helter Skelter,” which earned him a much deserved standing ovation.  I did mention that Todd Rundgren is NOT in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, didn’t I?

To sum it up, it was an amazing night of music played by an amazing group of musicians.  If you’re a fan of the Beatles, or any of the musicians on the bill, I urge you to see this show when it’s in your town!

SET LIST:  Back in the U.S.S.R., Dear Prudence, Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey, Martha My Dear, Yer Blues, I’m a Believer, Pleasant Valley Sunday, Baby Blue, No Matter What, After All That We’ve Been Through, 25 or 6 to 4, I Saw the Light, Hello, It’s Me, Sailing, Ride Like the Wind, Honey Pie, Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?, While My Guitar Gently Sleeps, Blackbird, I Will, Julia, Mother Nature’s Son, Rocky Raccoon, Revolution 1, Sexy Sadie, I’m So Tired, Happiness is a Warm Gun, The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill, Piggies, Glass Onion, Helter Skelter, Come Together (opening), Birthday.  ENCORE:  Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

Upcoming Concert Dates

Oct 5 – Beverly, MA – Cabot Theater

Oct 6 – Concord, NH – Capitol Center For The Arts

Oct 7 – Orono, ME – Collins Center For The Arts

Oct 8 – Ridgefield, CT – Ridgefield Playhouse

Oct 10 – Staten Island, NY – St. George Theater

Oct 11 – Boston, MA – Berklee PAC

Oct 12 – Westbury, NY – Theatre @ Westbury

Oct 13 – Morristown, NJ – Mayo PAC

Oct 15 – Glenside, PA – Keswick Theatre

Oct 17 – Red Bank, NJ – Count Basie Theater

Oct 18 – New London, CT – Garde Arts Center

Oct 20 – Washington, DC – Warner Theatre

 

Film Review: “Judy”

 

 

  • JUDY
  • Starring:  Renee Zellwegger, Finn Wittrock and Rufus Sewell
  • Directed by: Rupert Goold
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 58 mins
  • Roadside Attractions

 

When you mention the name Judy Garland to most people, their first thought is usually of Dorothy Gale, the Kansas farm girl who traveled the Yellow Brick Road in “The Wizard of Oz.”  They may not know that she was a singular talent with an amazing singing voice, or that she was also a fine actress, earning two Academy Award nominations and criminally losing Best Actress for “A Star is Born” to Grace Kelly.  They may remember her as Liza Minelli’s mother.  But very few will know that she led a troubled life.  Multiple marriages.  Being fired from films (she was originally scheduled to star in “Annie Get Your Gun” but was replaced by Betty Hutton).  Alcohol and drugs.  It all contributed to her death at the very young age of 47.  There will never be another Judy Garland.  But I must say, Renee Zellwegger in the new film “Judy” comes awfully close.

 

The film highlights two periods of Garland’s life.  As a child actress (Darci Shaw), presumably during the filming of “The Wizard of Oz” and towards the end of her life when she undertook a tour of London.  Both are harrowing.  Despite all of the smiles and staged fun, Garland is treated like an indentured servant by everyone from MGM head L.B. Mayer to the studio hack hired to make sure she doesn’t take a bite of a hamburger during a photo shoot for fear she’ll gain weight.  In London, Garland (Zellwegger) must deal with her personal issues, which include showing up on stage intoxicated.  Things begin to get better when she meets Mickey Deens (Wittrock) at a party.  Though he is much younger then she is, the two begin a relationship which seems to life Judy up.  But can she remain on top?

 

I always go into films like this with a little trepidation.  It is rare when you find an actor or actress that is able to embody a character you are so familiar with.  Jamie Foxx (“Ray”) and Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”) pulled it off and were rewarded with Oscars.  Zellwegger may join them next year.  Hers is not a caricature of Garland but an actual channeling.  Her appearance…her mannerisms…everything says “Judy Garland” on film.  And, while she doesn’t sound like Garland when she does (and to be honest, no one can) she pays homage to some of the great tunes Garland was famous for.  In between concert scenes, which are well presented, the little looks into the life of this legend keep the film grounded, solidly anchored by Zellwegger’s award-worthy performance.

 

“The Wizard of Oz” is regarded as a classic.  So was Judy Garland.  50 years after her death, and 80 years after the film debuted, it’s good to see her getting her due.

 

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“Caddyshack” Hits the Links in Omaha

The SHACK is back!

On Friday, November 8th, film historian Bruce Crawford will be presenting the 1980 comedy classic “Caddyshack,” starring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Cindy Morgan.

The event will be held at the Joslyn Art Museum, 2200 Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska.

In attendance at the screening will be actress Cindy Morgan, who played the beautiful and much sought after Lacey Underalls in the film.  Miss Morgan will speak before the screening and reminisce about the making of the film.  Fans can stay after the event for a meet and greet with Miss Morgan and autograph session.

2019 marks the 27th year of Crawford hosting an evening of classic film, along with members of the casts and crews who created them.

This event marks 27 years since Crawford started hosting film legends and the classic films on which they worked. He typically presents two movies each year, spring and autumn.

Tickets for the event (screening and meet and greet) are $24.00 and go on sale Thursday, October 3rd.  They can be purchased at the customer service counters of all Omaha-area Hy Vee food stores.   Proceeds will benefit HELP Adult Services. All tickets are a non-refundable donation.   Fans interested in just attending the screening may be able to obtrain complimentary tickets by calling 402 393 4884

For more information or to obtain tickets over the phone you can call (402) 341-6559  or click HERE.

 

 

Kansas City Theater Review: “Hello, Dolly!”

  • HELLO, DOLLY
  • Starlight Theatre – Kansas City, Missouri
  • September 26, 2019

This has been one of the best seasons I’ve ever attended at Starlight and their final production of the season was no exception.  It gave audiences a chance to revisit one of the most popular shows off all time, “Hello, Dolly.”

The show revolves around the life of Dolly Levi, played brilliantly by multiple Tony-award nominee Carolee Carmello, a widowed master-of-all-trades whose main endeavor is match making.  She is currently meddling in the relationship between Ambrose kemper (Colin LeMoine) and his beloved Ermergarde (Laura Sky Herman).  The young ladies uncle, the very rich Horace Vandelgerder (and equally excellent John Bolton) does not feel Ambrose is a suitable suitor.  But when Dolly sets her mind to things…

A fun show with some spectacular dancing, “Hello, Dolly” is just coming off a recent Broadway engagement, with the dynamic Bette Midler, that won 4 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.  The original production, which debuted 55 years ago, took home 10 Tony Awards.

The fun in the show is infectious, thanks to the amazing cast.  When I  mentioned that I was seeing this production, I was asked if Betty Buckley was playing Dolly.  She wasn’t.  And, as much as I love Betty Buckley (I saw her on Broadway in “Sunset Boulevard”) I’m so glad I was able to see Ms. Carmello in the role.  Armed with a beautiful voice and great comic timing, she had the audience in the palm of her hand from her first appearance on stage.  Mr. Bolton, who I saw on Broadway two decades ago in the musical “Titanic” has just the right amount of bluster to make Vandergelder lovable.  The chemistry between the two is very visible.  Supporting cast members, including Kansas City native Daniel Beeman (Cornelius) and Analisa Leaming (Mrs. Malloy), also give strong performances.  And the “background” performers – townspeople, etc – are among the best dance ensembles I’ve ever seen.

“Hello, Dolly” runs at Starlight through September 29.  If you don’t get to see it there, I urge you to see it when it hits your town.  For tour information, please click HERE

Actor/Comedian Jason Stuart Talks About His New Book and Latest Projects

With almost 150 film and television credits to his name, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen Jason Stuart on screen.  From small screen appearances on shows like “The Drew Carey Show,” “My Wife and Kids” and “Will & Grace” to his acclaimed performance in – in this writer’s humble opinion – the Best Film of 2016, “The Birth of a Nation,” he continues to add to his ever growing resume’.   He recently added a new chapter to his career story – author – with the release of his book “Shut Up, I’m Talking!”  The book details his career as well as the challenges he faced

I recently spoke with Jason about his new book and about how coming out in 1993 effected both his life and his career.

Photo Credit: Kimo Lauder

MIKE SMITH:  What prompted you to write the book?

 

JASON STUART:  I had a very good friend who worked with me on a comedy radio show I did in the Midwest.    His name was Dan Duffy and he had written a book called “The Half Book,”  He called me and told me I needed to read his book.  I bought the book and read it.  It was about him getting cancer and how he recovered, how he survived with the love of his family.  It was funny and it was touching and I was so moved by it that I told him “I need someone like you to help me write my book.”  And he said he’d love to do it.  So that was it.  I always think when something is put in front of you it’s meant to be.

 

MS:  Any reactions from your friends who may not have known you story?

 

JS:  That’s a great question.  Tons of people.  When I decided to write it I thought about it as a way to get my story out, to let people see me in a different way…to help my career and to possibly get some publicity.  Maybe I’ll make a little money.  But then I realized, “OH!  People are also going to be reading this book.  They’re going to hear all of these things I said about my personal life.  And they’re going to have opinions about it.”  I totally forget about that part.  People have been really candid.  People have stopped me on the street or called me…it’s been a lot of really positive energy.  Much more than I ever thought.

Photo credit: Sean Black

 

MS:  Do you think there is still a stigma in Hollywood that prevents gay actors from getting certain roles?

 

JS:  It’s certainly not what it was 26 years ago, but I still think that when somebody sees you a certain way it’s very hard for them to see that you would be right for certain roles.  Hollywood doesn’t seem to want actors, they seem to want “be-ers.”  My favorite actor growing up was Dustin Hoffman.  He still is.  He played Lenny Bruce.  He played Benjamin in “The Graduate.”  He played the father in “Kramer vs Kramer,” he was Captain Hook.  He was Willy Loman.  He did all sorts of roles.  You don’t really get to do that as much, but I’ve been able to make a career out of doing that.  When something comes along and they tell me I’m perfect for it, it’s not always clear to me.  We don’t always see ourselves as others see us.  Being a gay man over 50 – there are very few “gay men” parts over 50.  They don’t write them.  That role doesn’t exist very much.  So I wind up playing villains…managers…all these kind of characters.  What I want to do is play dads…because everybody has a dad.

MS:  If I can ask my question more directly, do you ever think because they know that you’re gay that you’re easily dismissed for certain roles?

 

JS:  I think so.  People are like that somewhat.  I’d have to say it’s natural.  People have to “see it.”  See you do the work.  Which is why I’ve created several demo reels.  They have to see that you can do it.  You have to be able to prove it to them.  You have to be able to get someone to represent you that is open enough to do that for you.

 

MS; You’ve done both television and film.  Do you have a preference?

 

JS:  Not any more.  Today there is no difference.  It’s about the quality of work.  I ask you a question back:  what is a television show and what is a film?

 

MS:  I think, to me, the difference is that in television, or on stage in a successful show, you have the opportunity to keep developing the character as the series or show progresses.  With a film, you’re only dealing with the role for a few months.  Does that make sense?

 

JS; Yes it does.

 

MS:  What are you working on now?

 

JS:  I have a new film called “Hank” which is now out all over the country.  It’s a short film about a guy in a relationship whose partner decides he wants an open relationship and I don’t.  It’s gotten some of the best reviews I’ve received since “The Birth of a Nation.”  And then I’m in a film called “Immortal” which is opening at the Scream Film Festival.  It’s a thriller and it’s opening on the 16th of October.  I’m also doing stand-up at the Icehouse Comedy Club in Pasadena.  I also just completed a web-series I wrote, produced and appeared in called “Smothered” with Mitch Hara.  I’m also being considered for a recurring role in a big series – I can’t say which one – as well as a national commercial.

MS:  It’s good to be busy.

 

JS:  It is.  I feel very blessed.

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN ORDERING MR. STUART’S BOOK, YOU CAN FIND IT ON AMAZON.COM, BARNESandNOBLE.COM OR YOU CAN ORDER IT FROM THE PUBLISHER HERE.

Film Review: “Ad Astra”

AD ASTRA
Starring:  Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones and Ruth Negga
Directed by: James Gray
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 2 mins
20th Century Fox

Roy McBride (Pitt) is an astronaut.  He begins and ends every day with a diagnostic test, one that is given to ensure he has his emotions in check.  Roy is the only person who, despite the situation, can maintain a heart rate of less than 80.  This is put to the test when, during a routine maintenance mission on a space antenna, a tragedy happens, causing Roy to literally fall back to earth.  Despite the obvious adrenaline rush his heart rate remains low.  Which makes him perfect for his next mission…one to save the world.

Overly long (it feels like double the 2 hour run time) but beautifully filmed, “Ad Astra” rockets across the screen powered by one of Brad Pitt’s best performances.  Age has somewhat weathered his good looks, which is a good thing because there has been a fine actor under that face for years.  Roy’s mission is to head to Jupiter to find out what is emanating from the planet that is putting the Earth in danger.  Roy is shocked to learn that the cause may be his father (Jones), who was presumed killed in action during a visit to Jupiter many years ago.

A lot of the film is Pitt, alone with his thoughts, and he holds the story together as best he can.  Supporting players, like Negga, Loren Dean and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him Donald Sutherland do well with what screen time they have.  The film is beautifully photographed so credit is due to the production people.  But the pace…Oy!  Pitt mentions in the film that his journey has covered 2 billion miles.  Believe me, it feels like you were along for every last one.

Film Review: “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice”

LINDA RONSTADT:  THE SOUND OF MY VOICE
Starring:  Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne and JD Souther
Directed by: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hr 35 mins
Greenwich Entertainment

Last week when I reviewed the outstanding documentary about David Crosby I noted that I had been very lucky to have met him many years ago at a Vietnam Veteran’s tribute concert.  I bring that up because I also met Linda Ronstadt that day, and she is the subject of the new film “Linda Ronstadt:  The Sound of My Voice.”

As a teenager in the 1970s, Linda Ronstadt’s music comprised a lot of the soundtrack of my life.  And, as a teenage BOY in the 1970s, I had a poster for her “Living in the U.S.A.” album on my wall, giving me a new appreciation for roller skating.  This new documentary takes a look at her life, from childhood through today, giving a very in-depth look at one of the most successful female artists of all time.

She had a very loving upbringing.  Her paternal grandfather was an inventor who gave us such household items as the electric stove and the toaster.  Her mother met her father at college.  Their home was always filled with music, both contemporary and the Mexican music her father enjoyed.  All three (two girls and a boy) loved to sing.  They formed a folk group in the late 60s with little success. Ronstadt met guitarist Bobby Kimmel and they formed the band Stone Poneys.  The band had a hit with their version of Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum” – still the only song written by a member of the Monkees to hit the Top 10 – and drew much attention.  Unfortunately, that attention was directed at Linda, who received many offers to record as a solo artist.  And she did, releasing hit after hit for many years.

The film is full of great archive footage, including early television appearances on such shows as “Dick Cavett” and “The Johnny Cash Show.”  It also has amazing interviews with pretty much anyone you can think of from the musical scene of the 1970s.  Don Henley and Glenn Frey recount how they were hired to be part of Ronstadt’s road band, only to discover that they had great songwriting chemistry together and leaving to form their own band – the Eagles.  Other female vocalists, like Bonnie Raitt and Emmylou Harris, talk about Ronstadt’s influences on their careers.  If you are a fan of the music of this era, this is a must see movie.

Ronstadt no longer tours, as she is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, but this film serves as a time capsule of her greatest moments and a reminder of how great music was before auto-tune!

Win A “RAMBO: Last Blood” Prize Pack

Here’s some trivia for you. In the novel “First Blood,” John Rambo dies. And he was scheduled to die when the film version was made. However, star Sylvester Stallone argued that the character should live. Both endings were filmed, with Stallone’s request being honored. Good thing too, or else we wouldn’t be able to give (3) lucky readers the chance to win a “RAMBO: Last Blood” prize package, which includes a pass for (2) to see the new film, a t-shirt and a bandanna.

All you have to do is let us know below which John Rambo adventure was your favorite. (3) random entries will be selected and the winners will be notified by email. This contest runs through Thursday, September 19 at 6:00 pm CST. Good luck!

Don’t forget that Wednesday, September 18 has been designated as RAMBO Day!

#RAMBO

@ Rambomovie

 

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Film Review: “Rapid Response”

RAPID RESPONSE (Documentary)
Starring:  Mario Andretti, Rick Mears and Bobby Unser
Directed by: Roger Hinze and Michael William Miles
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hr 39 mins
Atlas Distribution Company

My nephew loves the Indianapolis 500.  It was an event he could attend each year with his father and, more personally, it’s where he met his fiancé.  I used to watch it on television in the 1970s as a child and I can still remember watching the race in 1973 when a high speed and fiery crash ended driver Swede Savage’s (an awesome name for anyone in sports) day.  Savage died about a month later in the hospital, though it’s unsure if his injuries or a serious illness he had killed him.

In 1966, racing fan (and medical student) Stephen Olvey attended the race only to see tragedy strike again.  After the accident, he questioned why, even though there was safety and fire equipment at the track, there were no medical personnel.  Would a doctor at the Speedway have saved the driver?  Since then Dr. Olvey has put together a team of professionals whose job is to save lives at racing events whenever possible.

Full of some amazing archive race footage, as well as interview with such legendary drivers as Mario Andretti, Bobby Unser and Rick Mears, These are men who risked their lives weekly going 200 miles per hour and it’s obvious that they wish a lot of Dr. Olvey’s innovations were around when they were racing.  “Rapid Response” is an in-depth look at the work Dr. Olvey and his “crew” do almost every weekend of racing season.   A look is also taken at how the team has changed the way races are run, making the time spent on the track safer for everyone.

If you’re a fan of auto racing, this is a film I highly recommend.   

Film Review: “David Crosby: Remember My Name”

  • DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME
  • Starring:  David Crosby, Cameron Crowe, Graham Nash
  • Directed by: A.J. Eaton
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 35 mins
  • SONY Picture Classics

I met David Crosby in 1987.  He was backstage getting ready to perform on a Vietnam Veteran’s concert being taped for HBO.  I accidentally walked into what I thought was the bathroom only to find out it was his dressing room.  He was very nice and we talked for a few minutes.  Later that afternoon he, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash performed in (as always) perfect harmony.

Today, at age 72, Crosby is still on the road.  He has to be.  Though he was very successful during his time with The Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSN) and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY), he is quick to point out that he is the only member of those bands who never had a solo hit record.  The new film, “David Crosby: Remember My Name” finds Crosby about to head out for a six week tour.  This saddens him, as he would rather stay home with his wife, Jan.  This saddens Jan, as she is aware of Crosby’s health problems and always fears that when he leaves for a show he will never return home.  But if there is one thing Crosby loves as much as his family, it is to sing.  So out on the road he goes.

An excellent combination of archive footage and interviews, “David Crosby: Remember My Names” is an outstanding film which reminds me, in style, of another documentary, “Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me.”  This could be because the director of the Campbell doc, James Keach, is an executive producer here.  The film covers almost every aspect of Crosby’s life, both the highs (no pun intended) and the lows.

The son of an Academy Award winning cinematographer (Crosby’s father, Floyd, won the award for his work on the film “Tabu”), Crosby listened to his mother’s records and soon began playing the guitar.  When he got older, he became a co-founder of The Byrds, a very successful group.  However, due to some of his antics – including telling a concert audience that President Kennedy was killed as a result of a conspiracy – he was booted from the band.  He then teamed up with Stills and Nash to form one of the biggest super groups in music history.   We are shown a

Montage of drug fueled images from the period, including one with my friend Carl Gottlieb expounding on them.  (NOTE:  Carl helped David Crosby write his two volume autobiography, “Long Time Gone” and “Since Then”)  We also learn that Dennis Hopper based his character in the film “Easy Rider” on Crosby.  However, things begin going bad when Crosby’s 21 year old girlfriend, Christine Hinton, is killed when a bus hits her van head-on.  Heartbroken, Crosby finds solace in sailing – and drugs.   Later in his life, his addiction will send him to prison.

One of the best music autobiographies ever written.

The film also allows Crosby to take the audience to Kent State University, where 4 students were killed on May 4, 1970 when members of the Ohio National Guard fired their weapons into a group of students who were protesting the war in Vietnam.  There is a cultural center on campus now, a museum dedicated to the images of that tragic day.  The emotion still wells up in Crosby’s voice as he describes how one leader in the National Guard swore he’d never fired his weapon, when a photo on the wall captures him doing just that.  Within a month of the shootings, CSNY release their song “OHIO,” which Neil Young wrote after seeing a LIFE magazine cover story on the shootings.  Neil Young has said that the event was so emotional that David Crosby wept while recording the song.  That emotion, almost 50 years later, is still obvious. 

The film also includes footage of Crosby on tour, and his voice is just as sweet as it was in the 1960s.  He also shares some personal stories about such fellow musical icons as Cass Elliott, Joni Mitchell, Jerry Garcia and Bob Dylan.  If you’re a fan of Crosby, or just the music of the period, this film is a must see!