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I’m feeling a tiny bit under the weather at the moment so you will have to forgive the brevity of this post. I’ve had several adventures worth relating this week.

On Monday I went to the Purim comedy act at the 92Y Tribeca, which I told you about in a previous post. I particularly liked the sketch modeled on ‘High School Musical.’ At the end the boy goes off with the girl against the wishes of his friends…

Girl: Oh no, you are going to leave those lousy friends of yours and go and do your school work. AND you are going to Medical School!

Boy: I have to go guys, I’ve been searching for a woman to replace my mother for my whole life!

You can watch clips of Shushan Channel’s sketches on their website.

On Wednesday I finally got around to seeing a film that was part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema Series, which I mentioned some time ago. I saw ‘The Joy of Singing’ at the IFC and it was truly French in every sense you can imagine. My friend L was not a big fan but she’s not nearly as much of a francophile as I am. If you missed the series check your Netflix- some of them will probably come out on DVD sometime soon-ish.

I also saw B spin at Hugs that night (I told you about this in advance as well); he was fantastic as always and while we couldn’t get much dancing going I have high hopes for next time since it’ll be warmer and more people will be willing to move from their warm apartments.

Friday night my friend M was having a ‘Blue Velvet‘ party so I wasn’t able to attend any other events. Afterall, I wouldn’t want to miss blue velvet cupcakes and crazy sadistic sex scenes (oh David Lynch!)!

Kyle MacLachlan and Isabella Rossellini in 'Blue Velvet'

Kyle MacLachlan and Isabella Rossellini in 'Blue Velvet'

Saturday afternoon my grandmother and I saw ‘Happiness’- a new musical now playing at Lincoln Center. It was adorable and heartwarming and altogether lovely, certainly not ground-breaking, but lovely.

HAPPINESS unfolds the stories of a dozen or so New Yorkers stuck in the morning rush of a stalled subway car and required by the spectral trainman to recall and re-enact the happiest moment in their lives before they can continue their travels… and travails.

HAPPINESS celebrates those fleeting moments in everyday lives — typically unanticipated, largely overlooked, always ephemeral — that upon reflection become people’s fondest memories

Happiness

Saturday night I saw the Young New Yorkers Chorus perform (mentioned this to you earlier). They were fantastic and I found the melodies, which are apparently based on ‘ancient chants’ to be very similar to some of the chants Jewish prayers are set to. I would be interested to look into the correlation further.

I’m off for the moment but I promise to get back to you with this week’s events shortly.

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I spent both of the last two evenings crying while actors sang love songs on stage. It was marvelous. Luckily on both occasions my companion(s) were tolerant of the waterworks and realized they were actually indicative of what a wonderful time I was having.

Monday night I saw the new revival of West Side Story, which is currently in previews at the Palace Theater. Arthur Laurents, at the age of 91, is doing a revival of his own show that goes in a totally new direction- the Puerto Rican characters speak and sing in Spanish. At first I found the scenes that were almost entirely in Spanish, like an argument between Anita and Bernardo, jarring and confusing. Subtitles were deemed a distraction so if you don’t speak Spanish you can only guess at exactly what’s being said. I didn’t begin to really appreciate how powerful the contrast between the languages could be until Anita and Maria sang A Boy Like That/I Have a Love. When Maria breaks into English the audience feels that she’s embracing Tony and the country he’s part of, but also that she’s painfully breaking from her own. The music is even more powerful, especially through the voices of these two truly phenomenal actresses- JOSEFINA SCAGLIONE and KAREN OLIVO.

Karen Olivo (Anita), George Akram (Bernardo) and company

Karen Olivo (Anita), George Akram (Bernardo) and company

Josefina Scaglione (Maria) and Matt Cavenaugh (Tony)

Josefina Scaglione (Maria) and Matt Cavenaugh (Tony)

The final scene after Tony has been killed, in which Maria threatens to kill herself and members of both gangs, feels raw and terrifying. She switches hysterically from English to Spanish and her pain and confusion is more clearly demonstrated through this mix of languages than it could possibly have been otherwise. I certainly recommend seeing this production, if possible see it before it officially opens.

As interesting and enjoyable as West Side Story was I will admit that it paled somewhat in comparison to South Pacific, which I saw last night at the Lincoln Center Theater. We arrived late (my fault; I mixed up the time) but were immediately swept away by the energy and talent of the performers. The theater is much smaller than the Palace and even from the balcony we had a fantastic view. Andrew Samonsky lives up to his character’s description (“You sexy Lieutenant!”). The relationship between him and Liat (Li Jun Li), though really the secondary romance of the musical, has more of a feeling of authenticity than I expected. These are two actors truly embodying their characters; they are both swept away by a love that seems to exist outside of reality. The feeling of bitterness and desire in the song ‘Happy Talk’ is amazing. I started crying then and kept on crying right through until the end of Act II.

Andrew Samonsky (Lt. Joseph Cable) and Li Jun Li (Liat)

Andrew Samonsky (Lt. Joseph Cable) and Li Jun Li (Liat)

Of course it was Kelli O’Hara (Nellie Forbush) and Paulo Szot (Emile de Becque) who made the show truly phenomenal. Since we missed the opening scene it took me some time to really feel the chemistry between them. My first impression of her was formed during ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,’ which she performed beautifully.

Kelli O'Hara (Nellie Forbush)

Kelli O'Hara (Nellie Forbush)

I can’t count how many times I’ve sung that song in the shower after a breakup; it is ingrained into my subconscious image of relationships. Her southern accent and his French accent were problematic for me at first; they felt inauthentic and distracted from the words being spoken. In song they appealed to me much more. When he sings ‘This Was Nearly Mine’ the irony is present to a degree that recalls Greek tragedy more than musical theater.

Paulo Szot (Emile de Becque) and Andrew Samonsky (Lt. Joseph Cable)

Paulo Szot (Emile de Becque) and Andrew Samonsky (Lt. Joseph Cable)

I was involved enough that I actually forgot there was a happy ending and was so swept away by it I was hysterical all the way through the curtain calls. If you have any positive associations with this musical see it now before this cast begin to leave the production.

Stay tuned for additions to this week’s roster of events and for my weekend post!

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I just got home, having called it a night a bit early given my growing sleep deficit. Friday night was fantastic! K and I  had a reservation at Satsko but when we got there we discovered (through some surreptitious glancing around the streamers/curtains) that it was frighteningly empty. No decent place should be that empty on a Friday night so we wandered down to Spitzers instead. Of course we had to wait for 45 minutes but we munched on truffle mac and cheese and drank Tanqueray and tonic and all was well. K and I both have a real thing for truffles. I kind of want them on everything… they’re actually a good reason to sell your soul to corporate America- more money means more truffles (and shoes). After a vastly satisfying meal we walked down the street to The Slipper Room to enjoy the aforementioned Hot Box Burlesque. We were pleased to partake of acts featuring Bunny Love, Bambi, Peekaboo Pointe, Queen Laquifa and Tigger.  This was an excellent representation of burlesque. I was very pleased because K and I had three burlesque virgins with us. There was comedy, there were absurd costumes, there were dollar bills all over and there was a drag queen. Perhaps the most exciting performer ‘sang’ the national anthem with her thighs. Yes. She put the microphone between her thighs and scrunched them to play the national anthem.

Singing with her thighs

Singing with her thighs

It was  pretty incredible and I will admit to being jealous of this talent. In fact by the end of most burlesque shows I tend to  feel compelled to perform burlesque. It’s not that I would feel uncomfortable with the nudity, what holds me back is really my lack of dancing skills and comic timing. Sigh…

Friday night finished up with my first bar brawl. This must have been in the wee hours of Saturday morning, there had been a good deal of drinking, dancing and burlesque and some short dweeby looking guy pushed K and she pushed back and then he really pushed her hard, almost knocking her off her pretty little heels. Then I was trying to beat him up and his tall, comparatively sober, friend was holding me back and it all could have gotten quite ugly (trust you me I would have won) but luckily the sober friend dragged the dweeb outside and K and I were able to feel triumphant.

This morning I had to be up at an ungodly hour to meet my grandmother for brunch at Petite Abeille. It’s a marvelous little Belgian place near Union Sq. but I’ll admit brioche french toast was not quite what I wanted first thing this morning. My grandmother is a fantastic woman and a true New Yorker. We go to the opera and the ballet together and visit all the museums and do a great deal of shopping and brunching. She spoils me dreadfully. This morning she bought me lots of pretty things. She has stellar taste and I would be at a loss without her. We trooped up to Lincoln Center in time for our matinée at The New York City Ballet. This afternoon they did a program of three short ballets:

Stravinsky Violin Concerto

Stravinsky Violin Concerto/Choreography by Balanchine

Stravinsky Violin Concerto/Choreography by Balanchine

La Valse; my grandmother paticularly enjoyed this one because she’s been watching Philip Neal perform since the start of his career and she still thinks he’s “very handsome.”

La Valse/Ravel and Balanchine

La Valse/Ravel and Balanchine

And finally, West Side Story, which was interesting in this context because only some scenes were performed and the singing wasn’t always coming from the dancer playing the character, and the dancing is a bit different because the dancers are trained in ballet. On the whole it was not my favorite rendition of West Side Story but I did love their version of the dance where Tony and Maria meet. I was just bummed that they didn’t have the ‘I just met a girl named Maria’ song; I used to sing that in the shower all the time when I was about 12.

West Side Story/Bernstein and Robbins

West Side Story/Bernstein and Robbins

According to Playbill the revival of West Side Story will be opening on Broadway quite soon. Apparently the Puerto Rican characters will be speaking/singing in Spanish.

The production “will introduce the unprecedented element of selectively weaving Spanish throughout both the book and songs,” according to a July 16 announcement.

Laurents, who earned solid reviews (and a 2008 Tony nomination) for staging the current Broadway run of Gypsy, stated, “This show will be radically different from any other production of West Side Story ever done. The musical theatre and cultural conventions of 1957 made it next to impossible for the characters to have authenticity. Every member of both gangs was always a potential killer even then. Now they actually will be. Only Tony and Maria try to live in a different world…”

West Side Story has music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Laurents. The staging will retain the original choreography of late director Jerome Robbins, who conceived the project by using Romeo and Juliet as inspiration. As previously announced, the Robbins choreography will be restaged by Tony Award nominee Joey McKneely (The Boy from Oz, The Life).

I’m not sure how I feel about this innovation but I’m curious enough that I will probably try to find cheap tickets, or at the very least monitor the reviews. We really haven’t had much beyond revivals and Disney shows on Bway lately, which seems really unfortunate since I’m sure there are a lot of creative new projects that just aren’t getting funding. If ‘Cars’ becomes a Broadway musical I may have to set up a picket line.

Tonight I went with a few friends to see all the Oscar nominated short films at the IFC Center. First were the live action shorts:

  • Auf Der Strecke (On The Line): A bit disturbing, rather unsatisfactory ending, very little smiling.
  • Manon on the Asphalt: I am too much of a francophile to not have LOVED this. It’s tragic but so sensuous; I love the close-ups of her hair, the leaves above her, the dreamy way her thoughts travel amongst the people who are important to her. It’s a splendid death scene.
  • New Boy: There are Irish accents and a very charming teacher and a whole group of bright eyed children who learn to be friends with the new boy; I hope this one wins simply because it’s optimistic.
  • The Pig: This is sort of a comedy about two men who are in the hospital and a painting of a pig.
  • Spielzeugland (Toyland): I cried hysterically through most of this. It’s about the Holocaust. There are too many movies out right now about the Holocaust.

After a brief interlude, and the purchasing of popcorn, we sat through the animated shorts:

  • La Maison en Petits Cubes: We travel through the past by going further down in a house that has been built up over time as water levels have risen (environmental msg? not sure).
  • Lavatory/Love story: Too cute. Way too cute.
  • Oktopodi: Two octopuses are in love and rescue one another from various dangerous situations.
  • Presto: If you’ve seen WallE you’ve seen this one- magician vs. his rabbit.
  • This Way Up: Hard to describe, involves undertakers, clowns in hell and some other trippy trippy stuff.

There were definitely others that we saw today that weren’t actually nominated but I’ll admit that they’ve all blended a bit in my mind at this point. I have been told that all of the nominated shorts can be seen through iTunes and I highly recommend that you check them out at some point before the Oscars; it’s very fun to know what’s happening in those categories.

Tomorrow I am going to try to make myself get some work done but I will post about any particularly exciting events happening this week!

Past Shenanigans

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