Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Under the Weather

Sorry for my lack of blogging lately. I've been sick the last few days and haven't felt much like posting anything. Be patient. I'll be back. Promise.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Idol Chat 2008: The Finale

At last it's down to the final two! In an attempt I guess to freshen things up with the show, producers imposed a stupid boxing analogy onto the competition. I found it tiresome and really not appropriate. You can't judge singers that way. Anyway, that said, even before I get into the critical analysis of the performances, the night had a clear winner: David Archuletta. But unfortunately, I had late social plans last night and didn't get to watch the show until around 11 PM. By then I was too tired to write my critiques and this morning is just too busy at work to get away with writing a blog post, so it will have to wait till later today. Sorry. Stay tuned
UPDATE: Okay, now on to the critiques.
David Archuletta: "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me" A perfect choice for David. His vocals, as usual, were spot on and for the first time I felt he really owned the stage. His confidence level seemed better than ever and he gave one of the most exciting performances of the competition. Excellent.
"In this Moment" The song was a little syrupy, but because David sings from such a pure, honest place he can get away with it. He was smart to choose a song that sat right in the meat of his voice and had a soaring vocal line. Very good.
"Imagine" The first time I heard he was going to sing this song I thought "Oh, no--it's a beautiful song with a beautiful sentiment, but it's not a showstopper" Plus there are the inevitable John Lennon comparisons. But, like the first time, he completely ran with this song. The vocals were beautiful, and again, the sentiment is one that clearly resonates with him. He was able to give in his vocals what the song lacks which is an almost plaintive cry of desperation to find this perfect world he is singing about. This was gorgeous and clearly David A was in it to win it this week.
David Cook: "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" Excellent song choice for David, but I can't help feeling that the raspy quality to his voice isn't a bit put-on. There is a disingenuousness about him. He managed to pump up his physical performance a bit by taking the stage, but still it didn't blow me away, although it was good.
"Dream Big" An unfortunate song choice. David had to fight to hold my attention with this one. Not a great song and a so-so performance.
"The World I Know" By this point in the competition, David seemed completely defeated. This song choice didn't help to get him out of it. I didn't get it. I didn't know the song and didn't really care to. A lackluster performance.
Prediction: David Archuletta will be the new American Idol
UPDATE: Total upset! David Cook wins. I'm not sure how really based on those performances last night. But then, these things are decided many weeks in advance. Apparently David Archuletta started coming in second to David Cook somewhere around mid season. I think maybe Archuletta's baby face and what some saw as false modesty may have grated on people's nerves (I've heard many people say that.) And that is the only reason I can think of why David Cook would have beat out David Archuletta. Go figure.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Troubled Kids

Overheard on the B train.

Three girls of color all wearing Mets jerseys.

First Girl: (to second girl, indicating third girl): No, she didn't go to school with us. She went to a special school for troubled kids.

Third Girl: Bullshit! I did not! I went to school for performing arts.

First Girl: (to second girl) Like I said, troubled kids.


Provincetown Playhouse Saved!

I am pleased to report that historic Provincetown Playhouse which was slated for demolition by NYU's expansion plans will be preserved after all. As well it should be! I reported the historical significance of the playhouse in my original post about it as the birthplace of many of Eugene O'Neill's greatest works as well as the plays of Edward Albee, Edna St. Vincent Millay and has always played a prominent role in alternative American theatre.

NYU is now back peddling on their original plans saying they never planned to demolish it and that there is much "misinformation" being reported about the expansion plans which they are trying to clear up. Tell that to the New York Times. I believe they used the word "demolished" in their article on the subject.

According to NYU, they now plan to "preserve the size of the theater along with its four walls, entry way and façade." They will, however, build a structure around it which will supposedly blend with the existing architecture in the area.

The best news about this is not only is it a victory for the American theatre, but a victory for the people as well. Crains reported "Announcements of preliminary plans for the site caused such a flap late last month that playwrights, producers and actors including Blythe Danner, Mercedes Ruehl, Eric Stolz and John Leguizama signing a petition to protest the proposed changes." I like to think my mom's email helped, too!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Idol Chat 2008 (Part 10)

I got home from work very late tonight, so I actually missed David Archuletta's and most of Syesha's first songs. But no matter, I don't necessarily need to see each contestant sing three songs to get the gist of how the competition is shaping up at this point. It was a pretty unspectacular night considering this was the semi-final round. As I mentioned in my last post, Entertainment Weekly seemed to sum up what amounts to Idol burn-out this year. Something is definitely lacking--proof of that is the fact that I haven't picked up the phone once this year to vote for my favorite singer.

Further contributing to my Idol fatigue, when I tuned in tonight, Randy and Simon were bickering and making the competition about them and their song choices for the singers rather than the singers themselves. The petty infighting is getting old by season 7. Also, and I can't stress this enough, I am SO SICK of Ryan Seacrest gay baiting Simon all the time! Seacrest is so paranoid of the gay rumors (or truths) circulating about him that he tries everything to deflect attention away from himself and on to others--usually Simon. He resorts to typical juvenile homophobic innuendo which is neither funny nor clever. It's just sad and smacks of desperation. Besides that, the youth of America is watching, Ryan. Please don't poison their minds with the same self-loathing that torments your own pathetically self-important little world.

In case you're wondering, I'm making reference to the fact that Simon had chosen the Roberta Flack classic "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" for David Cook. Ryan predictably tried to attack Simon's masculinity by implying that he chose the song because he's hot for David. These kinds of comments from Ryan have been going on for a couple of seasons now. (Ever since Terri Hatch outed him on David Letterman.) And I'm over it! GLAAD or someone needs to call this guy out, I'm serious. It's really starting to ruin the show for me to have to listen to childish homophobic quips from the host of a show I have enjoyed for many years and has a HUGE gay following, especially when someone as young as David Archuletta, who could very well end up being gay, is listening in the wings. Shame on you, Ryan! Grow up and learn to play the gracious host.

Well. Now that I got that off my chest, here are my picks in order of preference based on the performances I saw:

David Cook: "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" was gorgeous! It was so different from anything we've seen from David before and it was impressive. This is exactly the kind of versatility and talent that American Idol is all about. However, by his second song he suffered from serious pitch problems with a song that seemed to peter out and had no ending. Besides that he seemed to be back to that same old affected, smarmy David from the beginning of the competition which seemed to follow him through his third song ("Don't Want to Miss a Thing"). Still, he's an exciting performer and has real musicianship and versatility which should place him among the final two.

Syesha Mercado: I only caught a bit of the Alicia Keyes song that Syesha performed, but it sounded great. She chose "Fever" for her second tune continuing her habit of choosing overused signature songs of other great singers. Further, "Fever" is not a song that ever shows a singer off well. It's a style piece which Syesha had plenty of in this, staging the number like something from a musical rather than a pop tune. But it wasn't the kind of vocal showpiece we want to hear at this point and I'm not sure it's what the public is looking for in their American Idol. Her third song "Come Hit Me Up" (?), although not a great tune, was fresh and modern and young, a side Syesha needs to show if she wants to go to the finals. Truth be told, she sings everything well. She is an exceptional singer with great talent and technique and seems to get better and better each week. But she may have plateaued this week--one week too soon.

David Archuletta: I've said it week after week: David has the voice of an angel. But his song choices this week were pretty bad. (I missed his first song though) It was nice to hear him sing an up-tempo song for a change ("With You") but it came off cute rather than sexy or genuine. Still, he sounded great. Finally he chose "Longer" by Dan Fogelberg which I think is the song "light" radio stations use as an example of something too corny and old-fashioned even for them. It was nice and sweet and he sang it beautifully, but David showed us nothing new this week. Who knows, maybe it was the pressure of all the bad press about his father this week, but David didn't present a performance tonight worthy of being in the final two. And I love the kid.

Who Will Go: Syesha. Despite a lackluster performance from David A, I think it will be a David and David in the finals. The love has been with these two all season.

UPDATE: Well, as predicted, Syesha goes home and it's a David/David finale. I think we all knew it would end up this way weeks ago. Still, Syesha has a lot to be proud of. She was not one of the favorites coming into the competition but she met challenge after challenge and kept growing beautifully as a performer. Her notoriety from Idol will no doubt get her lots of Broadway offers and honestly I think she'd rather be Broadway star than a pop star anyway.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Rainy Monday Random Thoughts

Another drab rainy day here in New York (Friday was miserable, too). With little to inspire me on a day like this you're left to endure my random, unrelated thoughts as I sit here with my morning coffee.

Dunkin Donuts Coffee Rules: Scott and I remarked on the recent glut of Dunkin Donuts franchises popping up all over the city (giving Starbuck's and the new CapitalOne bank a run for their money). We noticed yesterday that there is a Dunkin' Donuts on the northbound side of Broadway between 96 and 97 Streets and another one on the southbound side between 95 and 96 Streets, because one shouldn't have to walk too far for a donut. I, for one, am doing my best to keep the new franchises in business at the expense of my waistline.

Idol Overload: Read an article in Entertainment Weekly about the somewhat less than exciting American Idol season this year. The show has become formulaic and predictable. We know what the judges will say before they ever open their mouths, and with sites like "vote for the worst" and "dial idol" even the public has figured out how to manipulate the voting. On top of that, the buzz this morning is that David Archuletta is suffering the effects of an overindulgent stage-father. Mr. Archuletta has been banned from the AI rehearsals and studios with the exception of the live tapings. Poor little David. But then again, maybe it will work in his favor with the voting public.

Mothers Day 2008: My sister and I hosted our traditional Mother's Day brunch/lunch down in Asbury Park. The menu included: Mixed berry yogurt with granola, a selection of cheeses and salumi, vegetable frittata, roasted asparagus wrapped with prosciutto, lamb kabobs with chick pea and cous cous salad and lemon poppy seed cake with fresh berries for desert. Someone once accused our family of being "food obsessed". Yup. We're Italian. Deal. Mom was delighted.

Schadenfreude: I admit I take secret delight in the demise of Republican politicians like Vito Fosella of Staten Island who was recently arrested for drunk driving, revealed to have a mistress in Virginia and a secret love child--what Saturday Night Live referred to the other night as "the trifecta". Not so much when it's a Democrat. Kudos to Fosella's wife, though, for not standing by his side through the embarrassing press conferences.

Superhero: Went to see the new blockbuster hit, Iron Man, on opening weekend at the Ziegfeld here in New York. All the nerds were lined up outside the theatre ahead of time. They applauded after the new Indiana Jones trailer and exclaimed with shock and delight at the surprise scene after the final credits of Iron Man. Gotta love comic book geeks. By the way, I'm as shocked as anyone that I LOVED this movie. (I'm not usually the Superhero movei type.) I highly recommend it.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

In Memoriam: Alvin Colt

I was saddened to read today of the death of Tony Award winning costume designer, Alvin Colt. Alvin was the original designer for such iconic Broadway hits as Guys & Dolls, On the Town, Li'l Abner and many others. At the time of his 90th birthday, Alvin figured that he had probably costumed about 90 productions including regional and off-Broadway credits. He served as mentor to costume designer Bob Mackie who said of his work "Alvin could do a costume that would walk on stage and get a laugh before the actor even opened his mouth." I can personally attest to that fact as I had the pleasure of working with Alvin some 9 or 10 years ago. When you wear a costume designed by Alvin half your work is done for you. He was a quiet, gentle-giant of a man (nearly 7 feet tall), unassuming with a devilish sense of humor and a genius imagination. Alvin worked on perennial Off-Broadway hit, Forbidden Broadway right up to his death. He was 91.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

City Snapshot: PROGRESS

Scott and I met for dinner in NoHo last night and on the way from the Subway I spied this bit of graffiti art. I couldn't help but think that this image on a wall covering gang tags and spray paint doodles perfectly symbolizes Obama's candidacy. The artwork is that of Shepard Fairey. To call him a graffiti artist is an understatement. With his own design agency and his work gracing album covers and movie posters alike, Shepard has found a way to turn street art into a viable commercial product. Street art is, by its essence, often political and indeed this is not Shepard's first foray into political art as he participated in an art campaign called "Be the Revolution" in 2004 which was a series of anti-Bush, anti-war posters.

You can check out more of Shepard's latest New York street art images here. Also, on his website he credits editor-in-chief of Kotori magazine, Wasim Muklashy, for perfectly putting into words his own feelings on the upcoming election. Among other things, Wasim says:

A man like (Obama) only comes around once a generation…if we’re lucky. A magnetic personality that has been able to inspire an entire new generation of voters, as well as excite children in record numbers that are not even yet of voting age about the possibilities of public service…basically, our senators, our congressmen, mayors, city council-persons, for the next 30-50 years...(snip)...We have a chance and an opportunity here that may never ever come again. An opportunity that can revolutionize this country and modern humankind as we know it. An opportunity to show the citizens of this country and the citizens of planet earth that, no matter how dark, how dismal, how fucked up things can get…there’s always…ALWAYS…hope. You just have to seize the moment…seize the opportunity… take a chance.

As you know I've been sold on this message for quite some time now. Yes, we can.

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Idol Chat 2008 (Part 9)

I'll admit the competition I was more interested in tonight was the primary races in Indiana and North Carolina. But I did manage to flip back and forth from CNN to Fox to catch the final four on American Idol. The contestants had to choose songs from inductees in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame which pretty much gave them carte blanche to pick any song they liked. This point of the competition is usually one of the most exciting weeks, but sadly this season it seemed to fall short. Here are my picks from best to worst tonight:

Syesha: Seems to be in it to win it this week. She is the only one really going the extra mile to show her versatility and amp up her performance level. "Proud Mary" was a bold choice, once again, comparisons to a diva were inevitable, in this case Tina Turner. Still Syesha held her own all though she is no Tina. For her second song she chose the classic "A Change is Gonna Come" which she sang like a star, showing the beautiful soulfull side of her voice. She continues to grow and grow in the competition.

David Archuletta: "Stand By Me" was an excellent song choice for David and he delivered it with his usual vocal virtuosity, but I couldn't help wishing he would kick up his physical performance a notch, too. When he chose "Love Me Tender" for his second song I thought "oh, no, another ballad" but his simple, pure, honest performance was unmatched tonight. He understands when less is more and is not afraid to be completely vulnerable on stage which makes him one of the bravest performers left in the competition. This was beautiful.

David Cook: David gave us more of the same this week, which is not necessarily a bad thing. He is an adept performer and has the rocker image nailed down. However, he seemed to perform with an over-confidence in both songs this week that seemed to indicate that he doesn't think he really has to work so hard against his competitors. But I would advise him to beware of Syesha. As I said, she's in it to win it and it's starting to show.

Jason Castro: Poor Jason is so out of his element at this point. It's just sad. (Haven't I said that for the past 3 weeks though?) In his first song, "I Shot the Sheriff" he seemed to be trying for some kind of reggae feel as if to carve a niche for himself this late in the competition. But it was too little too late and just came off desperate. You'd think he would be able to pull of "Mr. Tambourine Man", the hippie-dippy style more suited to his demeanor, but he forgot the words and phoned in the performance. It's clear he doesn't want to be here anymore.

Who Should Go: JASON! He's becoming this year's Sanjaya.

UPDATE: Jason finally leaves the show.  Thank you merciful heaven!


Monday, May 05, 2008

We The People

I don't know why I've been singing this lately. Maybe it's because it came up on a trivia quiz show recently, or because I just watched the entire John Adams mini-series on HBO or because our Constitution has been in such peril since Bush and his cronies took office, but thanks to School House Rock I have the entire preamble to the U.S. Constitution memorized. Indeed, these little Saturday morning cartoons have gotten me through many tests in school and won me thousands of imaginary dollars on Jeopardy while playing along at home. The tunes are catchy and facts accurate, and just try humming a few bars of any of these old songs in a room of Gen Xers and watch them all break into song with you. Which was your favorite? Enjoy the video.


Friday, May 02, 2008

And You Think the Primary Race is Ugly?

I regret to report that homophobia has reared its ugly head in a New York City Council race in Queens. Just in time to submit the final candidacy petitions for the May 3 deadline, a horrific homophobic rant attacking openly gay Democratic candidate Charles Ober (pictured) was mailed out to hundreds of Queens residents from the district in which Ober is running.

Among other unoriginal ignorant remarks, the one page typed letter said, "If you do not want your kids to be exposed to this garbage, you need to make sure you vote - and not for Charlie Ober...our kids will be exposed to f-gg-ts holding hands, kissing and running up Myrtle Ave. in a dress." Not surprisingly the diatribe is riddled with spelling and grammatical errors and is, of course, anonymous. Coward.

In a refreshing move of bi-partisanship Ober's Republican opponent, Thomas Ognibene, appeared at Ober's side in a press conference to denounce the hateful stunt. I know (firsthand) this kind of attitude is out there, but it's still a little shocking to me that it even happens in modern-day New York. Call me naive.

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