June 21st, 2012


Memphis, Xanadu, Hollywood, and Bollywood

First, a quick new celebrity death to report on. LeRoy Neiman painted sports figures in a distinctive style. I'll admit his stuff was not particularly to my liking, but it was immediately recognizable.

Friday night, I saw Memphis at The Kennedy Center. I didn't really know much about this musical, other than it having won the 2010 Best Musical Tony award. The story involves a white man in 1950's Memphis who falls in love with rhythm and blues - and a black woman who sings it. He becomes a popular deejay and gets the girl, but they have to keep their relationship secret in that time and place.

The show worked for me, largely because of the performances. William Parry as Huey was competent, but the real revelation was Felicia Boswell as Felicia. That woman can sing! Julie Johnson stole the show, however, as Mama, singing the semi-comic number, "Change Don't Come Easy." The music was enjoyable and the story was touching and thought provoking. That got me past the fatal flaw in the plot. It's obvious what Huey sees in Felicia, but why would she ever be interested in a badly dressed illiterate hillbilly provacateur?

Sunday brought me to my final Signature Theatre show of the season. Xanadu is a roller-skating stage adaptation of a truly dreadful movie. The muses, led by Clio, set out to inspire failed artist, Sonny Malone. Since a muse is not supposed to let anyone know what she is, Clio disguises herself as Kira, wearing roller skates, pink leg warmers and sporting an Australian accent. Two of her sisters, Melpomene and Calliope, are jealous and plot to get Clio in trouble by having her fall in love with Sonny. In the meantime, she inspires him to restore an old theatre (and an old musician who abandoned the muse in favor of getting rich), where he plans to unite all of the arts plus athletics, in the form of a roller disco.

The book is very funny and there were great performances, notably by Nova Payton as Melpomene and Sherri Edelin as Calliope (and Aphrodite). The music mostly reminded me of how bad pop music was circa 1980. ("Have You Never Been Mellow" is one of my ten least favorite songs of all time, for example.) There is even a fairly serious commentary about art and creativity behind the whole thing. It probably helps that I lived in California in the 1980's, but I had a great time.

I also realized I never gave wrote about the movies I saw during my recent vacation. (Sadly, the vast majority of movies I see, I see on airplanes.) Here is a brief run-down:

The Vow was a mediocre romantic comedy about a man who is forced to win back his wife after a car accident leaves her with no memory of the last five years. It is, supposedly, based on a true story, but I just couldn't buy the whole thing.

Crazy, Stupid Love was much more my sort of romantic comedy. I've always liked Steve Carrell and he was very appealing in this story of a man who tries to tackle the dating scene after his wife confesses an affair and asks for a divorce. There are a few other intersecting relationships developing and, as long as you suspend your disbelief regarding the coincidences, this is a funny and appealing film.

Casablanca is always worth watching again. (United has a selection of classics on their AVOD system.) There is a good reason this is on everyone's best movies of all times list and I don't need to remind you of them.

Red Dog is an Australian family movie (shown on a van ride from the Hunter Valley back to Sydney) about a dog that unites a remote mining community. I'd have liked it a lot, except for a strong anti-cat aspect/

Jeff, Who Lives at Home was interesting, but just a bit too weird for me. There were parts I liked (especially those involving Jeff's mother and her secret admirer) but the movie just didn't mesh with my sense of humor.

Office Space is something that I was surprised to realize I had never seen. This was more in line with my idea of humor and I am glad United included it on their "classics" selection on my way home.

Love Aaj Kal is the source of one of my favorite Bollywood dance songs, which is why I watched it. It turned out to be a very sweet romantic comedy and not as entirely predictable as I had feared. And Saif Ali Khan makes good eye candy. However, I did (again) end up with an earworm of "Twist."