Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Catch Me If You Can: The Musical

I think this is turning out to be a great season for Broadway hits! Last night I the new musical "CATCH ME IF YOU CAN" at the Neil Simon Theatre! It has all the makings of what a Broadway musical should be: a great story, catchy songs, and an exceptionally dynamic cast!

If the title sounds familiar its because Steven Spielberg made a film version of the book by Frank W. Abagnale Jr. in 2002. If you don't know the story of Frank W. Abagnale Jr., its a fantastic true tale of a teenager who, by the age of 21, was a self-made millionaire. It was his way of making the money that makes the story all the more interesting: he forged millions of dollars of rubber checks. It was his illegal actions that led to the overhaul of how the banking industry now regulates the checking process. Along the way he successfully impersonates an airline pilot with PanAm, a doctor in an emergency room, and a legal processor. The FBI are hot on his trail when he evades capture by impersonating yet another government official! It isn't really that hard to believe that this is a true story! The story begins in 1964 when writing checks was a whole lot different than we do today. Doesn't anybody remember when it took 5 to 7 business days for an out-of-state check to clear?

Another reason why I LOVED this show was because the book (by Terrence McNally) totally flows cohesively with great tunes by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. I actually found myself singing along (to myself) to several of the songs while the performers sang them! It's a good feeling when you can walk out of a musical humming the tunes that you have just enjoyed on stage. They stay with you for a long time (and in a good way too)!

But what is a show without great performances? This one had TONS! Mostly broadway vets that, if you have seen Hairspray, Next to Normal or Wicked, are not hard to forget! The stand-out performance goes to Aaron Tveit as the very charismatic Frank Abagnale Jr.(played by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film) What a VOICE this kid has on him! I wished I had seen him in Next to Normal when he was in it! Added to the mix are Tony winner Norbert Leo Butz as Agent
Carl Hanratty (played by Tom Hanks in the film), the still hot after all these years - Tom Wopat as Frank Sr. (Christopher Walken in film), and the always talented Kerry Butler as Frank's girlfriend, Brenda Strong (played by Amy Adams in the film). Great direction by Jack O'Brien and fantastic choreography by Jerry Mitchell! Dude, I really LOVED this show!

With the exception of "Shindler's List", "The Color Purple", "Jaws" and the Indiana Jones films - I'm not a super big fan of Spielberg movies. His film version of "Catch Me If You Can" isn't even in my video library. I can honestly say that this new musical adaptation is exponentially better than the film! It takes you on a journey that you can never forget!

If you want to see a great old-fashion musical, treat yourself to CATCH ME IF YOU CAN!

Be warned however: the Neil Simon theatre is an old Broadway theatre. Old, as in, when they put the seats in there originally, theater-goers were are lot smaller than we are today! But if you are like me, it's a pleasurable pain being squeezed for 2 1/2 hours!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Wendy Williams Show & Crazy Aunt Mildred!

Wendy Williams just read my letter on her show this morning!

Last week I was home and a get a phone call from someone at THE WENDY WILLIAMS SHOW telling me that they are going to read my letter and show a photo that I sent them. The photo I took one day a few months back while walking down 14th Street. Once I saw I this image, I knew I just had to take a photo of this.

Now if you aren't a regular view of Wendy (and I don't know why you wouldn't be), here is a little backstory: Its no secret that Wendy Williams wears wigs on her show. She even has a wig-stand that she calls "Shakeetha". Shakeetha even has a backstory: she's 25yo, she only dates ballers, likes the clubs, etc. She even has been going on a city-by-city tour to visit viewers. Ok, back to my photo: I'm walking down 14th Street in NYC and in the window of a wig shop I spot "Shakeetha's Crazy Aunt Mildred" and I know I just have to share this image with Wendy Williams viewers! So here it is if you missed it!

Also tonight on Dancing With The Stars one couple will be eliminated. Last night Wendy and her dance partner Tony Dovolani did a "Quick Step" and it was a great comeback from last weeks low scores! They did an AMAZING job! I hope you had the chance to vote for them? I had never been into DWTS before. I started watching it last season when Margaret Cho was on it, but after she got eliminated. I stopped watching. This season it's really exciting! Just like Celebrity Apprentice this year is really good too! I'm rooting for Wendy to bring home the Mirrored Ball! GO WENDY!! Thanks again for introducing "Crazy Aunt Mildred" to America! Now could someone get back to me about getting tickets for a taping?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Don't Wanna be an AMERICAN IDIOT! Vote TEAM WENDY on DWTS 1-800-868-3402

I went to the theater on Friday to see another show on Broadway: AMERICAN IDIOT. If it sounds familiar its because it's also a Grammy winning album by the alternative rock band Green Day. If you haven't seen the show - then RUN down the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" to the St. James Theatre to see it before it closes. Rumor has it that its closing at the end of April!

Don't expect to see a show like Phantom of the Opera or Wicked here. It's the closet thing to a musical without being all "musically". If you know what a mean. It's gritty, it's honest, and it totally rocks!

I wasn't a big fan of Green Day prior to seeing the show, but I am now. Some of the music I'd heard before but didn't know it was Green Day! I honestly have to say I liked this musical better than I thought I was going to like it! Granted, its not a musical for everyone. But teenagers will love it! The MTV generation and maybe the VH-1 generation will love it. However there were some seniors there who didn't seem to be enjoying it. They had that "turn-that-nois
e-down-I'm-trying-to-iron-in-here" look on their faces. So if you want to take the grandparents to a show, don't take them to this one (unless they went to Woodstock).

I hate to make comparisons to other shows but this show reminded me of "Rent" and "Hair" and "Tommy". And I LOVED all those shows! I think if you liked any of those shows, than you will love American Idiot! With the exception of the FABULOUS Rebecca Naomi Jones, all of the original cast has moved on. However the show is still as fresh as ever! Most of the ensemble cast has moved into lead roles. They are PHENOMENAL singers!!!! Ironically, in a show that pokes fun at American consumerism, the show now stars former American Idol runner-up, Justin Guarini. Justin, who was in the recently closed Broadway show Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (a show that had all the makings of a great show like Spider-Man but failed miserable) , plays Will. He sounds better than ever too!

Other news is that tonight I will be watching DANCING WITH THE STARS! As many of you know, I am a big fan of talk-show hostess, Wendy Williams. (I'm still waiting to get confirmation on tickets to see a taping next week) Wendy is one of the contestants on DWTS this evening. We wish her well! To vote for her call 1-800-868-3402! Support Wendy!

Also if you are a fan of Philip K. Dick's stories than you will love the new film THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU. I saw it last weekend and really was blown away with it. If you aren't familiar with PKD, then you should check out his work. It's sci-fi bordering on metaphysical. His stories have been turned in to films before: Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, etc. The Adjustment Bureau is based on Dick's short story The Adjustment Team. It's directed by George Nofli and stars Matt Damon, Anthony Mackey, Emily Blunt, John Slattery and the legendary Terence Stamp.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Today I was bummed out (does anyone even use that term anymore?) by all the images and information coming in about the earthquake in Japan. Don't get me wrong, I really feel for those people over there and I just hope that they can rebuild soon and stay safe. But after having lived through 9/11 here, I have become a bit neurotic - I'm a New Yorker, thats how we are. I think what really got me was all the information in the media about the nuclear plants and the possibility of a meltdown and what that could mean for the people of Japan. This on top of all the fears that the media has been feeding us with the various "what if" scenarios of it what it would mean if such catastrophes happened here. INFORMATION OVERLOAD!

So I turned off the television and went to pay my gas bill. The payment center for National Grid just so happens to be located next to the TKTS office at MetroTech Center here in Brooklyn. Much to my delight, they had a show that I've been dying to see, KATHY GRIFFIN WANTS A TONY! So, as an early birthday gift to myself, I got a ticket, and by 7pm I was sitting in the mezzanine as the curtain rose! Actually it's not really a rising curtain but that sounded more poetic, didn't it?

First let me begin by saying I am a big Kathy Griffin fan! She is a icon! And she simply put, is gosh darn funny! Okay, I really didn't mean to say "gosh darn" but I'm trying to keep this blog "clean" - but you know what I really meant to say anyway? She even allowed folks to take photos of her on stage - something that is very often prohibited at any Broadway show (see photo below -I had the flash off my camera, sorry). I didn't realize until after I had purchased the ticket that I would miss my two favorite shows on Tuesday night:GLEE and V. It was worth missing both of those television shows!

As a matter of fact, Kathy Griffin told the audience that she did an episode of GLEE that was broadcast tonight! If you don't know Kathy Griffin, than you really have been living under a rock! She is one of my very favorite 4 female comics working today (the others being Margaret Cho, Wanda Sykes, and the legendary Sandra Bernhard). Now Kathy is best known to American audiences from the series "Suddenly Susan" and her Emmy-winning reality show "My Life on the D-List". She is also the author of "Kathy Griffin: Official Book Club Selection" a memoir that is both funny and heart-warming! So if you know

who she is, then you know she doesn't hold ANYTHING back! That's why we love her!

Since I don't have cable I've only seen her show on Bravo when I'm visiting my mom. I did read her book when it first came out and was quite surprise with how open she was with the highs and lows in her life. Tonight at the Belasco Theatre she did not disappoint. No one was saved from the chopping block: Charlie Sheen, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Palin, Justin Beiber, Uma Thurman, Bill O'Reilly, Scientology, basically any "hot mess". At one point I found myself in tears from laughing so hard! Like Margaret Cho often speaks about in her show of her family, Kathy Griffin had tales of her beloved 90-year-old mom, Maggie! At one point Kathy even shared with the audience "notes" her mother gave her on how to do her show on Broadway! If anything, this would be the reason why she should win a Tony award: she did just the opposite of what the elder Mrs. Griffin suggested in her notes! TOO FUNNY!

My only problem with the show is that there are only 10 performances and then the show will be gone. I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to see this show before it closes. If you are lucky enough to get a ticket to see this show before it closes on Saturday you won't be disappointed!

My "note" to Kathy Griffin: I'm so glad you didn't listen to Maggie's notes! Thanks for making my birthday a little more special for me!

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Today, as I'm sure everyone knows by now, has been rather crappy! I hope the best for the people of Japan. My thoughts and prayers are with them.

Okay, moving on to some happier news... last Friday I went to see the horrible, HORRIBLE, HOR-RI-BLE, musical Spider-Man:Turn Off The Dark! A night I'd like to forget ever happened! Tonight I went to the theater again and "FINALLY" saw a musical that I can honestly say was 1000x better than that musical which I dare not speak its name again! Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: The Musical playing at the Palace theater on Broadway was not only a feast for the ears and eyes, but it actually had a plot that one could follow! Now if you are a fan of the Stephen Elliot cult film, "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" - a film that I often find myself quoting lines from ("A cock in a frock on a rock") - then you will be in for a big treat! Even though some of the jokes from the film are in the musical, it's still a riot!

If you have never seen the film, than you will still be in for a treat because it will be all new to you! The only difference is while the film contained tons of ABBA tunes - this show has replaced those songs with tons of songs from the Madonna catalogue and the Donna Summer catalogue. And yes, I did find myself singing along with the cast. But the main character from both the film and Broadway show still remains the bus named "Priscilla." The three leads - Mitzi aka Tick, Bernadette (formally Ralph), and Felicia aka Adam - use Priscilla to transport them across the Australian Outback from Sydney to the center of Australia to fulfill a performance obligation that Mitzi has booked for them. Along the way they get into some adventures and learn a lot about each other.

If you long for the ABBA tunes, then go see "Mamma Mia!" a few blocks uptown at the Winter Garden Theater. But if you are comfortable with men in drag, then this is the show for you! I personally liked this show very much. Not just because some of HOTTEST men on Broadway can be found here. The women and gays (like moi) had a eyeful of go-go boys at times. That aside, I really liked the story. The costumes and sets are FANTASTIC and some are reminiscent of the film! Even though the film introduced American audiences to Guy Pearce (Felicia) and Hugo Weaving (Mitzi) I believe some stars in this show will have big careers also! Will Swenson as Mitzi, Nick Adams as Felicia, C. David Johnson as Bob and Tony Sheldon as Bernadette (in the film played by the iconic Terence Stamp) were all great performers!

Now if you prefer to see more of the fairer sex on stage - then you are also in luck. Three FANTASTIC singers know as "The Divas" (Jacqueline B. Arnold, Anastacia McCleskey, and Ashley Spencer) keep the party HOT! The woman who stole the show was the very beautiful, J. Elaine Marcos as Cynthia, the mail-order bride of Bob. All I can say is I will never look at a ping-pong ball the same ever again! She was HYSTERICALLY FUNNY!

As I write this review I have playing on DVD, you guessed it, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. A film that if you haven't already seen, then you owe it to yourself to give it a look. And if you are in NYC visiting (or if you live here) and you want a fun show to see, then "Shake Your Groove Thing" down to the Palace Theater and you won't be sorry you did! And if you lucky, you may go home with a $750 gift certificate for Manolo Blahnik shoes as one very confused man did tonight!

FYI, I got my balcony ticket at TKTS at the Metrotech Center - I refuse to wait on that line in Times Square. This ticket office NEVER has a line and all the same shows are there that are at the ticket office in Times Square. If you don't feel like waiting at the TKTS booth in TS then take the A or F train to Jay Street/Borough Hall (the last car leads you to the stairway that TKTS is located).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Catches thieves just like flies! Look Out! Here comes the Spiderman...Maybe?

Ok, so I guess maybe someone connected with the musical read my blog from a few days ago when I gave my review of "Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark" because here is an update: The show, which was set to open next week, has now been postponed for the SIXTH time! Just when I figured out how to upload pictures from my cell phone to my blog!

Wait a minute! It gets better! Now it's being reported in the press that Julie Taymor, the director, has been, essentially, let go. Although they say she will be be working in another capacity with the show. So what I'm wondering is: will this show ever officially open? The producers are saying that it will open "sometime" in early summer!

Speaking of "producers", a friend of mine (who also saw the show the same night I did) pointed out to me that in the Playbill there are 3 1/2 pages of individuals and/or organizations listed as "Producers." This makes me think: maybe there is some truth to that old saying "too many cooks, spoil the broth!" Maybe the problem why this musical is such a mess doesn't have anything to do with the Director? Perhaps the problem lies with having so many "producers" having their input in the piece!

Who knows who they will find to direct this musical. I know! Why not get Charlie Sheen to direct it? I hear he may be looking for a job! Besides, he couldn't do any worse than the mess they have on their hands already! Seriously! Even if they take out all the dancing "Spider-ladies" (yes, you read that correctly), I doubt that I would ever pay to see it again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool, me twice, shame on me!

Something else occurred to me while I sat in the audience watching the train wreck unfold last Friday that reminded me of musical that I liked. Maybe Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark was "produced" by "Max Bialystock" & "Leo Bloom" - the fictional lead characters of THE PRODUCERS? Maybe Spider-Man (the musical) was their very real, SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER? Except, unlike that musical within THE PRODUCERS that became a hit, this really was a truly horrendous nightmare on stage! Hmmm....

I can't wait to see the Marc Webb film "The Amazing Spider-Man" starring Andrew Garfield as the superhero and my favorite actor with the last name Sheen: Martin. It's set to be released next year. Let's hope by then, the musical will be a footnote in the history of failed $63 million dollar Broadway shows!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark! 2-1/2 Hours of my life I WILL NEVER GET BACK!!!

BE WARNED: No Spoilers (because, for the life of me, I wouldn't know were to begin).

I just got back from the theater after watching the new Broadway musical SPIDER-MAN: TURN OFF THE DARK. Officially it's still in previews and has been set to open on March 15th. What is there not to like when it has so much going for it?:
  • It has music by one of my favorite bands in the world (U2 - Bono and The Edge)!
  • It's directed by one of the most visionary directors on Broadway today - Julie Taymor! (Who directed Broadway's "THE LION KING" and films like "ACROSS THE UNIVERSE", "FRIDA" and "TITUS")
  • It's one of most popular superheroes ever created by Stan Lee!
  • A theatre that has been renovated to accommodate lots of stunts at the expense of $63 million!
What could go wrong? A HELLUVA LOT - THATS WHAT! First I must say I read the early reviews (all bad) and thought to myself "they are a bunch of haters!" Boy, was I ever wrong!

Two weeks ago I went with my friend Douglas (who was on visiting from Africa) to see the musical THE LION KING! Now I sometimes think of myself as a jaded New Yorker and nothing ever "Wows" me these days. But I stand corrected. This was the first time I have seen this show. Yes, I know, it's been running on Broadway for over a decade now - but I never got around to seeing it (plus it is NEVER up at TKTS). I must say, I was blown away! The imagery and staging was so simplistic that I really felt like I was there in the bush in Africa! Now THAT is a show you MUST SEE if you are visiting NYC! (Also Avenue Q - but that's another story)

So I was really looking forward to see the Spider-Man musical! I don't think it's giving anything away by saying Peter Parker aka Spider-Man has the hots for Mary Jane Watson. If you haven't seen the Sam Raimi films (Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, and uh, Spider-Man 3) with Tobey Maguire then you must be living under a rock. One of the plot twist that made the films quite entertaining was the love triangle/friendship between said couple and Harry Osborn (James Franco). I can't tell you what was on stage tonight at the Foxwoods Theatre except to say it was A HOT MESS!

The very things that may have endeared you with the films, is the exact opposite in the musical. I really, really, really wanted to like this show. But it was so confusing! A "Greek chorus" and a mythical creature both telling the story? WTF? The very fact that the time of the piece was jumping all over the place was most annoying. It dawned on me midway through the first act: maybe all the IN-YOUR-FACE theatrics is there to put you off that the plot is totally lame (i.e. nonexistent)! I had the absolute best seats tonight (center orchestra) but that didn't make up for the fact that the show was like a bad accident you just wanted to be over with! There was a little boy (about 10-years old) sitting next to me with his mother. During the middle of the second act I heard him say to his mother, "When is this gonna be over?" That's exactly what I was wondering!

Someone once told me that "The Olive Garden" was Italian food for people who don't know really good Italian food! That is to say, when you live in New York City (or the outer-boroughs) why would you settle for a chain restaurant, when there are tons of really great Italian restaurants around? Thats how I feel about Spider-Man! Once you get over all the bells and whistles, you realize you could've watch the DVDs (Including the abysmal Spider-Man 3) instead!

Now I will say that the art direction was PHENOMENAL! Some of the costumes were very "cutting edge". The choreography was exceptionally good! Matthew James Thomas and Jennifer Damiano, as Peter/Spider-man and Mary Jane Watson, both had great vocals! However, such elements as these do not mean a hill of beans if the story sucks!

Unless they rework this entire show, I doubt that it will ever open. If it does open, in the present incarnation, it won't be open for very long! If you are visiting New York City or if you live here and want to see a really good show: AVOID "SPIDER-MAN:TURN OFF THE DARK" LIKE THE PLAGUE!