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Archive for June 21st, 2010

Original cast of ‘Hair’ since displaced for the latter part of the run

 by Sam Juliano

     A pregnant hippie takes a toke on a joint and proclaims: “As Mary Magdalene once said, ‘Jesus, I’m getting stoned!’  In the free-spirited, wildly anarchic and gleefully interactive Hair, which is winding down its successful run at the historic Hirschfeld Theatre on 45th Street, one is reminded of a number of theatrical properties that dotted the cultural landscape in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar are closest to Hair in spirit and form, but Hair stands alone in the sense that it is loosely based on one consideration: whether or not “Claude” will allow himself to be drafted.  Claude spends most of his time hanging out with his friends in the park.  These are kids who have no qualms burning their draft cards, but Claude is still influenced by his middle-class upbringing as can be evidenced by flashback sequences featuring his parents in cartoon incarnations.  Of course Claude’s fate ultimately delivers an overwhelming final blow to theatregoers, before the rafters of the theatre are shaken by an all-out lovefest that includes audience members, chapping and cheering to the soulful strains of “Let the Sunshine In.”  Director Diane Paulus’ spirited revival of the beloved musical, which won the Tony for Best Revival in 2009 ably delineates Claude’s inner conflict with conscience and upbringing, and this deft and necessary simplification of Gerome Ragni and James Rado’s sprawling book serves as the work’s most profound emotional underpinning.

     But most theatregoers who best appreciate Hair are those who were brought up during the time time of cultural upheaval, peace marches and that were staged at peak of the hippie movement and the doctrination of Woodstock and the anti-war crusade.  The same baby boomer set were apt to appreciate, if not become ravenously attuned to the songs (by Galt MacDermott, and the aforementioned Ragni and Rado) that were popularized on AM radio and on vinyl, and these include the Fifth Dimension’s Number 1 hit “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” Oliver’s “Good Morning Starshine,” Three Dog Night’s “Easy to be Hard” and the Cowsills’ “Hair” which reached Number 2 on the pop charts.  Fortunately, these songs are not acid-infused, but in a popular vein, with soaring lyrical harmonies.  At the heart of Hair are these infectious, irresistible songs. (more…)

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Screen cap from spectacularly-reviewed ‘Toy Story 3’ burning up the box-office

by Sam Juliano

As the school year winds down to its final days, some us have been pre-occupied with proms, graduations and retirement dinners, and the realization that some of our friends will be going their separate ways until September.  Others have made plans for summer vacations and various day trips, while still some others (like our good friends Down Under) are actually beginning their winter season.

Here at Wonders in the Dark, our final decade poll (don’t quite think we’ll be around here in ten years ya know!) has entered the home stretch, with the usual combination of surprises and expected placements spurring on some lively discussion in the comment threads.  After the final results of the polling are announced, there will be a one-month break before the horror poll launches.  During that ‘poll-less’ period, a number of exciting features will be posted.

Yankee fans can rejoice in the 2-1 series win over the crosstown rival Mets at Yankee Stadium, while the World Cup seems to have devolved into a series of 1-1 ties, for USA, Italy and England fans.  But there is a long way to go, and our guys Maurizio and Jamie are pumped up.

I saw two stage productions and five films in movie theatres over the past week, as well as two important DVDRs sent to me by Allan.  I rarely discuss on this thread what I watch on DVD at home, but this one instance is well worth discussing, as one of the films (a Japanese work from 1947) is a supreme masterpiece of world cinema.

Experiencing Hair on Broadway (at the historic Al Hirshfeld Theatre on Thursday evening, June 17) with Lucille and Melanie was pure bliss, especially in view of the Tony Award-winning musical revival’s imminent closing at the end of June after an impressive run.  But this was the ultimate interactive show, which served as a reminder of what a great score served this defining work of late 60’s and early 70’s hippie sub-culture.  Some other surprises in the theatre had us all smiling from ear-to-ear. (review above diary, which includes clarification of the last point).

The previous night (Wednesday, June 16) I was solo, when I embraked on a trip to the ‘Producer’s Club Theatre’ on 44th Street to take in a 90 minute off-off-Broadway staging of a show titled Dickinson, William Roetzheim’s play, which ran for three weeks, timed to align with the opening of the Emily Dickinson Garden exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden. According to playwright William Roetzheim, “The myth of Emily Dickinson is that she was a prudish Victorian spinster who wrote beautiful poetry. The reality of Emily Dickinson was that she was a stunning creative intellect coping with an emotionally and sexually abusive Father, an enabling mother, surfacing lesbian feelings, raging sexual emotions, and mental breakdowns. This play brings the real Emily Dickinson to life, with all of her depth and complexities, and takes the audience on a magical journey of love and discovery.”

In DICKINSON at the Producer’s Club Grande Theater, the secret story of Emily Dickinson is told thru the one-night dream of a playwright struggling to write a play worthy of her genius.  Sadly, the play was static, uninvolving and claustrophobic (the theatre it was staged in gave a new meaning to the word “seedy”) and it was pure torture to sit through.  The stage featured a shabby bed with a single chest of drawers and two chairs, and while the two central performers delivered sparkling portrayals, the words they spoke were redundant and a dare for audience members to stay awake, even with the short running time.

On the movie scene I managed:

Toy Story 3   *****   (Friday afternoon) Edgewater multiplex

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work   ****  (Monday night)   Chelsea Cinemas

Stonewall Uprising  ***          (Saturday night)   Film Forum

Solitary Man  ****  (Saturday afternoon)   Montclair Claridge Cinemas

Le Amiche (Antonioni; 1955) Film Forum; Sunday night (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2009 121m) DVD1/2

Getting wasted

p  Kees Kasander  d/w  Andrea Arnold  ph  Robbie Ryan  ed  Nicolas Chaudeurge  art  Helen Scott

Katie Jarvis (Mia Williams), Michael Fassbender (Connor O’Reilly), Kierston Wareing (Joanne), Rebecca Griffiths (Tyler), Sarah Bayes (Keeley), Charlotte Collins (Sophie), Harry Treadaway (Billy), Brooke Hobby (London),

There’s a moment in Andrea Arnold’s Cannes success where the young protagonist, seemingly for want of anything better to do, states “let’s get wasted!”  A common cry for a generation of what we have come colloquially to know as chavs and the usually depicted stereotypical attributes and accessories are there – attitude, language out of a sewer, hoodies, track suits, trainers, bling, daytime TV, cheap 12 inch portable TVs with built in DVD players and mothers not worthy of the title.  In America they’re cheap white trash or trailer park class, over here it’s suburban council estates with the soul drained out of them till everyone is the same shade of grey as the vandalised one-time playgrounds round the corner.  Any greenery there once was has turned to wasteland, and those who wander around this desolate place are wasted in more ways than one.

            Take Mia Williams, the fifteen year old seriously angry daughter of a mother who probably had her when she was Mia’s age and has been living for the next benefit cheque and temporary boyfriend ever since.  Kids, they just get in the way, both Mia and her younger sister, Tyler, who has already (and she’s no older than 11) taken to smoking and drinking.  Mia has but one escape and that’s a love of hip-hop dancing.  Truth be told, she’s hardly anything special, but she’s never been taught, never had anyone take an interest in her to encourage her in anything.  That is until mum gets a new boyfriend, Connor, who takes a shine to Mia initially in a protective way, only for things to then take a turn for the complicated. (more…)

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