Coming soon….my year of the diva!

From wikipedia:

diva is a celebrated female singer; a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and by extension in theatre, cinema and popular music. The meaning of diva is closely related to that of prima donna.

The word entered the English language in the late 19th century. It is derived from the Italian noun diva, a female deity.  The basic sense of the term is goddess.

(My definition includes actors, playwrights, novelists and any form of artistic expression.)

Jennifer Hudson

 

 

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Bit by bit…..

Putting it together…..

I was privy this Saturday to a private preview performance of a new and exciting theatre production currently in creative development.

“TTFO, Things That Fall Over” an (anti-) musical of a novel inside a reading of a play, with footnotes, and oratorio-as-coda. Now isn’t that a mouthful?

Yesterday’s performance highlighted the musical aspects of the production and it was fabulous and very entertaining even in its raw state (only a week of development so far), Impressive to say the least.

This behemoth of a theatrical idea comes from the pen of acclaimed playwright Peta Murray (Wallflowering, Salt) and has music by composer Peta Williams – a talented lady with an ear for a good show tune. To find out more about this show click here  to the blog, and like the Facebook page here.

It will be very exciting and a lot of fun seeing the development of the piece to the opening night sometime in the second half of 2013.

Go Girls!!!

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She’s back and bloody as hell

Check out the poster art, stills and a teaser trailer for the new remake of Stephen King’s Carrie. It stars Chloe Moretz as the tortured teen Carrie and Julianne Moore as her mad mother Margaret. It’s looking pretty good so far even though I think the original is one of the best films ever. My only quibble is that Carrie is supposed to be a rather plain girl and she looks kinda too pretty for my taste.  Even so I am getting very excited. It is due for release in the States in March 2013.

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Read all about it – The Paperboy is trash!!!

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times as part of his review for Lee Daniel’s (Precious) new film The Paperboy mentioned this quote from critics guru Pauline Kael – “the movies are so seldom great art that if we can’t appreciate great trash, we might as well not go at all”. This piqued my interest and Ebert gave the film the thumbs up – this coming from the man who co-wrote one of my favorite trash movies Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls directed by trashmeister Russ Meyer.

The film divided critics when it premiered at this years Cannes film festival. It has been described as a pot boiler with high camp moments – I’m lining up already!!!  Any film that features Zach Efron in white undies for a big chunk of the film, and Nicole Kidman as a trashy tart urinating on him surely has to be worth the price of admission? Lee Daniels in an interview stated that Nicole applied her own makeup for the film – I wonder if she also kept up the botox injections?

I am unsure as to when it will be released in Australia so keep your eyes out for it and lets hope it doesn’t go straight to DVD.

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Happy birthday George, Martha and James.

October 2012 marks the 50th anniversary of 3 very popular and famous characters – two on stage and one on screen.

George and Martha one of theatres most contentious married couples exploded on stage October 13, 1962 in Edward Albee’s masterpiece Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf.  A week  earlier on October 5th the film premiere of Dr No and adaptation of an Ian Fleming novel introduced us to super spy James Bond.

A half a century later they are still going strong with the release of the latest Bond film Skyfall (number 23 in the franchise), and the opening of a new production of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf on Broadway.

Sean Connery played James Bond first back then and he is arguably the best. Recently the mantle was taken over by actor Daniel Craig and some would say he may be ever better, he returns in Skyfall and the film itself has received very positive reviews from Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. It has a serious director at the helm in Sam Mendes and with cinematography by the great Roger Deakins and production design by Dennis Gassner it is sure to be the best looking Bond film ever. Also quite exciting is that the latest Bond villian is played by Javier Bardem sure to be a highlight amongst many. It opens in Australia in early November.

The latest Broadway incarnation of Albee’s classic play comes by way of an acclaimed production by Chicago’s acclaimed Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Playing the dysfunctional couple this time are actor/playwright Tracey Letts as George and Amy Morton as Martha. Morton played a leading role in Lett’s Tony winning hit play August: Osage County a few seasons back. It opened at the Booth theatre on October 13 exactly 50 years after the first premiere. Of course there was cinemas famous George and Martha played to perfection by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in a 1966 film adaptation directed by Mike Nichols, who can ever forget them! Legendary acting teacher Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill originated the roles.

From L-R Hagen & Hill, Taylor & Burton, Morton & Letts

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In praise of April.

NEW YORK STORIES – Food

April Broomfield is a name very familiar to New Yorkers who wish to dine on good honest cooking made from the heart and from a true love of great food. A native of Birmingham, England and having worked at The River Cafe in London, she is the executive chef and co-owner (with Ken Friedman) of The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village, The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar – both at the Ace Hotel in Midtown. I was lucky enough to dine at 2 of her establishments. I also purchased her new cookbook which is a good read and well worth buying.

THE SPOTTED PIG

Located at 314 W. 11th Street @ Greenwich St in Greenwich Village this beautifully decorated gem of a restaurant serves up seasonal British & Italian cuisine using local ingredients whenever possible. It is quite difficult to get into so I chose to get there for a lunchtime treat, there was a line starting up at 11.45  for a 12 noon opening. Whilst sitting on my own I soon engaged in conversation with a lovely couple from Florida at the table next to me, they were there for the same reason – to sample some delicious food from this reputable eatery. The exterior is adorned with herbs and plants which seems to be a signature of April’s establishments whilst the interior is full of paraphernalia related to the pig and various produce that is edging on kitsch but part of the charm of the relaxed space.

I ordered myself a Frozen Moscow Mule cocktail which was a refreshing vodka ginger beer and lime concoction perfect for a warm day. As an appetiser I chose a Devilled Egg a favourite of mine and to have it in a fine establishment was fun. Sitting in a puddle of extra virgin olive oil and scattered with snipped chives, it was delicious and creamy and simple, I scoffed them down as if I was attending a 70’s cocktail party.

Next up was the famed Chargrilled Burger with Roquefort Cheese served with an alarmingly large nest of shoestring fries. A fine meat patty cooked rare with a strong cheese to compliment sitting on a light brioche bun alongside a mess of fries flavoured with garlic and rosemary, it was absolutely fantastic and worthy of its reputation. I know my choices were not very adventurous but I wanted to sample and now I know I will return for more. If she can get devilled eggs and hamburger right I know I will enjoy anything served up. After deciding not to order dessert because I was full to pussy’s bow my dear Floridian neighbours offered me a spoonful of their treats and I must say the Flourless Chocolate Cake was a winner, rich and moist and divine, the Creme Brûlée (ordered as a litmus test) was delightful creamy perfection. So off I went into the day to explore the village determined to try out The Breslin next……

THE BRESLIN BAR & DINING ROOM

The Breslin, is situated as part of the Ace boutique hotel at 29th and Broadway. It features a hearty, meat-centric menu that emphasizes artisanal products, small local growers and farmers, and seasonality. It is known for “nose-to-tail” cuisine methodologies and offers handmade terrines, sausages and charcuterie. I entered through another forest of plants adorning the pavement noting the sign above with cute graphic symbols, into what felt like a beer tavern of which a bevy of brews featured on the menu.

I opted for another cocktail of course, known as an “High Violet” – featuring Vodka, agai liqueur, tarragon, lemon juice and soda – yum! yum!

To eat I chose another old time favourite a Scotch Egg, a delicious perfectly cooked soft boiled egg wrapped in juicy pink mince and cooked to a crunchy goodness, it was flavoursome and looked gorgeous when sliced open. Served at the same time was a tasty Seafood Sausage with Beurre Blanc and Chives, another classic, light as a feather and subtly fishy. I have come to realise that Miss Bloomfield creates food I truly love, using fresh tasty ingredients to spruce up old time fare – perfection.

So as you can tell now I am a big fan of April Bloomfield and her food philosophy. I can’t wait to go back to her restaurants and try more from the menu. At least now I have her cookbook as a reminder and as soon as I arrived home I cooked up a delicious lamb shoulder braise (see below) and look forward to cooking more tasty meals from her oeuvre.

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Thursday in the park with Babs.

NEW YORK STORIES

I stood in line to get tickets for a performance of “As You Like It” at the famed Shakespeare In The Park – Delacorte Theatre. It was an amazing evening of theatre and it almost made it to the trifecta but I didn’t like the amplified sound (I guess necessary for an outdoor production?). Sitting amongst the trees on a balmy night as the sun goes down watching Shakespeare’s words performed by a first rate cast (Lily Rabe was outstanding as Rosalind) was a highlight for me. After I scored the coveted free tickets I took a stroll through Central Park  and snapped some pics of park life. What a wonderful hive of activity, a magnificent park easily one of the best in the world.

Enjoy.

The queue for tickets

Supplies whilst I wait including Crack Pie

The coveted ticket

Outside the Delacorte theatre wherefore art thou?

Backstage

Basking in the sun

Off to work we go

The beautiful Bethesda fountain

The Broadway baseball league

Hitching a ride – tourist style

A game of chess daddy?

Time for a nap

Walking the dogs a plenty

row, row, row your boat

Paper in the park

am I on the set of Hair the movie?

On your hands girls

John Lee Beatty’s wonderfully setting for “As You Like It” where one didn’t know where the park ended and the set began.

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Winning the trifecta

NEW YORK STORIES – The Shows

There are 3 elements that need to be perfect for me to make a show shine above the rest, the play (content), the performances, and the production. It is very rare when all 3 hit the mark. Out of the 21 productions I saw in NYC only 5 made it to the winner’s circle. 3 plays and 2 musicals.

Here I will highlight the plays.

All three of them were from an off-Broadway stage, I’m not saying that the ones caught on Broadway weren’t any good, they certainly were, but they seemed to be held up by star performances with the play or production lacking.

3000 Miles by Amy Herzog.

This wonderful production has star performances by Mary Louise Wilson and Gabriel Ebert as a 91 yr old grandmother and 21 yr old grandson who seeks refuge at her apartment in the West Village of New York City after losing his best friend on a cross-country bicycle tour. Amy Herzog’s delicate and humorous play explores how these two unlikely outsiders cope with living  in today’s world.  One would think that the cross generational aspect of the play may bring up fireworks but Herzog doesn’t succumb to cliche instead drawing two fine and unorthodox characters and giving the actors involved roles to shine in. They are ably supported by the 2 women in the boy’s life, his ex-girlfriend (Zoe Winters) and a one night stand (Greta Lee). The  superb direction by Daniel Aukin never misses and his creative collaborators – costumes (Kay Voyce), lighting (Jaffy Weideman) and set design (Laura Helpern) are first class. Presented by the Lincoln Centre Theatre on the Mitzi E. Newhouse stage they certainly won the trifecta with this one, it has extended many times and won a joint Obie award for the leading actors as well as for best new American play – well deserved.

Gabriel Ebert & Mary Louise Wilson in their award winning roles

Lonely I’m Not by Paul Weitz

This play was recommended to me by a New Yorker. It was not on my radar but she assured me it was a very good play given a top notch production. The reviews were good and the theatre just around the corner from my apartment. I was given a discount code and at the last minute decided to venture along – 30 minutes and $30 later (a bargain) I was sitting in an excellent seat at the Second Stages theatre. To my delight in walked director Mike Nichols and his beautiful wife Diane Sawyer and they plonked themselves down 2 rows in front of me – distracting at first (did Mike laugh? what did he think of it?) but soon this excellent play grabbed my attention and I was delighted to see a top notch show.

Featuring the stage debut of TV & film actor Topher Grace (That 70’s Show) the play was written by Paul Weitz best known as a film screenwriter (Amercian Pie, About A Boy). A contemporary dysfunctional love story – a riff on the Hollywood rom com. The boy, Porter, was a Wall Street broker who suffered a meltdown and four years later is holed up in his LA apartment. Set up by a friend he goes on a blind date (literally) where he meets the girl, Heather who is blind and a workaholic determined not to let her disability get in the way. So they meet, they date, they fall in love, they fight…  The story might have an element of cliché but the finely drawn characters and excellent acting by the whole cast had me enthralled, laughing, crying and on the edge of my seat. Topher Grace (a real surprise) and Olivia Thirlby as his blind girlfriend create totally believable characters and the deft direction by Trip Cullman once again aided by fine collaborators of which particular mention should go to set designer Mark Wendland and projection designer Aaron Rhyne – the production used words, projections and holograms to great effect giving it a contemporary cinematic feel. I left the theatre happy that all 3 criteria had been met and also wondering whether Mike Nichol’s liked it as much as I did and would he direct the film version? here’s hoping 🙂

Olivia Thirlby & Topher Grace perform a rocky romance

A clever set uses words to help tell the story

Cock by Mike Bartlett

An acclaimed English import as far as play and production go but with an American cast. One could imagine that recasting could ruin the trifecta but it sure hasn’t. With a provocative title that is unable to be printed in some New York press it is also known as “The Cock Fighting play”!!

English playwright Mike Bartlett bounced onto the West End scene when this production originated at the famed Royal Court theatre. It is performed on a purpose built setting in which the audience sit on plywood benches with very thin cushions, the show is performed in the round and the meticulous direction by James McDonald choreographs the action as if you were indeed watching a cock fight play out. What are they fighting for? The love and affection of John (Cory Michael Smith) who decides one day that he does not want to live with his  boyfriend, known as M (Jason Butler Harner), anymore. He meets a co-worker known as W (Amanda Quaid) and they start up a heterosexual relationship which leads to all sorts of conflicts and confusion. M insists on dinner party showdown  in which his father F (Cotter Smith) is in attendance for support.A decision needs to be made and the tension till that final moment is breathtaking. Using no props or settings whatsoever the extremely talented cast perform their roles to perfection in a production of a very profound, funny and moving play. The audience are all in close proximity (check out the setting below) and although at times it can be startling you soon become engrossed in the drama unfolding in front of you. Theatre doesn’t get much better than this. “Cock” is playing an open ended run at the Duke Theatre on 42nd street, go see it if you are in town.

Fighting for love in the ring of life – The fine cast of Cock

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On the street where you live.

NEW YORK STORIES – Art

Chancing upon some street art, clever, simple, a smile on my face.

Knitting in the EastVillage

Finger fun along the Highline

A treehouse grows in Chelsea

Dust gathers outside the Museum Of Art & Design (MAD)

Clever with a cable tie

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Babs to direct !!!

The other Babs is going to direct her first film in 16 years.

Showbiz411 has reported that singer/actor/director Barbra Streisand has agreed to direct “Skinny and Cat”, her first film since “The Mirror Has Two Faces” in 1996.

A love story about author Erskine Caldwell and photojournalist Margaret Bourke White, officially attached to star are Colin Firth and Cate Blanchett.  Linda Yellen is producing from a screenplay she wrote. Yellen’s producing credits include the landmark tele-movies, “Playing for Time” and “Second Serve” both which featured stunning performances from Vanessa Redgrave. Her writing credits though have a different quality, she was responsible for the Royal biopics “William & Katherine: A Royal Romance” and “The Royal Romance of Charles & Diana” – Yikes!!!!

Erskine Caldwell wrote about poverty, racism and social problems in his native South his most famous novels being Tobacco Road and God’s little Acres. Margaret Bourke White is best known as the first foreign photographer permitted to take pictures of Soviet Industry, the first female war correspondent and the first female photographer for Life magazine. She has been portrayed on screen in the past by actresses Farrah Fawcett and Candice Bergen.

A famous image of Margaret Bourke White photographing the Chrysler Building for Life Magazine.

This sure is an intriguing project for Babs let’s hope she gets this one right. She has a lot on her plate right now – an upcoming film release with Seth Rogan “The Guilt Trip”, her Back To Brooklyn sold out concerts and a proposed star turn as Mama Rose in a film remake of the musical “Gypsy”.

Busy Babs!!!

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