Archive for the 'Women of Genius and Talent' Category

04
Aug
10

A Family Weigh

The 1976 film Network may most commonly bring to mind overwhelmed, despairing Howard Beale bellowing “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” His performance is genius, and his newsroom messiah complex may seem to presage this generation’s personality-driven Fox News and CNBC, but something else stood out to me when I watched the movie for the first time not long ago. A much smaller moment. And it had nothing to with Howard Beale, at least not directly.
Continue reading ‘A Family Weigh’

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01
May
09

You Better Work

Start with a strong-woman ensemble piece like the 1980 film 9 to 5. Add music written by gay-fave country diva Dolly Parton. Throw in an orchestra, some sequins and a bit of razzle-dazzle, and you should have a recipe for a little slice of gay heaven.

9 to 5: The Musical,” which opened at New York’s Marriott Marquis Theater last night, comes pretty close.

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04
Jul
08

Les Liaisons Timides

Laura Linney, brilliant in nearly everything I’ve seen her do, is the entire reason I bought tickets to see the Roundabout Theater’s production of Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangeureses. So it’s a good thing that Ben Daniels and not she was replaced by the understudy in the performance I saw.

    Laura Linney and Ben Daniels
Laura Linney and Ben Daniels don’t open their mouths without first calculating what damage they can do in this revival production of Les Liaisons Dangeureuses.

She was calculating and precise, demanding, even cold at times, but not strong-sounding enough. Her voice faltered in a few lines, which in other characters and at other times she has used to great effect, but in Merteuil, it just seemed weak.

The Valmont understudy did fine, but only fine. He seemed more of a smirking, cocky American boy than the “conspicuously charming” and ultimately dangerous European I am sure Tony-nominated Ben Daniels carried off a bit better. For Valmont to be effective, he needs to seduce not only his female prey but also the audience. He needn’t have been better-looking, necessarily — just more … irresistible.

Linney seemed to be alone out there, even with the other actors on stage. This isolation is clearly part of Merteuil’s character, as she even explains in great detail in a late scene. It felt like the was against a blank canvas at times, with little to react to, except when paired with the clownish Madame de Volanges or the mousy Cécile. I’d like to think there was better chemistry with her intended leading man.

The swordplay toward end between Valmont and Danceny was a letdown, too. Notably, these were the only two actors to appear on stage on separate occasions fully nude. (Damn my obstructed-view box seats!) So, naturally, their pairing for a sword fight was perfect! Unfortunately, their thrusts and parries seemed flaccid and uninspired. Seems to me the passions that would stir two men to draw their weapons in mortal combat should result in something looking more hot-blooded, less practiced — less poorly practiced. By contrast, they seemed sloppy, like two actors missing their marks.

The costumes were gorgeous, inspirational. And the Tony-nominated sets were lush and evocative. A series of curtains and drapery sculptures shifted from scene to scene, unfurling and tightening to match the action on the stage. By the final scene, just before Merteuil reaches her downfall, they had resolved themselves into something resembling a spider web. I feel safe saying this now, as the run is nearly at an end. However, I wish the “theater talk” dramaturge guy before the show had held his tongue and not given away this little confection of scene craft. It would have been far more effective to see it first for myself.

I so love the story, the dialogue, the humor, the moral philosophizing, and of course the Glenn Close/John Malkovich movie, that I am willing to let my petty complaints go. I won’t compare the play to the wholly excellent (with the exception of Keanu Reeves) film. It seems unfair somehow. Every actor has a different interpretation; there are some things Linney did that I actually like better than in the Close performance. I only am grateful that I have her and Malkovich, and Uma Thurman and Swoosie Kurtz and Michelle Pfeiffer at home to refer to again and again as the defining example of bad behavior and truly dangerous liaisons.

19
Dec
07

Song Poison: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse

01
Dec
07

Wonder Woman, Diva

   

If I had ever entertained any hopes of passing for straight, I dropped them like shorts at a circle jerk when I gasped at my first sight of a poster advertising an intimate evening with Lynda Carter. She was on tour and was to make her New York cabaret debut at Feinstein’s at the Regency, performing jazz standards with a six-piece band.

Thanks to Lifetime Intimate Portraits: Lynda Carter, one of my dearest possessions on VHS, I know that she first tried to make it big as a singer way before Wonder Woman and before becoming a beauty queen.

I had no idea she was still at it. Something like this could be amazing — or completely awful — but either way, what self-respecting homosexual could pass it up?

Don’t believe me that she can sing? Check her out on The Muppet Show:

(For more YouTube fun, check out those Maybelline Moisture Whip Lipstick commercials. Who could forget those? Honestly, love her as I do, I don’t know how people can do these things … or say the word “moist” so much without cracking a smile.)

The erstwhile Wonder Woman still looks heroic at 56, thank Hera. And she’s still got the pipes. Her October show was lovingly previewed and
favorably reviewed in the New York Times.

Intrigued as I was, I had to put all hopes of seeing Ms. Carter’s show out of my mind, because that same night, November 3, Jeff and I had a hot date with Annie Lennox, who was staging one of her achingly infrequent Stateside performances.

I don’t know who went to see Lynda Carter, because all the gays in three states seemed to be at the United Palace up on 175th Street that night. Throughout the long A train ride up to Washington Heights, we revealed ourselves as the passengers thinned out. When the doors opened at 175th, I had no worries about finding the place with such a large, lemming-like exodus of gay couples to follow. (I found it sadly telling that, after the show, the subway stop was so crowded again that we were at a virtual stand-still until someone opened the emergency gate to allow the flood through — in such a rush we were to high-tail it out of the neighborhood, apparently.)

Annie Lennox as Wonder Woman    
The invisible jet must be in the shop.
[youtube.com]

Interestingly, Ms. Lennox appears in her music video, Dark Road, dressed as a sort of homemade Wonder Woman sitting as a bus stop. For her Nov. 3 appearance, a tastefully be-glittered black sleeveless camisole and a rather conservative pair of flared black slacks was all the costume she needed to showcase <a href="http://www.newsday.com/entertainment/music/ny-etlennox1105,0,5100553.story
” target=”_blank”>her super powers. Her richly layered voice was color enough.

Given the chance to speak to her in person, I would thank her for not subjugating her show to a lecture. I have no problem with famous people using their celebrity and influence to do good in the world. What I take issue with is the often sanctimonious way they go about doing it. Her pet project, Sing, whose goal is generally to bring attention to the African HIV/AIDS pandemic and specifically to help implement the Mother to Child Transmission Prevention Program in maternity hospitals throughout South Africa, should be supported. And after the recent release of an album called Songs of Mass Destruction, clearly infused with feelings of despair and frustration in the wake of a globally unpopular war, it is reassuring that her intention with this tour was to project hope and joy. She had the good sense to remember that both she and her audience were at a rock concert, not a lecture hall, and everyone was there to have a good time.

Lennox rightly observed during her mercifully brief PSA that it is a privilege to be able to use her art to draw a spotlight to a worthy cause. During an extended round of applause, she stopped us. “No, please don’t,” she said. “It’s nothing. I’m going to shut up and sing now.”

26
Jul
07

You Must Not Know ‘Bout Bea

CNN gleefully covered an onstage spill from Beyoncé recently. It reminds me of the time I saw Bea Arthur fall off a stage in Minneapolis.

She was barefoot and resplendent in a flowing white kaftan. Or something. During a story about a fistfight with Elaine Stritch or something, she moved slowly backward into a poorly lit part of the stage. And then, in an instant: a wisp of white taffeta, like smoke, and she had vanished.

A gay guy in the front row gasped. A small child began to cry somewhere. And then, from the darkness, Ms. Arthur’s voice rang out like a call from God:

“Ladies and gentlemen. I am all right.”

Exuberant applause erupted from the assembled masses, and she took to the stage once again, without so much as a limp. It was inspirational.

20
Jul
07

Diamonds are Indeed Forever

Rivaled only, perhaps, by Alanis Morissette’s cover of Black Eyed Peas’ “My Humps” is this startling yet gorgeous rendition of Pink’s “Get This Party Started” by the legendary Shirley Bassey. A friend of mine directed me to this video confection at Joe. My. God.
Girlfriend sure looks good enough to eat! I wasn’t sure it was even her at first. Immediately, her take on this song seems utterly wrong to me, but seconds later, she wins me over.

I was a great fan of her Propellerheads collaboration “History Repeating” until Graham Norton killed it by making it his theme song. It’s great to see that this woman is still having fun. Catch the laugh on her face when she sings “I’ll be burning rubber/You’ll be kissing my ass”!




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