Tuesday, October 29, 2019

BOOKS: Don't Bother Trying To "Find Me"

Book lovers (and movie lovers), André Aciman wrote a sequel to his acclaimed bestseller Call Me By Your Name. Here's a tease for my review running exclusively at BookandFilmGlobe.com!



A sequel to the literary sensation Call Me By Your Name? That sounds like a bad idea, I thought. I was wrong. It turns out to be a positively dreadful idea. André Aciman’s new novel Find Me manages to be terrible in its own right and make you question your appreciation of the earlier book.
I saw the film version of Call Me By Your Name, starring Timothée Chalamet as the precocious and fawn-like 17-year-old Elio and Armie Hammer as Oliver, a supremely handsome 24-year-old grad student. Oliver takes Elio to his bed but is too afraid to take Elio to his heart. Also, Elio has sex with a peach.  It’s a bittersweet tale and while I didn’t like it nearly as much as others, I enjoyed it well enough.
Then I read the novel...

Monday, October 28, 2019

THEATER: "The Sound Inside" Gets Muffled By Finale

THE SOUND INSIDE *** out of ****
STUDIO 54 

Pulitzer finalist Adam Rapp molds his new play out of very familiar clay.

Bella is a lonely academic and writer at Yale just told she has terminal cancer. One novel, many years ago, received acclaim (though not from the New York Times) and Bella has trudged along ever since. Single, quietly sad, artistically dead and now a future of chemotherapy followed by death? What's the point?

Christopher is a lonely student. Wildly opinionated like only college students can be, Christopher has no friends, despises the internet, loves Bella's lone novel, hates to be touched and is working on a book of his own in a frenzy of youthful passion.

You can fill in the rest. However, even the most familiar of stories becomes fresh when told with flair. As it unfolds, those well-worn cliches come to life again and you think, yes, ok, I'm going with it. Then, heartbreakingly, it stumbles in the home stretch, enough to make you rethink some of your earlier appreciation. The fault lies with Rapp. This is an impeccable, beautifully acted production of a flawed work.

A two-hander, it begins on a mostly bare stage with Bella wandering outdoors, pen and paper in hand, working out some ideas for a story. Showing artists at work is always hard. At least painters can slap on some paint or musicians can bring a new song to life. Writers can only scribble away. But Rapp manages the feat nicely, with Bella pausing to reword some idea, add a flourish or scratch one out as the moment demands.

It helps that Bella is played by Mary-Louise Parker, easily one of the best actors working today and a very good writer herself. (Her literary memoir Dear Mr. You is a delight and I trust she's working on a new novel or stories or something else of her own.) Parker exudes intelligence and her Bella is wry, self-aware and utterly convincing on every level.

As Bella shares her story, sets materialize out of the darkness, such as a professor's crammed office, a living room, a park and so on. Every technical element shines here: the scenic design of Alexander Woodward, the lighting of Heather Gilbert, the spot-on costumes of David Hyman and the deft music and sound of Daniel Kluger (hot off his marvelous new arrangements and orchestrations for Oklahoma!).

Overseen by the invisible hand of director David Cromer, the effect is positively magical, with sets floating into vision just when needed and quietly slipping away when their work is done. Without any flash, it feels just like memory or a writer's imagination at work. Everyone is in top form.

So The Sound Inside begins as a person-facing-cancer story until the insecure Christopher shoves his way in. He detours the story into several tantalizing possibilities: a romance beginning just as life is ending, a teacher/student tutorial on life and the craft of writing as Bella's final act, the tortured writer run out of things to say faced with a dazzling protégé handing over the sole copy of his first (brilliant) novel?

Actor Will Hochman plays Christopher, a role Jesse Eisenberg would have gobbled up fifteen years ago. You might say he goes toe to toe with Parker and holds his own, but that misses the teamwork on display. They are wonderfully in sync throughout. Hochman matches Parker but this isn't remotely a contest; their camaraderie at the curtain call says all you need to know. It's an impressive Broadway debut. And for, oh, 80% of the night, it's a very impressive play.


SPOILER ALERTS

It's impossible to discuss the flaws of the play without ruining the plot and the finale. If you have a chance to see the show in New York City, by all means take the time. You'll see Parker in top form and a strong new talent in Hochman. Afterwards you can debate with your friends (or me) about the last "act" of this brisk, entertaining 90 minute evening of drama.

Ok, here we go. Seriously, I'm going to describe every twist of the play right to the end. At one point as Bella and Christopher become friends, colleagues in writing (of a sort) and perhaps more, she invites him out to dinner and then back to her place for a drink and more discussion. Christopher mentions a girl in high school (it didn't work out) and a young woman in college who dumps him for a member of the glee club. "You've been Whiffenpoofed," Bella deadpans. Christopher teeters on the edge of self-absorbed and annoying, but Hochman reins this in with a performance that allows us to empathize with the human emotions roiling underneath Christopher's would-be misanthropy.

He's not an incel (that is, a guy who is misogynistic and self-loathing to a dangerous degree) and heck, he might even be a little asexual. Christopher blurts out at one point that he's about as sexual as your average parking meter. But then he cautiously reaches out and brushes Bella's cheek. She quietly leaves the room, brings back a pillow and sheets so he can crash on her couch and then goes to bed. It's not a rejection so much as an end to the evening. Yet, it's a while before they reconnect.

When Christopher finally comes back to have another dinner with Bella, he brings the only copy of his novella, typed on a manual typewriter and thus the sole copy in the world, as he makes clear. He's eager for Bella's opinion. Instead, she tells Christopher about the terminal cancer, her refusal to punish herself with pointless chemotherapy and asks him to help her commit suicide. She's bought everything needed from the internet but needs Christopher to be her "injection buddy," the essential partner to make it all go smoothly. Oh, and she wants to do it that very night.

Christopher agrees, but insists she read his work first and give a complete and frank assessment. She does and it's a masterpiece. In plays like this, college students always produce masterpieces. Then Bella is injected with the first needle putting her to sleep...and wakes up fifteen or so hours later. Christopher is gone and later discovered dead, facedown in the snow. Bellas' cancer miraculously goes into remission and she's left with his novella, a work she quietly noted earlier has no copyright, no indication that anyone else on the planet even knows it exists. (He had no friends whatsoever and even stopped going to his classes.)

Bella is wandering through the park and keeps thinking of Christopher's body, still working out in her mind how to describe the scene. "Did this park imagine his body?" she asks herself/the audience. "Would that be a better image?"

And so it ends. Why in heaven's name have I detailed every single plot point right up to the finale? Every possible complaint about The Sound Inside involves the final scenes, the moments that make you say, "Wait, what?"

Early on, Christopher insists the only way to become famous today is to commit suicide or be on Twitter. He then dives into a list of famous literary suicides. Never mind the endless list one can make of great writers who didn't commit suicide, it's just the sort of thing excitable college students like to proclaim as fact. But does that mean after creating his undeniable masterpiece Christopher chooses to seal his fame by offing himself? If so, Hochman's nicely modulated performance doesn't work. We don't think for a second that this character he plays is about to kill himself.

Maybe Christopher is lovelorn? Not really. Like Chekhov's gun, the moment where Christopher brushes Bella's cheek is the gun that never goes off. They're both lonely and a romance or at least a physical relationship is clearly a possibility. But Rapp doesn't have Bella reject Christopher in any definitive way. It's just an unexplored, unsatisfying option. And why did Bella invite Christopher to sleep on her couch? Couldn't he have just walked back to his place or Uber'd if it was farther? It's just another confusing signal for him and us.

If he's not aiming for fame or distraught over not becoming her lover, was his death just an accident? That would be deflating and uninteresting. On the night when Bella asks Christopher for help in killing herself ("Will I get extra credit?" I wanted him to ask), surely he could have said, "First, read my novella and then sleep with me. I can kill you tomorrow." And whatever happens as a result of that would surely be more consequential and rooted in who they are then the unresolved suggestions we're given.

The show annoyingly and rather obliquely suggests Bella might publish Christopher's work as her own. Again, either take that Deathtrap of a plot twist or don't. Being coy helps no one. And does her critique of his work have to be that it's an unalloyed masterpiece? Surely, she'd have something constructively helpful to suggest. Or God forbid, it might merely show "promise." Having Bella not rave about its towering brilliance would be reason enough for a weirdly deluded and vulnerable student to kill himself. So there she would be, finding a reason to live while dealing with her guilt and perhaps turning that into some new productive work of her own. How ironic and how far more satisfying than what we're given.

The worst possibility is that the entire evening is just a story being made up on the spot by Bella as she wanders in the night. That would be fine, though the story she's telling has lots of inconsistencies. (See above.) Plus, it would be better if the show gracefully and openly acknowledged that fact; heck a meta ending might be satisfying as we realize this particular story is an act of imagination. Any sense of being "cheated" would be calmed by Rapp reminding us that every play is precisely that and nothing more.

For the many complaints the ending raises, none can be raised about the two actors. Hochman is very good. And Mary-Louise Parker is a joy. Both break the fourth wall, though Parker has the bulk of the work to do here, narrating her own story while guiding us through the ups and downs of her narrow, unhappy life. Deadpan, deadly serious, and deadly funny, Parker is wholly naturalistic throughout, never calling attention to herself. That's why you can't take your eyes off her.

In one scene, Parker is in a bar alone and chatting up a guy. The way she looks at him faux agreeably and then turns back to us is hilarious and speaks volumes. They go back to his miserable hotel to have sex, which she narrates to marvelous effect, including the fact that the TV is on the entire time and showing a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond in which....  Here Parker squints as she struggles to make out the TV screen and tells us they're in the kitchen as Ray's wife announces she's invited both of her divorced parents for Thanksgiving dinner. That squint, that moment in which Parker is so present in the scene she's creating for us by herself on stage, is so typical of her greatness. (Again, the technical team is right there with her every step of the way.)

Another is the scene where Bella joins her students in an exercise and finds herself writing the same sentence over and over again: Listen to the sound inside. Listen to the sound inside. Parker repeats it over and over, the words fill up the stage in a beautiful projection by Aaron Rhyne and the effect is hypnotic. When it's over, Bella drolly admits, "I have no idea what it means." Well, I have no idea what it means either. And I have no idea what Rapp was thinking at the end. Out of unpromising stuff, he crafted a thoroughbred of a play that breaks your heart by stumbling just before the finish line. But with this cast and creative team, she's a beauty to watch while she runs.


THEATER OF 2019

Frankenstein: Under The Radar Fest at the Public ** 1/2
Minor Character: Under The Radar Festival at the Public ***
Ink: Under The Radar  Festival at the Public  ** 1/2
Choir Boy ** 1/2
White Noise ** 1/2
Kiss Me, Kate ***
Ain't No Mo' *** 1/2
Ain't Too Proud **
The Cradle Will Rock * 1/2
Mrs. Murray's Menagerie *** 1/2
Oklahoma! (on Broadway) ** 1/2
Socrates **
The Pain Of My Belligerence *
Burn This **
Hadestown *** 1/2
All My Sons * 1/2
Tootsie ** 1/2
Ink ***
Beetlejuice **
Estado Vegetal ***
Hans Christian Andersen * 1/2
Cirque du Soleil: Luzia ***
BLKS ** 1/2
Moulin Rouge ** 1/2
Bat Out Of Hell **
Unchilding **
Sea Wall/ A Life ** 1/2
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ***
Betrayal *** 1/2
Fifty Million Frenchmen ** 1/2
Freestyle Love Supreme ** 1/2
Derren Brown: Secret ***
(A)loft Modulation * 1/2
The Great Society **
I Can't See *
Heroes Of The Fourth Turning ** 1/2
Chasing Rainbows: The Road To Oz ***
The Glass Menagerie (dir Austin Pendleton & Peter Bloch) **
Terra Firma (debut of The Coop theater company) **
Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation ***
Dublin Carol ** 1/2
Soft Power **
The Decline and Fall of The Entire World As Seen Through The Eyes Of Cole Porter ***
For Colored Girls ** 1/2
Scotland, PA **
The Sound Inside *** (great cast, clumsy ending)



Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

THEATER: Stuff and Nonsense for Friendly Crowds -- "Iolanthe" and "Panama Hattie"

PANAMA HATTIE ** out of ****
YORK THEATRE COMPANY

IOLANTHE ** out of ****
NYGASP AT KAYE PLAYHOUSE AT HUNTER COLLEGE


Sometimes a show isn't very good. Sometimes the performances are mostly...enthusiastic. Yet in the right context and with the right crowd, a fine time can be had.

First up: Panama Hattie, a (much) lesser Cole Porter vehicle for Ethel Merman from 1940. It's the final production of the York Theatre's season devoted to "mufti" performances of three Porter shows. That is, staged readings presented casually in street clothes so you can get a sense of what rarely seen shows are actually like.

It's been a good season. The musical Fifty Million Frenchmen has a superior score and clutch of songs they did right by. With a tightened (or new) book, you could put it on commercially. The revue Decline and Fall... is a signal work from the 1960s well worth revisiting. It could and perhaps should have extended -- no changes needed.

And now this military-loving, flag-waving bit of nonsense. It's not good and thus it's precisely the sort of show that should be presented in this way. The movie bears little resemblance to the play and ditched most of the songs. The original score has never been recorded. The stage version will never be revived commercially, so you won't see it any other way

So the York deserves plaudits for putting on this evening, giving people a chance to see the entire book (filled with romance, terrorism, American sailors, British butlers and so on), hear the modest score and get a sense of how rote Broadway could be two years before Oklahoma! upended everything but good.

With about five minutes of rehearsal time and script firmly in hand, the game cast offered it up. Under those circumstances, it's only kind to single out the pluses. As a kid who intimidates the Ethel Merman character, Kylie Kuioka was a teensy bit cute. But what a pro! She knew her every line and probably knew everyone else's as well. Kuikoa might have left her script backstage for all she needed it. In ten years, she'll be directing. As the butler-besotted Florrie, Anita Welch had personality to spare and a strong voice.



Stephen Bogardus and Klea Blackhurst; photo by Russ Rowland ©2019 

But it's an Ethel Merman vehicle and all that mattered was the lead. Klea Blackhurst (who knows from Merman) was more than up to the task. Without her on stage, staging Panama Hattie would felt more like exhuming it. But Blackhurst lifted the evening up. She belted out songs, she charmed everyone and when something went awry (like losing her place in a song or losing her bracelet when it flew into the audience), Blackhurst made the most of it. (My favorite line: when speaking about a villainous woman trying to scuttle her romance, Hattie says, "I'd like to see her surrounded by six silver handles.") Just like Merman all those years ago, Blackhurst took some hoary material and convinced us it was a treat to perform. The audience ate it up.

Then there's NYGASP, more properly known as the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players. For 45 years, they've kept the flame alive for the comic operettas of G&S. Sure, you and I might be able to name the Big Three (The Pirates Of Penzance, H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado), but NYGASP and their enthusiastic audience can name them all, plus their plots and the best numbers. Just try them.

I always pictured this troupe as a cross between amateur theatricals and a Met opera production of a war horse -- one of those very traditional and very familiar stagings the Met trots out with newer talent to get some ka-ching at the box office. And what do you know? That's precisely how it seemed to me. The staging is so faithful and traditional you'll think you've slipped back in time.

The large ensemble is filled with very enthusiastic performers and a few ringers in the lead roles. The set is spot-on and could have been lifted from Topsy-Turvy. The one shining exception is the large and very impressive orchestra, which is conducted by Albert Bergeret, the company's founder, artistic director and general manager. The musicianship would do Broadway proud. That aside, if you were stationed in India when the British Empire was in full force and the locals staged G&S, the vibe of this Iolanthe is exactly what you'd expect to see.

You get the strong feeling the audience is revisiting old friends, by which I mean G&S, Iolanthe and the actors on stage, all of whom are undoubtedly familiar to them over the years. That camaraderie and sense of people picking out their favorites extends to the main role of the Lord Chancellor, played by crowd favorite James Mills. He's played every role possible and when not on stage he's stage managing, handling tech and so on. Mills delivered up "Love, unrequited, robs me of my rest" with aplomb...all four times. Just to prove my ignorance, I only knew the song from Mandy Patinkin's solo debut, with not a clue where it came from.

Lifting up proceedings appreciably was Angela Christine Smith as the Fairy Queen and David Macaluso as the romantic lead Strephon. They excelled in both singing and acting, a rarity. But no cavils. Is it any surprise the Executive Director David Wannen both intro'd the show and popped into a small role as the strapping Private Willis? Not at all! (Even less so when you note he has some of the best credits beyond G&S.) Are veterans of NYGASP certain to shed a tear over Laurelyn Watson Chase, giving her final performance as the company's leading soprano? Of course they will.

Mounted for two nights only, Iolanthe and everything presented by NYGASP is a pure labor of love. That's true of anyone working in theater, but doubly so for G&S-ers. While London can boast of multiple companies devoted to their repertoire and at least the possibility of the occasional commercial production, here NYGASP is the only game in town. If, like me, you yearn to actually see these shows rather than just read about them, you'll come with a generous spirit. It's all stuff and nonsense.  And sometimes that's exactly what you need.




THEATER OF 2019

Frankenstein: Under The Radar Fest at the Public ** 1/2
Minor Character: Under The Radar Festival at the Public ***
Ink: Under The Radar  Festival at the Public  ** 1/2
Choir Boy ** 1/2
White Noise ** 1/2
Kiss Me, Kate ***
Ain't No Mo' *** 1/2
Ain't Too Proud **
The Cradle Will Rock * 1/2
Mrs. Murray's Menagerie *** 1/2
Oklahoma! (on Broadway) ** 1/2
Socrates **
The Pain Of My Belligerence *
Burn This **
Hadestown *** 1/2
All My Sons * 1/2
Tootsie ** 1/2
Ink ***
Beetlejuice **
Estado Vegetal ***
Hans Christian Andersen * 1/2
Cirque du Soleil: Luzia ***
BLKS ** 1/2
Moulin Rouge ** 1/2
Bat Out Of Hell **
Unchilding **
Sea Wall/ A Life ** 1/2
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ***
Betrayal *** 1/2
Fifty Million Frenchmen ** 1/2
Freestyle Love Supreme ** 1/2
Derren Brown: Secret ***
(A)loft Modulation * 1/2
The Great Society **
I Can't See *
Heroes Of The Fourth Turning ** 1/2
Chasing Rainbows: The Road To Oz ***
The Glass Menagerie (dir Austin Pendleton & Peter Bloch) **
Terra Firma (debut of The Coop theater company) **
Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation ***
Dublin Carol ** 1/2
Soft Power **
The Decline and Fall of The Entire World As Seen Through The Eyes Of Cole Porter ***
For Colored Girls ** 1/2
Scotland, PA **
Panama Hattie **
Iolanthe **


Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

THEATER: "Scotland, PA" or, The Bloody King Of Burgers

SCOTLAND, PA ** out of ****
ROUNDABOUT AT LAURA PELS THEATRE

Really, there are no bad ideas. It wasn't a bad idea to make a movie called Scotland, PA, which set Shakespeare's Macbeth at a burger joint in the 1970s. I mean, why not? The movie was a poorly reviewed flop, but with Maura Tierney and Christopher Walken in the cast (not to mention Andy Dick as one of the witches), it inevitably became a "cult" classic. Now, turning a poorly reviewed, flop movie into a musical, well that's certainly not a BAD idea either. Just...unexpected.

The result is Scotland, PA (and not, sadly, Scotland, PA! The Musical!). It's 1975 in Scotland, Pennsylvania where Mac (Ryan McCartan) and his wife Pat (Taylor Iman Jones) are trapped in dead-end jobs at greasy burger joint. Mac's got a ton of ideas to spruce the place up. Plastic tables that are easier to clean! Chicken nuggets! A really colorful sign with a giant "M." And a drive-through window. The guy's a genius. But his boss ignores him and won't even give the kid a try. When Mac proves the current manager is ripping the place off, the boss is mildly grateful...but insists his rebellious son Malcolm (Will Meyers) gets the job.

Modestly goaded on by Pat (mostly, she grumbles that it isn't fair), they plan to rob the place, accidentally kill the boss, buy the joint outright from Malcolm, turn it into a massive hit suspiciously like a fast food chain that also begins with "M" and plan to go nationwide! You might even say Mac is a burger king. (The book by Michael Mitnick is filled with such obvious bits.) If you know Macbeth, you know Mac's meteoric rise comes with an equally meteoric fall, along with ghosts, a wife haunted by her crimes and lots of blood.

The mostly forgettable songs by Adam Gwon serve their function and director Lonny Price does too, whether it's an efficient if anonymous early number like "Drive Thru," a quick transformation from burger dive into gleaming fast food emporium (Anna Louizos, nicely doing what's expected) or the hard-to-stage bloody finale. Apparently, their super-expensive (and pointy!) giant yellow M sits on the ground. Two numbers stand out. "Clairvoyant" is distractingly built up into the show's big number when it might have worked better in a more intimate setting. "Why I Love Football" actually moves the story forward with humor and a little heart, though even that has a filler line like "Russell does pushups."




[Here's a music video for one of the show's big numbers. It features the two stars but does not reflect the staging of the song in the actual musical.]



Worse, the book bends over backwards to make its characters more appealing. Pat, the Lady Macbeth character, hardly goads Mac on at all. Maybe she kvetches a little. And Mac seems about as ruthless as a disgruntled employee who might steal rolls of toilet paper just to stick it to the man.

Kinder characters neuter the relentless ambition which powers the original play. Mac and Pat's first murder isn't a ruthless gambit to seize power. It's an accident! Worse, the musical removes a powerful plot twist from the film. In the movie, the manager actually installs a drive-in window to great success, but still ignores Mac. In the play, he just ignores Mac's ideas, which makes the decision to burglarize the store more random than desperate. In the movie, that's their money from their idea! Hey, if you want to tell a story about pretty decent people who get in over their heads, just don't make Macbeth!

The trappings are still there, including three witches (here seen as three hippies), a ghostly vision during a live TV interview and that bodies-piling-up finale. But the final result is barely Macbeth-adjacent rather than the bloody Macbeth Shakespeare wrote. And that's a hamburger without meat.

Still the plot picks up in the second act and the two leads are appealing. Most everyone has a decent voice, though not always when singing those big notes for that AOR feel. Ironically, Will Meyers as Malcolm has one of the weaker voices, but still pulls off the show's best song with sex appeal and a warm presence.

Megan Lawrence killed in Broadway's The Pajama Game. Here Lawrence does what she can to gin up a role as a suspicious detective looking into this mess. And two veterans of Broadway's recent On The Town revival are together again. Alysha Umphress (who was the cabbie Hildy) has little to sink her teeth into as a hippie/witch. But Jay Armstrong Johnson as the dim but likable Banko steals what little show there is with his comic timing. He makes you think Banko's big number "Kick-Ass Party" is better than it actually is here. On the downside, he's so likable, the show's desire to keep the audience on Mac's side falls flat after he offs the poor dude.

That's a lot of talent and they make this too-harmless show bearable. The actors didn't lack for courage but the creators did. Guys, the next time you want to tackle a power-hungry tale with a villainous protagonist who slaughters everyone in his path until the curse of his greed brings him low, go for it. Screw your courage to the sticking place and you will not fail.

THEATER OF 2019

Frankenstein: Under The Radar Fest at the Public ** 1/2
Minor Character: Under The Radar Festival at the Public ***
Ink: Under The Radar  Festival at the Public  ** 1/2
Choir Boy ** 1/2
White Noise ** 1/2
Kiss Me, Kate ***
Ain't No Mo' *** 1/2
Ain't Too Proud **
The Cradle Will Rock * 1/2
Mrs. Murray's Menagerie *** 1/2
Oklahoma! (on Broadway) ** 1/2
Socrates **
The Pain Of My Belligerence *
Burn This **
Hadestown *** 1/2
All My Sons * 1/2
Tootsie ** 1/2
Ink ***
Beetlejuice **
Estado Vegetal ***
Hans Christian Andersen * 1/2
Cirque du Soleil: Luzia ***
BLKS ** 1/2
Moulin Rouge ** 1/2
Bat Out Of Hell **
Unchilding **
Sea Wall/ A Life ** 1/2
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ***
Betrayal *** 1/2
Fifty Million Frenchmen ** 1/2
Freestyle Love Supreme ** 1/2
Derren Brown: Secret ***
(A)loft Modulation * 1/2
The Great Society **
I Can't See *
Heroes Of The Fourth Turning ** 1/2
Chasing Rainbows: The Road To Oz ***
The Glass Menagerie (dir Austin Pendleton & Peter Bloch) **
Terra Firma (debut of The Coop theater company) **
Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation ***
Dublin Carol ** 1/2
Soft Power **
The Decline and Fall of The Entire World As Seen Through The Eyes Of Cole Porter ***
For Colored Girls ** 1/2
Scotland, PA **



Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

THEATER: "For Colored Girls" Returns. Finally!

FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE/ WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF ** 1/2 out of ****

Well, that's a relief! After decades of hearing about but never getting a chance to actually see the play For Colored Girls: Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow is Enuf, I assumed it must be a dusty relic. It's not.

Playwright Ntozake Shange's work (last seen in a major NYC revival in 1995, apparently) is certainly of its time, the mid-1970s. But it's hardly dated. Shows devoted to women of color are still needed. Stories of abuse and mistreatment and plain old indifference are still necessary. And the simple brave acts of sharing those hungers and desires, of admitting you fall and get back up, of finding strength in community and sisterhood are still powerful.

Shange calls her combination of movement, dance, music and poems/monologues a choreopoem. When first performing these pieces, Shange simply couldn't stand still the way poets and authors were politely expected to do. She just couldn't. She had to speak up, to speak out, to get in motion. Sitting still was not an option. It still isn't.

Today, For Colored Girls doesn't shock with its structure and style, though it would still be a refreshing presence on Broadway. Decades of poetry slams and spoken word, revues, works of theater built around dance and text quilted into a whole, and a growing if still-too-small body of work by women and people of color all make For Colored Girls more familiar to audiences today. You can see where it came from and what it led to and, happily, you can judge it on its own terms as art, not just for its importance. On those terms, it's still vital if imperfect.


For me, it plays like a revue. Seven women take the stage, each one in a brightly colored dress and identified in the program as the Lady in Blue, the Lady in Brown, the Lady In Orange and Red and so on. Disarmingly, they begin by echoing the chants and poems recited and remembered by little girls in playgrounds and streets for generations. Pretending to jump rope or skip or performing elaborate hand movements (or at least elaborate enough to bewilder any boys like me watching from afar), the actresses cavort about the stage. Then the action slides into more adult concerns with Shange effectively delivering her first and most important message: women find strength and courage with each other from their earliest age and must never give that up.

And they're off, with a monologue or poem gliding into a dance or song and then back into another spoken word piece. The topics range from losing your virginity on the night of your high school graduation (finally!) to being harassed on the street to mocking men's endless need to apologize to a childhood fascination with the hero Toussaint Louverture to worrying you've made too much space for someone in your life and crowded yourself out.

As with any revue, some pieces and performers land better than others. For me, the moments that focused on the men and what they did or didn't do were far less interesting than the ones that focused inwardly on the women themselves. Turning the Lady in Purple into a person with a hearing loss (played with expressive beauty by Alexandria Wailes) worked a treat. As the Lady in Blue, Sasha Allen of The Voice let loose on the biggest vocal numbers. And in the Tony-winning role of the Lady in Red, Jayme Lawson was a magnetic presence. However, her big monologue about an abusive man has been dimmed by decades of seeing that story played out on cheap TV shows and the like. Plus, real drama comes from how the Lady in Red would deal with that pain, not the mere plot twist of what the man does. Still, her transition from a woman to a little girl begging daddy to be nice is beautifully done and Lawson is definitely one to watch.

As the Lady in Brown, Celia Chevalier was the least compelling, but the collective group is strong enough to lift everyone's game up. Still, this particular production has flaws. The staging by director Leah C. Gardiner was a sort of in-the-round compromise. Most of the audience is in traditional stadium seating facing the performance space. But there is also a semi-circle of audience members on stage; it's like watching people who are watching a show being performed in the round. And the performances certainly play to everyone. You feel the show yearns to be done this way completely -- it's a communal experience, after all -- but simply didn't have that as an option.

I also would love to see the musicians visible on stage, rather than tucked away. (Not to get all John Doyle on you, but even the cast might play instruments/percussion as well.) The scenic design of Myung Hee Cho certainly did it no favors. A blurry, mirror-like reflective material encircles the stage and is effective. But clear plastic crystals hanging from the ceiling give the room a chintzy '70s vibe. And revealing about a half dozen disco balls at the finale felt desultory. (They lowered about a foot from the ceiling in underwhelming fashion.) Further, I am allergic to finger snapping as a sign of approval or applause. Even done ironically, it makes me want to flee for the exit. That's one dated element that could be easily lost -- and replaced by the more physical and inspiring raising of hands a-flutter, as one does in appreciation of deaf performers, which appropriately makes an appearance here.

None of that detracted from the exuberance of a cast performing the show the night I caught it, on the anniversary of Shange's birth October 18, 1948. We missed her being in attendance by just one year, since she died on October 27, 2018. Which leads me back to the original mystery. To be blunt, For Colored Girls is a very inexpensive work to put on. It made history by running on Broadway for 742 performances, far longer than A Raisin In The Sun, to make one obvious comparison.  So what took them so long to bring it back? Despite my cavils about this particular production, I'm delighted to say, it's not because of the play itself. For Colored Girls still has something to say and it always will.


THEATER OF 2019

Frankenstein: Under The Radar Fest at the Public ** 1/2
Minor Character: Under The Radar Festival at the Public ***
Ink: Under The Radar  Festival at the Public  ** 1/2
Choir Boy ** 1/2
White Noise ** 1/2
Kiss Me, Kate ***
Ain't No Mo' *** 1/2
Ain't Too Proud **
The Cradle Will Rock * 1/2
Mrs. Murray's Menagerie *** 1/2
Oklahoma! (on Broadway) ** 1/2
Socrates **
The Pain Of My Belligerence *
Burn This **
Hadestown *** 1/2
All My Sons * 1/2
Tootsie ** 1/2
Ink ***
Beetlejuice **
Estado Vegetal ***
Hans Christian Andersen * 1/2
Cirque du Soleil: Luzia ***
BLKS ** 1/2
Moulin Rouge ** 1/2
Bat Out Of Hell **
Unchilding **
Sea Wall/ A Life ** 1/2
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child ***
Betrayal *** 1/2
Fifty Million Frenchmen ** 1/2
Freestyle Love Supreme ** 1/2
Derren Brown: Secret ***
(A)loft Modulation * 1/2
The Great Society **
I Can't See *
Heroes Of The Fourth Turning ** 1/2
Chasing Rainbows: The Road To Oz ***
The Glass Menagerie (dir Austin Pendleton & Peter Bloch) **
Terra Firma (debut of The Coop theater company) **
Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation ***
Dublin Carol ** 1/2
Soft Power **
The Decline and Fall of The Entire World As Seen Through The Eyes Of Cole Porter ***
For Colored Girls ** 1/2
Scotland, PA



Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Movies, Books, Theater, Concerts, CDs I've Seen/Read/Heard So Far In 2019

Updated October 30, 2019

KEY: star rating is on the four star scale
          meaning of "/" or "\"
          *** is three stars out of four
          ***/ is three stars leaning towards  3 1/2
          ***\ is three stars leaning towards 2 1/2


BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS
(Increasingly, I am sampling books, reading 10%, 20% even 40 or 50% before deciding to move on. The books below are only the ones I've read completely. That also explains what looks like generous grading -- more and more, if I sense a book is not going to be among my favorites, I stop reading. Too many books; too little time!)


1. Love To Everyone by Hilary McKay (ya WW II) *** 1/2
2. The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926) *** 1/2
3. The Winter Of The Witch by Katherine Arden *** 1/2
4. The Music Of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg **
5. DogMan: Brawl of the Wild by Dav Pilkey ** 1/2
6. Cane by Jean Toomer (1923) ** 1/2
7. Underground: A Human History Of The World Beneath Our Feet by Will Hunt *** /
8. Unknown Man #89 by Elmore Leonard (1977) *** 1/2
9. The Falconer by Dana Czapnik (NYC coming of age basketballer) *** 1/2
10. Midnight In Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham *** 1/2
11. The Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard (2005) ****
12. Pogo: Bona Fide Balderdash -- The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Vol 2 1951-1952 by Walt Kelly ****
13. Pogo: Evidence To The Contrary -- The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips Vol 3 1953-1954 by Walt Kelly ****
14. The Complete Terry and the Pirates (1937-1938) by Milt Caniff *** 1/2
15. The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown (1941) *** 1/2
16. The Last Samurai by  Helen De Witt (2000) ****
17. There Is No Planet B: A Handbook For The Make Or Break Years by Mike Berners-Lee **
18. Cherokee America by Margaret Verble *** 1/2
19. A Taste For Honey by H.F. Heard (1941) ** 1/2
20. Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions And What They Tell Us About Ourselves by Frans De Waal ***
21. The New Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan **
22. The Players Ball by David Kushner ***
23. What Blest Genius: The Jubilee That Made Shakespeare by Andrew McConnell Stott ***
24. The Binding By Bridget Collins ** 1/2
25. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (1865) *** 1/2
26. Falter by Bill McKibben ** 1/2
27. Our Castle by The Sea by Lucy Strange **
28. Endling #2: The First by Katherine Applegate ***
29. Charles Dickens -- A Tale Of Two Cities (1859) ***
30. Call Mr. Fortune by H.C. Bailey (1920) ***
31. Aloha Rodeo by David Wolman and Julian Smith ** 1/2
32. Ghosts Of Gold Mountain by Gordon H. Chang ***
33. Just Kids by Patti Smith (2010) ***
34. The Porpoise by Mark Haddon ** 1/2
35. The Book Case by Dave Shelton ** 1/2
36. Maddy Alone by Pamela Brown (Blue Door #2) (1945) ** 1/2
37. Golden Pavements by Pamela Brown (Blue Door #3) (1947) ***/
38. The Complete Terry and the Pirates Vol. 3: 1939-1940 by Milton Caniff *** 1/2
39. Blue Door Venture by Pamela Brown (Blue Door #4) ***/
40. Walt and Skeezix Vol. 1: 1921-1922 by Franbk O.  King ***
41. The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller ***
42. The Vagabonds by Jeff Guinn ** 1/2
43. Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey **
44. The Philosopher's War by Tom Miller *** 1/2
45. Gasoline Alley: The Complete Sundays 1920-1922 Volume One by Frank King **
46. The Complete Terry and the Pirates Vol. 4: 1941-1942 by Milton Caniff *** 1/2
47. Travel Light, Move Fast by Alexandra Fuller ***
48. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett ***
49. Pogo: Under The Bamboozle Bush -- The Complete Syndicated Strips Volume 4 1955-1956 by Walt Kelly ***
50. Gasoline Alley aka Walt and Skeezix Complete Daily Strips 1923-1924 by Frank King ***
51. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead ***
52. Maddy Again by Pamela Brown ***
53. The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal **
54. The Outlaw Ocean by Ian Urbina ** 1/2
55. This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews (graphic novel) ** 1/2
56. The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958) ****
57. A Purple Place For Dying by John D. MacDonald (Travis McGee #3) ** 1/2
58. The Years Of Lyndon Johnson: Means Of Ascent by Robert A. Caro ****
59. A Hero Born by Jin Yong (Legends Of The Condor Heroes Vol. 1) trans Anna Holmwood *** 1/2
60. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative by Mark Fisher ****
61. The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master Of The Senate by Robert A. Caro ****
62. That Will Never Work: The Birth Of Netflix by Marc Randolph **
63. Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime by Sean Carroll ***/
64. The Years Of Lyndon Johnson Vol. Four: The Passage Of Power by Robert A. Caro ****
65. Song Of Solomon by Toni Morrison *** 1/2
66. The Pioneers by David McCullough **
67. The Second Founding by Eric Foner ***
68. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison ***
69. The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols by Nicholas Meyer (Sherlock Holmes) **
70. Last Witnesses by Svetlana Alexievich (kids during WW II oral history) ***
71. Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald ****
72. Find Me by André Aciman *
73. The Finance Curse by Nicholas Shaxson *** 1/2
74. The Secret Commonwealth: The Book Of Dust Volume Two by Philip Pullman ** 1/2
75.



CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS CDS (A strong emphasis on the ones I like, so don't think I love everything I listen to -- I just don't bother really listening to the ones I don't )

1. The Beach Boys -- Smiley Smile (1967) *** (esp side two)
2. The Beach Boys -- Wild Honey (1967) **
3. The Beach Boys -- Friends (1968) ***/
4. The Band -- Stage Fright (1970) ** 1/2
5. The English Beat -- Public Confidential ***
6. The Band -- Cahoots (1971) *** 1/2
7. The Band -- Northern Lights Southern Cross (1975) ***
8. Van Morrison -- The Prophet Speaks *** \
9. Dee White -- Southern Gentleman **
10. Ken Nordine -- Speak With Your Ears (1979) *** 1/2
11. David Gray -- Gold In A Brass Age ** 1/2
12. Van Morrison -- The Healing Game (1997) ***/
13. Various Artists -- Joni 75: A Celebration ** 1/2 /
14. Maren Morris -- Girls ***
15. Elton John -- Captain Fantastic and the Dirt Brown Cowboy (1975) **
16. Joe Jackson -- Fool *** /
17. Trevor Horn -- Reimagines The 80s **
18. India Arie -- Worthy ** 1/2
19. The Everly Brothers -- Roots (1968) ***
20. John Pizzarelli -- For Centennial Reasons: A Salute To Nat King Cole ** 1/2
21. Julio Gutierrez -- Cuban Jam Session Vol 1 (1956) ***
22. Lone Justice -- This Is Lone Justice: The Vaughn Tapes 1983 ***
23. Nancy Wilson -- Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley (1962) *** 1/2 /
24. Nancy Wilson -- Something Wonderful (1962) *** 1/2
25. Nancy Wilson -- Tender Loving Care (1966) ***\
26. Ella Fitzgerald -- The Complete Decca Singles Vol. 1 *** \
27. Nancy Wilson -- The Swingin's Mutual w George Shearing (1961) ***
28. Antonio Carlos and Jocafi -- 20 Super Succesos ** 1/2
29. Idles -- Joy As An Act Of Resistance (2018) **
30. Mercury Rev -- Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete Revisited ** 1/2
31. Bobby Long -- Sultans **
32. Ramsey Lewis Trio -- Sound Of Christmas (side one solid, side two w strings awful) 1961 **
33. Hozier -- Wasteland, Baby! **
34. Better Oblivion Community Center -- Better Oblivion Community Center (Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers) ***\
35. Chet Baker and Art Pepper -- Playboys aka Pictures of Heath (1956) ***
36. Gilbert O'Sullivan -- Himself (1971) ** 1/2
37. Gilbert O'Sullivan -- Back To Front (1972) ** 1/2
38. Solange -- When I Get Home *** 1/2
39. Ben Platt -- Sing To Me Instead * 1/2
40. Bryan Adams -- Shine A Light **
41. BTS -- Map Of The Soul: Persona **
42. The Blue Nile -- A Walk Across The Rooftops (1984) ****
43. The Blue Nile -- Hats (1989) ****
44. Norah Jones -- Begin Again **
45. Johnny Cash -- The Christmas Spirit (1963) *
46. Les Paul and Mary Ford -- Bye Bye Blues (1952) ***
47. Melissa Etheridge -- The Medicine Show **
48. Ella Fitzgerald -- Ella and Basie! (1963) *** 1/2
49. Ella Fitzgerald -- Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! (1961) *** 1/2
50. Ella Fitzgerald -- Lullabies Of Birdland (1954) ** 1/2
51. Ella Fitzgerald -- Ella Swings Brightly With Nelson (1962) **
52. Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong -- The Decca Duets (playlist of eight songs) ****
53. Paul McCartney -- Wildlife (1971) *
54. Paul McCartney -- Red Rose Speedway (1973) **
55. Patty Griffin -- Patty Griffin **
56. The Tallest Man On Earth -- I Love You. It's A Fever Dream ***/
57. Alan Parsons -- The Secret **
58. Gary Clark Jr. -- This Land **
59. Grupo Fantasma -- American Music: Volume 7 ***
60. Billie Eilish -- When We All Fall Asleep ***/
61. Lee Fields -- It Rains Love **
62. Corey Hart -- Dreaming Time Again ep **
63. George Winston -- Restless Wind **
64. The Claypool Lennon Delirium -- South Of Reality **
65. Wynton Marsalis NYT jazz playlist *** 1/2
66. The Coral -- Move Through The Dawn **
67. 5 Minutes That Will Make You Love The Piano NYT playlist ***
68. Aerosmith -- Toys In The Attic (1975)
69. George Strait -- Honky Tonk Time Machine ** 1/2
70. George Benson -- Walking To New Orleans **
71. Ben Webster -- Ben and "Sweets" (w Harry "Sweets" Edison) (1962) *** 1/2
72. Howard Jones -- Transform **
73. Husker Du -- Warehouse: Songs and Stories (1987) *** 1/2
74. Youssou N'dour -- History ** 1/2
75. Weezer -- Teal **
76. William Tyler -- Goes West **
77. The Who -- Who's Next  (1971) *** 1/2
78. Various Artists -- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season One soundtrack ***
79. Vangelis -- Nocturne **
80. Vampire Weekend -- Father Of The Bride ***/
81. Doris Day -- Duet (w Andre Previn Trio) (1962) *** 1/2
82. Doris Day -- The Essential Doris Day (2014) ** 1/2
83. The O'Jays -- Back Stabbers (1972) ***
84. Nick Lowe -- Love Starvation ep ***
85. Professor Longhair -- New Orleans Piano (1972) ***
86. Lee Dorsey -- The New Lee Dorsey (1966) ***
87. Richard Thompson -- The Cold Blue soundtrack ***
88. Eric B and Rakim -- Paid In Full (1987) *** 1/2
89. Neil Diamond -- Hot August Night (1972) ***
90. Mavis Staples -- Live In London ** 1/2
91. Leon Redbone -- On The Track (1975) *** 1/2
92. Leon Redbone -- Double Time (1977) *** 1/2
93. Leon Redbone -- Champagne Charlie (1978) ***
94. Stray Cats -- 40 ***
95. Steve Earle -- GUY (tribute to Guy Clark) ***
96. Rickie Lee Jones -- Kicks **
97. Various Artists -- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season Two soundtrack ***
98. The Mills Brothers -- Merry Christmas (1978) * 1/2
99. The Mills Brothers -- Four Men and A Guitar (1995) **** (actually called Boys)
100. Margo Guryan -- 27 Demos (2014) ***
101. Monsieur Perine -- Encanto Tropical **
102. Morrissey -- California Sun ***\
103. Miles  Davis -- The Complete  Birth Of The Cool *** 1/2
104. The National  -- I Am Easy To Find ** 1/2
105. Nigel Wilson -- Have Yourself A Merry Little Synthmas (2018) *
106. Carly Rae Jepsen -- Dedicated **
107. Charlie Haden and Brad Mehldau -- Long Ago and Far Away **
108. Connie Converse -- How Sad, How Lovely (2015) *** 1/2
109.  Dick Haymes -- Keep It Simple (1983) ***
110. The Doors -- Waiting For The Sun (1968) * 1/2
111. Sting -- My Songs **\
112. Sturgill Simpson -- High Top Mountain (2013) ***
113. Thomas Rhett -- Center Point Road **
114. Grateful Dead -- Aoxomoxao (1969) **
115. Bruce Springsteen -- Western Stars ** 1/2
116. Madonna -- Madame X **
117. ZZ Top -- Greatest Hits * 1/2
118. Dean Lewis -- A Place We  Knew ** 1/2
119. Meghan Trainor -- The Love Train ** 1/2
120. Chris Shiflett -- Hard Lessons ***
121. Everly Brothers -- Songs Our Daddy Taught Us (1958) *** 1/2
122. Etta James -- At Last! (1960) ***\
123. Chris Robinson Brotherhood -- Servants Of The Sun **
124. Celeste -- Lonely EP **
125. Bruce Hornsby -- Absolute Zero **
126. The Fratellis -- In Your Own Sweet Time ***
127. Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas -- 22 Original King and Starday Hits! (2005) **
128. Hobo Johnson -- The Rise Of Hobo Johnson (2017) ***/
129. Hector Lavoe -- La Voz (1975) *** 1/2
130. Brad Mehldau -- Finding Gabriel **
131. Sonny Clark -- The Sony Clark Trio (1960) *** 1/2
132. Branford  Marsalis -- The Secret Between The Shadow and The Soul *** 1/2
133. Santana -- Africa Speaks ** 1/2
134. Buddy and Julie Miller -- Breakdown on 20th Avenue South ***\
135. Chris  Jones -- The Choosing Road **
136. Josh Newcom -- The Blues Gonna Getcha **
137. Curtis Mayfield -- Curtis (1970) ***
138. Eels -- The Deconstruction (2018) ***
139. Jacob Miller -- Natty Christmas *
140. Jamie Cullum -- Taller ** 1/2
141. Jamila Woods -- LEGACY! LEGACY! **
142. Jessica Pratt -- Quiet Signs **
143. Jimmy Webb -- SlipCovers **
144. Josh Ritter -- Fever Breaks ** 1/2
145. Jackson Browne  -- Running On Empty (1977) *** 1/2
146. Jackson Browne -- The Pretender (1976) ***
147. Janet Jackson -- Control ** 1/2
148. The Japanese House -- Good At Falling **
149. Jenny Lewis -- On The Line ** 1/2
150. the Jonas Brothers -- Happiness Begins ** 1/2
151. Joy Williams -- Front Porch ***\
152. Julio Gutierrez -- Cuban Jam Sessi0on Vol. 2 ***
153. Willie Nelson -- Ride Me Back Home ** 1/2
154. The Waterboys -- Where The Action is ***
155. Various Artists -- The Great Gospel Men: 27 Classic Performances *** 1/2
156. Kate Bush -- The Kick Inside (1978) ****
157. Lil Nas X -- 7EP ** 1/2
158. The Rolling Stones -- Beggars Banquet *** 1/2 \
159. Kate Bush -- Lionheart (1978) ***
160. Lewis Capaldi -- Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent **
161. Little Steven -- Summer Of Sorcery **
162. Lizzo -- Cuz I Love You *** 1/2
163. Luther Russell -- Medium Cool *** \
164. Maddie Poppe -- Whirlwind ** 1/2
165. Neil Young -- Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969) *** 1/2
166. Motown: The Complete #1s (11 CD set) *** 1/2 \
167. Max Von Essen -- Call Me Old-Fashioned **
168. Various Artists -- Once Upon A Time In Hollywood *** 1/2
169. Dionne Warwick -- She's Back... **
170. The Divine Comedy -- Office Politics **
171. Kaiser Chiefs -- Duck ***
172. Prince -- Originals ***
173. The Go-Gos -- Vacation (1982) ***
174.  Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers -- Moanin' (1959) ****
175. The Go-Gos -- Talk Show (1984) ***
176. The Regrettes -- How Do You Love? ** 1/2
177. Barbra Streisand -- Love Is The Answer (2009) ***/
178. The Raconteurs -- Help Us Stranger ***/
179. Yola -- Walk Through Fire **
180. Various Artists -- Come On Let's Go: Powerpop Gems From The 70s and 80s ***/
181. Various Artists -- Burnwood Playlist: This Won't Take But A Minute Or Two *** 1/2
182. The Roches -- The Roches (1979) ***
183. Van Morrison -- Veedon Fleece (1974) *** 1/2
184. The Maytals -- Never Grow Old (1964) ***
185. Mariachi Los Camperos -- De Ayer Para Siempre *** 1/2
186. Burning Spear -- Marcus Garvey (1975) *** 1/2
187. Sheryl Crow -- Threads ***/
188. Lydia Mendoza -- La Alondra de la Frontera: Live! (1982) *** 1/2
189. Jesse Malin -- Sunset Kids ***
190. Daryl Hall & John Oates -- Change Of Season (1990) *** 1/2
191. The Highwomen -- The Highwomen *** (but why not Highwaywomen?)
192. The Beatles -- Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Boxed Set ****
193. Los Lobos -- Leggó Navidad (holiday music) ***/
194. Various Artists -- Country Music (soundtrack to Ken Burns doc) ****
195. Tanya Tucker -- While I'm Living (Brandi Carlisle labor of love) *** 1/2
196. Nick Cave -- Ghosteen *** 1/2
197. The Judds -- Greatest Hits (1988) ***
198. The Judds -- Greatest Hits Volume Two (1991) ** 1/2
199. Vince Gill -- Okie **
200. The Judds -- Christmas Time With The Judds (1987) **
201. The Ramsey Lewis Trio -- Sound Of Christmas (1961) **
202. The Ramsey Lewis Trio -- More Sounds Of Christmas (1964) * 1/2
203. Rodney Crowell -- Texas ** 1/2
204. Jim James -- The Order Of Nature ** 1/2
205. Lakou Mizik -- HaitiNola ***/
206. Jim Sullivan -- If The Evening Were Dawn (2019 release of demos) ** 1/2
207. Doris Day -- With Love ***\
208. Dionne Warwick -- & The Voices Of Christmas **
209.



MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES TV MOVIES 

(Not TV movies, of course, but movies and TV -- and TV movies if it comes to that. Mostly I only list TV shows when I've tackled an entire season at once or reappraising an entire series after it's over This doesn't really capture my ongoing watching of current TV.)

1. Sweepstakes Winner (1939) no stars
2. Captain Marvel **
3. Giant Little Ones *** (gay swimmers)
4. Leave No Trace (2018) *** 1/2
5. Minding The Gap (2018) *** 1/2
6. Wildlife (2018) *** 1/2
7. Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle (2018) **\
8. Us (w Luis) **\
9. Border (2018) ***/
10. Sweet Country (2018) *** 1/2
11. The Tale (HBO, 2018) * 1/2
12. Woman's World (at MOMA w Noam) **
13. Running On Empty (1988) ***
14. Shazam (2018) w Zoe * 1/2
15. The Good Fairy (1935 at MOMA w Noam) ***
16. Apollo 11 (doc) ***/
17. Avengers: Endgame **
18. El Rebozo De Soledad aka Soledad's Shawl (1952; dir Roberto Gavaldón) ** 1/2
19. La Noche Avanza aka Night Falls (1952; dir Roberto Gavaldón) **
20. Knock Down The House (Netflix doc OAC) ***
21. La Diosa Arrodillado aka The Kneeling Goddess (1947; dir Roberto Gavaldón) ** 1/2
22. Walking On Water (doc on Christo) ***
23. The Tin Drum (1979) (at Moma) **
24. Happily Buried (1939) * (waffle iron musical short)
25. Radio Hams (1939) (ham radio operators short) * 1/2
26. Killing Eve Season Two ***\
27. BookSmart ** 1/2
28. No Place To Go (1939) *
29. John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum **** (ok, ** 1/2 , but still, pretty awesome)
30. Rocketman ** 1/2
31. Godzilla: King Of The Monsters *
32. Glimpses of Australia (1939 short) no stars
33. The Mad Maestro (1939 animated short) * 1/2
34. Toy Story 4 ***\
35. Girl Crazy (1943) ***
36. The Kid (1921) ***
37. Spider-Man: Far From Home ***
38. Last Black Man in San Francisco *** /
39. Crawl **
40.  The Lion King (2019 version) * 1/2
41. Once Upon A Time In Hollywood ** 1/2
42. The Girl From Mexico (1939) * 1/2
43. Juarez (1939) * 1/2
44. Jewel Robbery (1932) *** /
45. Hobbes and Shaw *
46. Luce  **
47. The Farewell ***
48. The Nightingale *** \
49. The Leopard (1963) *** 1/2
50. Within The Law (1939) ** 1/2
51. Atlanta Season One *** 1/2
52. Tell No Tales (1939) ** 1/2
53. Blackmail (1939) ** 1/2
54. A Family Affair (1937) (start of Andy Hardy series) **
55. Monos (esp cinematography) ***
56. Give Me Liberty (Russian-American car service driver) *** /
57. Aquarela (cinematography, editing) *** 1/2
58. The Little Princess (1939) ***/
59. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice ** 1/2
60. Blinded By The Light **
61. Synonyms (Israeli-French drama) **
62. Pain and Glory (Almodovar) ***
63. Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach 2020 film; acting, writing) *** 1/2
64. Mindhunters Season One ***
65. Say Amen, Somebody ****
66. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) live score w NY Philharmonic *** 1/2
67. Psycho (1960) live score w NY Philharmonic *** 1/2
68. Hustlers * 1/2
69. Atlanta Season Two *** 1/2
70. The Cave (Syrian doc on docs) ** 1/2
71. Fleabag Season One ***
72. Deadwood Season Two *** 1/2
73. Mindhunter Season Two ***
74. American Dharma *
75. Fleabag Season Two *** 1/2
76. Judy * 1/2
77. Dark Magic (1939 short w Robert Benchley) * 1/2
78. Parasite ***
79. By The Grace Of God (Ozon) **
80. Popeye The Sailor: Customers Wanted (1939 animated short) ** 1/2
81. Harriet *
82. The Current War: Director's Cut (at Lincoln Square w TJ)
83. Country Music (Ken Burns doc) ***
84. Filibus: The Mysterious Air Pirate (1915) **
85. Amazing Grace (at BRIC w Noam) ****
86. Western Stars (Springsteen) **
87. Joker * 1/2
88.



THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS THEATER CONCERTS
(The names after the shows are the people who joined me at the performance.)

1. Frankenstein (at Public) ** 1/2 
2. Minor Character (at Public) ***/ 
3. Ink (at Met) (w Noam) ** 1/2 
4. Choir Boy (at MTC) (w Noam) ** 1/2 
5. Chambre Noire (at Public) (w Noam) ** 1/2 
6. Weightless (at BRIC) (w Diego) (left early feeling ill, but quite promising)
7. Be More Chill (on Broadway) (w Noam) * 
8. Grease (at UN International School)  (w Noam) 
9. Das Rheingold (at the Met w Noam) ** 1/2 
10.  White Noise (at the Public) ** 1/2 
11. Kiss Me, Kate! (alone) ***
12. Ain't No Mo (at Public w Zoe) *** 1/2 
13. Ain't Too Proud (w Cohen) ** 
14. Die Walkyrie at the Met (w the Machine and Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde, Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde and Stuart Skelton as Siegmund) *** 1/2 
15. The Cradle Will Rock (at CSC w Noam) * 1/2 
16. Mrs. Murray's Menagerie (at Ars Nova w Noam) *** 1/2 
17. Socrates (at Public w Noam) ** 
18. Siegfried (Ring Cycle at Met w Noam) *** (thrilling final act) 
19. Oklahoma! (at Circle In The Square w Evans) ** 1/2 
20. The Pain Of My Belligerence (solo) * 
21. Burn This (w Zoe) ** 
22. Hadestown (w Noam) *** 1/2 
23. All My Sons * 1/2 
24. Tootsie (w Noam) ** 1/2 
25. Ink (w Noam) *** 
26. Beetlejuice (w TJ) ** 
27. Estado Vegetal (w Diego) *** 
28. Hans Christian Andersen * 1/2 
29. Götterdämmerung (at Met w Noam) *** 1/2 
30. Tolkien exhibit of drawings, maps, timeline (!) etc at Morgan Library (alone) *** 1/2 
31. The Vessel outdoor public art at Hudson Yards (w Noam) ** 
32. BLKS (w Zoe) ** 1/2 
33. The Tale Of Genji exhibit at Met NYC (alone) *** 1/2 
34. Cirque Du Soleil: Luzia (w Noam) *** 
35. Octet (at Signature, alone, in previews before locked) ***/ 
36. August Wilson Annual Monologue Competition (w Noam) *** 
37. Nickel Creek/Punch Brothers at Carnegie Hall (w Noam) *** 1/2 
38. Legally Blonde (at Notre Dame Catholic Girls School in Manhattan) (w Jamie)
39. Octet (at Signature)(alone)  *** 1/2 
40. Moulin Rouge! (w Zoe) ** 1/2 
41. Corinne Bailey Rae at SummerStage (w Noam) *** 
42. Bat Out Of Hell (w Luis) ** 
43. Unchilding (w Noam) ** 
44. Sea Wall/ A Life w Jake Gyllenhaal, Tom Sturridge (w Noam) ** 1/2 
45. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (w Noam) *** 
46. Patty Griffin at Lincoln Center OutDoors w opener Yola (w Noam) *** 
47. Walt Whitman at the Morgan Library *** 
48. The Philadelphia Story (staged reading at Circle In The Square w Luis and Noam) ***  
49. Betrayal (on Bway w Tom Hiddleston) (w Zoe) *** 1/2 
50. Derren Brown's Secret (Bway w Stephen Garrett) *** 
51. Roy DeCarava photo exhibit (w Noam) *** 
52. Freestyle Love Supreme on Broadway (w Zoe) ** 1/2 
53. Fifty Million Frenchmen at the York (w Noam) ** 1/2 
54. (A)loft Modulation (w Noam) * 1/2 
55. The Great Society w Brian Cox (w Stephen Garrett) ** 
56. I Can't See (Halloween in the dark event) (solo) * 
57. Heroes Of The Fourth Turning (w Noam) ** 1/2 
58. Chasing Rainbows: The Road To Oz (Paper Mill, w Noam) *** 
59. The Glass Menagerie (dir Austin Pendleton) (w Noam) ** 
60. Richard Serra exhibits in art district (w Noam) *** 
61. Terra Firma (debut of The Coop) (w Noam) ** 
62. Dublin Carol at Irish Rep (w Noam) ** 1/2 
63. The Decline and Fall...Through The Eyes Of Cole Porter at York (w Cohen) *** 
64. Soft Power at Public (w Noam) ** 
65. Forbidden Broadway: The Next Generation at Triad (w TJ) *** 
66. For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When The Rainbow is Enuf (Noam) ** 1/2 
67. Scotland, PA (w Luis) ** 
68. Panama Hattie (at York w Cohen) ** 
69. Iolanthe at NYGASP (w TJ) ** 
70. The Sound Inside (w Noam; **** prod of ** 1/2 play) *** 
71. A Woman Of The World w Kathleen Chalfant (w Noam) 
72. Madama Butterfly at the Met (w Garrett; left early) 
73. Roy De Carava jazz photos at David Zwirner ***/ 
74. Vija Celmins at Met Breuer -- good to great retro *** 1/2 
75. 

KEY: star rating is on the four star scale
          meaning of "/" or "\"
          *** is three stars out of four
          ***/ is three stars leaning towards  3 1/2
          ***\ is three stars leaning towards 2 1/2

Updated October 30, 2019