Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Free holiday concert by National Cathedral and St. Albans singers at St. John's, Lafayette Square, Dec. 4

The Madrigal Singers from National Cathedral and St. Albans schools under the direction of Benjamin Hutto (far left)

To celebrate the holiday spirit in a peaceful, stained-glass setting before your calendar fills with parties, why not a free concert by Madrigal Singers?
The public is invited to attend a noontime performance on December 4 at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, the host of First Wednesday concerts every month from October through June.

At the December presentation 36 students from the National Cathedral and St. Albans schools will sing traditional hymns and secular songs, medieval and contemporary selections for Christmas and Advent, under the direction of Benjamin Hutto.

St. John's, known to many Washington residents as the yellow church at Lafayette Square, is the “Church of the Presidents.” Beginning with President James Madison, who served the office from 1809 to 1817, every president has either been a member of or has attended services at St. John's.  A plaque at the rear of the church designates the Lincoln Pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by St. John's during the Civil War.

Other St. John's First Wednesday programs, all starting at 12:10 p.m., are:

January 8, 2014 (2nd Wednesday): Organist Richard Fitzgerald improvises on themes from the stained glass windows of St. John's

February 5: Soloists from St. John's Choir perform baroque music for Valentine's Day

March 12 (2nd Wednesday)
: Virtuoso Organist Dongho Lee performs Charles Ives's Variations on "America" and other works

April 2: The U.S. Air Force Strings conducted by 2nd Lt. Shanti Nolan, with Michael Lodico, organist, perform Francis Poulenc's Organ Concerto

May 7: Easter music for trumpet and organ with A. Scott Wood and Benjamin Hutto

June 4: Organist Alan Morrison

Who on December 4:  Madrigal Singers from National Cathedral and St. Albans sing seasonal selections, directed by Benjamin Hutto

What:  First Wednesday Concerts

When: 12:10 p.m., December 4, 2013

Where: St. John’s, Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street, NW, at the corner of 16th and H, Washington, D.C. 20005

How much: No charge

Duration: About 35 minutes

Wheelchair accessible

Metro stations: McPherson Square, Farragut North, or Farragut West

Food trucks: Located two blocks away at Farragut Square

For more information: Contact Michael Lodico at 202-270-6265, Michael.Lodico@stjohns-dc.org.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Olney's 'King and I' dazzles sold-out audience

Anna (Eileen Ward) and the Royal Children get to know each other in Olney Theatre Center's The King and I/Stan Barouh
Christmas arrived early in Olney this season, sprinkling magic and royal entertainment by way of Olney Theatre Center's, The King and I.

How can you beat a gorgeous palace setting filled with smiling children, a king, a governess dressed in mid-1800s finery, and music to charm even the biggest Scrooge in the bunch?

Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I'm afraid.

Add what seems like hundreds of stunning costumes with shimmering gold pieces and tall, fancy headdresses which never slip. So many to see and be carried away to a faraway land. 

Why do I adore large casts?  Not only are different faces and voices welcome, but they often mean stunning sets, glamorous costumes, beloved musical selections, and gaiety to make it a night to remember, and this performance meets every expectation and more.

Songs match the costumes in breadth and scale.  No mediocrity was detected in any of the many voices on stage, and deserving special applause is Janine Sunday, Lady Thiang, the main wife in the production. (The King of Mongkut had many wives and concubines.)

Eileen Ward is a summer song in a foreign place as she plays the British teacher, Anna, transported to Siam (now Thailand) in 1862 to teach the King's children (who, at last count, numbered around 67), adoringly acting their roles in tandem.  

Getting to know you,
Getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you,
Getting to hope you like me.

Getting to know you,
Putting it my way,
But nicely,
You are precisely,
My cup of tea.

When Director Mark Waldrop was offered Fiddler on the Roof or The King and I, he opted immediately, according to the Olney study guide, for The King because Fiddler is performed so often and "I like a show where the leading lady gets to wear a big dress. That’s pretty much the truth."

There are plenty of "big dresses" in the show, with many fine hoop skirt designs Anna wears, dancing with the King to Shall We Dance and flowing over and around the stage, twirling up and down stairs, and you wonder why she doesn't trip in heels, except kingly biceps are there to guide her. (Tara Jeanne Vallee, choreographer.)

Anna (Eileen Ward) and the King of Siam (Paolo Montalban) in Olney Theatre Center's The King and I/Stan Barouh

Shall we dance?
On a bright cloud of music shall we fly?
Shall we dance?
Shall we then say, goodnight and mean goodbye

Oh perchance
When the last little star has left the sky
Shall we still be together?
With our arms around each other
And shall you be my new romance?

On the clear understanding
That this kind of thing can happen
Shall we dance?
Shall we dance?
Shall we dance?

Mr. Waldrop said he wanted a male lead with sex appeal, and Paolo Montalban, the King (sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Clifford L. Johnson) exceeds the requirement.  A feast for the ladies' eyes whose persona exudes just the right amount of kingly haughtiness and stage command:  "Silence!" 

A nine-piece orchestra, led by Jenny Cartney, with supervision and orchestrations by Christopher Youstra, adds warmth and vitality.

The grand palace with "marble" steps, long curtains cascading from sides to the center, tall columns, arches,  and views of the changing Bangkok skyline with silhouetted temples as backdrop add to the romance of the piece and place. (James Fouchard, scenic designer)

The play opened in 1951 on Broadway and ran for almost three years, then the fourth-longest Broadway play, according to Olney's associate dramaturge, Maegan Clearwood, who compiled the study guide. 

Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II based their production on true experiences of British teacher, Anna Leonowens (1831-1915) who lived in Siam for five years beginning in 1862 with her six-year-old son, Louis (alternately played by Ian Berlin and Henry Niepoetter).  She was invited to Siam to be governess for the King's children. (Omitted from the script was her daughter, Avis, 7, sent to boarding school in England.)

The play generally ignores stereotypes and utilizes history, such as the King's offer of elephants to the United States government which President Abraham Lincoln politely declined.

Then, as now everywhere, change is reality as the King struggles to meet and accommodate Western ways and advance his nation. 

If you are old enough to recall Yul Brynner, his image as the King is likely the one you instantly recall when you click your memory's search tab.

His Anna on Broadway was Gertrude Lawrence who died of liver cancer 18 months after the show opened.  She was buried in the pink ball gown she wore in the production to dance with the King.  You will "ooh and aww" when you see its replacement on Ms. Ward before the big diplomatic dinner.

Yul Brynner and Gertrude Lawrence in The King and I/www.whosdatedwho.com

What a cultural contrast:  Anna's hoop skirts and fashions juxtaposed with Asian dress and surroundings. 

Of interest, Louis, Anna's son, eventually returned to Siam, and developed Louis T. Leonowens, Ltd. which became a leading international  trading company and bears his name today.

The musical certainly calls for Helen Hayes nominations:

Outstanding Lead Actress, Resident Musical, Eileen Ward

Outstanding Lead Actor, Resident Musical, Paolo Montalban

Outstanding Costume Design, Resident Production, Kendra Rai

Outstanding Director, Resident Musical, Mark Waldrop

Other performers are Alan Ariano, Eunice Bae, Eymard Cabling, Ron Curameng, David Gregory,  Ron Heneghan, Kimi Hugli,  Brittany Jeffery,  Yoonseong Jeong,  Aaron Komo, Kevin Kulp, Justine Moral, Yumiko Niimi, Rumi Oyama, Josiah Segui,  Momoko Sugai,  Jeffrey Wei, and the Royal Children: Kathryn Benson, Daniel Chin, Kylie Cooley, Haley Davis, Kyle Davis,  Lucy Gibbs, Justin Hong, Lia Ilagan, Aidan Levin, Nathaniel Levin, Dulci Pham, Emma Pham, Oliver Wang, and  Nikki Wildy.

What:  The King and I

When:  Extended through Sunday, January 5, 2014 with many matinees

Where:  Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832

How much: Tickets start at $31.

For more information:  301-924-3400

Hello young lovers, whoever you are,
I hope your troubles are few.
All my good wishes go with you tonight,
I've been in love like you.

Be brave, young lovers, and follow your star,
Be brave and faithful and true,
Cling very close to each other tonight.
I've been in love like you.

I know how it feels to have wings on your heels,
And to fly down the street in a trance.
You fly down a street on the chance that you meet,
And you meet -- not really by chance.

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Washington Post excludes women in sports


President Obama and his daughter, Sasha, sit on the first row two and three people to the left of the fellow in yellow at the Mystics' game August 1, 2010. The Mystics wore pink uniforms for the game in recognition of Breast Health Awareness Day/Patricia Leslie


The Mystics are a Washington team, right?

Don't women count?

In today's Sports section, WAPO has overlooked us, dare I say, again?  The Mystics aren't a "local team"?

President Obama is seated, center, under the woman in the pink hat and shirt at the Mystics' game, August 1, 2010/Patricia Leslie

Alex Prewitt's today's article, "Terps get executive sweep," describes the history and excitement of President Obama's attendance at various area games. Tonight the president and his family attended the University of Maryland's game v. Oregon State where Michelle's brother, Craig Robinson, coaches.

In the far right column is a list of the "local sporting events" the president has attended since coming to office. Dates, teams, scores, and venues are included. Yep, the teams play better when the #1 Fan is in attendance.

And yep, excluded is the president's and Sasha's attendance at the August 1, 2010 Mystics game which the Post covered and so did I.  Here are the links:


Dare I think, would it be   p o s s i b l e   that the writer/editor only thought male when they looked up the president's attendance at "local sporting events"?  Banish those sexist ways.

Ain't I a woman?

If the Post can carry a tab for all the men's teams in this town and "AllMetSports," why can't it carry a tab for the women's team? 

Calling Tracee Hamilton, Sallie Jenkins, and Katie Carrera:  The Washington Post needs you to step up to the plate, please.

President Obama shakes hands as he exits the Mystics' game at Verizon Center on August 1, 2010/Patricia Leslie

Black Friday Huge Discount


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Movie review: 'Enough Said' is boring, boring

James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Enough Said/20th Century Fox
Why did I go?
At Rotten Tomatoes it got a 95% (!) critics' approval rating while the smarter audience gave it an 82%, and even the audience ain't so smart.

I wonder if a sympathy vote was a factor in the critics' vote since the male lead, James Gandolfini of "Sopranos"' fame, died after filming was completed. I apologize but, please, don't let a star's death steer you to Enough Said, the title which describes this lackluster excuse for a movie. 

It's enough to put bullfrogs to sleep. 

This is so predictable, all you need to know is the description: A divorced masseuse meets divorced man whose ex happens to be a client of masseuse, and take it from there.  

No mystery or passion and no questions, please. 

This is so dull, she even knits. Costuming comes straight from the outdoor recycled bins at the dry cleaner's. 

This is a "comedy"?  It's a sad look at middle-age life and how tiresome it can become...if you let it.

This film lacks any redeeming social value and that includes the flat sex. The passion in Enough is enough to freeze melting ice.  But I don't want to understate the case.  If this is hot sex, corn stalks with chives are a lot better and hotter.

It's wild enough to be used as an onscreen laxative.  Nursing home occupants will fall asleep quickly.  Give me some action!  Something to look at and hear.

One nomination, however (and I don't mean to go overboard):

Most boring film of this century

The only plus is the performances of the three "teen" girls.

How could this have possibly been nominated for the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival unless it was meant to calm the mayor while he awaits sentencing by the news media in the torture chamber?

Close to $16 million in revenue for nine weeks = <$2 million/week.  Oh, but that's "limited release."  I can tell you why it's "limited release," all right.  Limit yourselves from wasting time and money on it.

Attention, Julia Louis-Dreyfus:  You can do waaaaaaay better than this.  Enough said.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Oscars for Redford's 'All is Lost'

The hair dryer got tossed, but who needs one anyway when Mother Nature is standing by to help take care of business? Robert Redford in All is Lost

Yes, I know it's not his movie, but it's his movie. 
Moviegoers, there are no doubts.

Here are my predictions for nominations:

1. Best Picture (may win)

2. Best Director, J.C. Chandor

3. Best Actor, Robert Redford (may win)

4. Best Sound (a crew of 25)

5. Best Visual Effects (a crew of ?  I can't count that high)

Redford's surely got the lungs, don't he?

The script is so short, even I might have been able to learn it.

Ladies and gentlemen, this ain't no chick flick.  This is a man cave movie (thanks, Paula and Garry), but one the chicks will like, too, as long as they can live without romance, sex, clothes, and human relationships.  Who needs 'em?

Oh, and if you are prone to sea or car sickness and have a weak stomach, better stay at home.  At least, the language is fairly clean except for one loud, almost obscured, expletive. 

Anyway, my pal, Eric, said his father set out to sail the eastern coast a few years ago, but abandoned the trip after two days because of loneliness.  See this and you'll understand why.  Yeeks and sea geeks!

I kept wondering where the sharks were.  Come on, sharks, let's get this over with...fully expecting the huge open mouth and the teeth from that monster to engulf the boat which those of you old enough to remember the famous scene in Jaws cannot ever forget. 

How about that halo of fire?  Come to me, Jesus.  I need you now.

And who schooled the fish?  Have you ever seen such ballets underwater?  Amazing synchronicity.

I kind of lurched along, holding my breath from one scene to the next, amazed at all the star's seagoing knowledge, and pleading with him to please take the life jacket hanging on the side of the sailboat.

Which way is up?

That the sea prisoner had so many dry changes of clothes gave one pause.  And how do you keep all those maps dry and what was the name of that instrument?  Not to get technical or anything.  (Sextant.  The only proximity to sex you'll get in this movie, with the possible exception of women who daydream.)

Please, who came up with the awful title?  Who would want to see or know more about All is Lost?  Does it not presage doom and abandon hope for all who enter here?  (Well, I went, didn't I?)
Instead, how about The Old Man and the Sea? (Sorry, Robert, but statistically speaking, you are "old" (77) even if physically and mentally, you are not.  Sure it was Hemingway's title, but that was about a fish.  This is about man's battle with the elements, the sea, Mother Nature, yourself. You can't copyright titles anyway.)

The star is weather-beaten and rough and tumbly.  Still, he is Robert Redford and that macho macho man the women just adore.  And we've never been bothered as much by age like men are bothered by age when it comes to attractive partners.  We'd go see him in just about anything.
And he's got a full head of hair which doesn't stick to his head as much as you'd think after all those days at sea, and his body looks all right, supplying a surprising storehouse of energy to combat the elements and keep the boat in line, if for a while.

Hang on and get ready for a rocky ride.  Life jackets, advised.  But save the popcorn for later, unless you want to choke.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Black artists' collection grows at National Gallery of Art

Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955), Great America, 1994, National Gallery of Art, Washington

One month remains to see a spectacular modern show at the National Gallery of Art.

In the tower at the East Building are ten colorful, provocative paintings and more than 20 works on paper, drawn by one of "the finest painters of our time," said a sponsor.

Kerry James Marshall at the opening of his show at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.  Behind him is Our Town, 1995, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR 

Kerry James Marshall, 58, a Birmingham, Alabama native and MacArthur "Genius" grant recipient, spent part of his growing-up years in Watts in Los Angeles which dramatically influenced his art.  When he was a fifth grader, he probably was the only student who decorated his notebook with decals of Gauguin paintings, he said at the opening of the Washington exhibition.

His works at the National Gallery are big and bold, complex, and full of mystery. They represent his first solo show in Washington, and, according to art critic Tyler Green, it's the first show of a living African-American artist organized by the Gallery.

Earl A. Powell III, the Gallery's director, said one of the primary goals at the institution is to strengthen its collection of works by African-Americans which now numbers more than 150 pieces.

Mr. Marshall said the purpose in his pictures is to show "what it means to be a black person" in the U.S. and "how we see ourselves."  He tries "to make art about things that matter" and "confronts the American Dream from a black perspective." The Gallery's curator of the show, James Meyer, associate curator of modern art, calls Mr. Marshall's works "history paintings."

Kerry James Marshall, left, and NGA's James Meyer at the opening of the Marshall show.  Behind them is Gulf Stream, 2003, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis/Patricia Leslie

On a recent Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU with Mr. Green, Mr. Marshall said he inserts black figures in typically American scenes to make viewers aware of the exclusion of African-Americans from much of the nation's history.  

If he intends to heighten awareness of the omission of blacks from common American images and themes, Mr. Marshall succeeds, but the show is more than civil rights and exclusions. 

His figures are flat black, without any shading, skin tone variation, or much facial expression, other than solemnity and a hint of fear in some. Haunting eyes help make the subjects appear doll-like and unreal, sometimes planted like foreign objects which don't belong in scenes which are often ambiguous and provoking, like the woman in a neighborhood in Our Town (1995) who waves from a distance to two black children clamoring to play or get away? 

Is she the children's mother calling out to them?  Or a domestic?  The sun sets in a brightly lighted sky, but over to the right partially hidden behind the trees is a huge fireball.  Things to come?  The label asks:  "Is 'our town' their town?"  Suggestions of slave cabins stand to the left of the house.

The Marshall presentation stems from the Gallery's purchase in 2011 of his Great America (1994) which forms the nucleus of the exhibition.  A brief glance renders the piece as commentary on an American summer pastime:  Two couples ride a boat in an amusement park, but a longer look reveals unsettling components: ghosts in the tunnel of love and a man bobbing in the water.  Are those monsters in the sea?  Another ghost, this one, bigger and veiled, consumes almost half the work.  Do you see it?  Mr. Marshall says the painting represents the Rite of Middle Passage for blacks, traveling from Africa to America, Great America.  The bigger ghost is not as apparent, but it is very real.  Incredible.

Mr. Marshall often uses water in his art which he describes in the show's brochure, as "locus of the trauma" experienced by blacks coming from Africa to America.  Water represents the children hosed by firemen in Birmingham in 1963, he says.

Kerry James Marshall (b.1955), Bang, 1994, The Progressive Art Collection/The Progressive Corp., Mayfield Village, OH
In Bang (1994), a garden hose become a black snake encircling a girl while smoke escaping from a grill looks eerily like a writhing serpent getting ready to strike.

"Happy July 4" is strung in pink clouds at the bottom while a banner interwoven between the words says: "We are One." What is the white ladder along the right side extending up from a white box?  "This way out"?

The more you investigate, the more you find.

Mr. Marshall's works not only depict loss of participation and inclusion, but they serve as lessons in American history, too.  Come and see what you can find.  The paintings represent huge puzzles children will find intriguing, as well.

Dr. Anita Blanchard (above) and her husband, Martin Nesbitt, with Cari and Michael Sacks are major sponsors of the Marshall show.  Dr. Blanchard is the doctor who delivered President and Mrs. Obama's two daughters, Malia and Sasha/Patricia Leslie

What: In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall

When: Now through December 8, 2013, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Sunday. 

Where: The Tower, East Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Ninth streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. On the Mall.

Admission: No charge

Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza

For more information: 202-737-4215

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Free noon concert and world premiere Nov. 6 at St. John's, Lafayette Square

Bianca Garcia
The world premiere of a work for flute and organ featuring Native American music will be played November 6 at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, and the public is invited to attend at no charge.

Bianca Garcia, a member of the New Hampshire state assembly, will play the flute, and Michael Lodico will play the organ for Stephen Cabell's Kokopelliana, starting at 12:10 p.m., in a First Wednesday Concert Series performance at St. John's.

Also on the program are a special arrangement of the Titanic Theme Song with glass flute, a shepherd song for piccolo and organ by Hans-Andre Stamm, and Frank Martin's Sonata da Chiesa.

Mr. Cabell, Mr. Lodico and Ms. Garcia are graduates of the Curtis Institute of Music.  Mr. Cabell teaches at the Manhattan School of Music, and Ms. Garcia, a recent Fulbright Scholar, has performed in 16 countries. Mr. Lodico, the associate organist and choir director at St. John's, is also a Fulbright Scholar.

The presentation was originally scheduled for last March, but a sudden snowstorm canceled it then. 

St. John's, known to many Washington residents as the yellow church at Lafayette Square, is

often called the "Church of the Presidents" since every president beginning with James Madison (1751-1836)
has either been a member of or attended services at St. John's. A plaque at the rear of the church designates the Lincoln pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by St. John's during the Civil War.
St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C./Patricia Leslie


Who: Bianca Garcia and Michael Lodico performing Stephen Cabell's Kokopelliana

What:  First Wednesday Concerts

When: 12:10 p.m., November 6, 2013

Where: St. John’s, Lafayette Square, 1525 H Street, NW, at the corner of 16th and H, Washington, D.C. 20005

How much: No charge

Duration: About 35 minutes

Wheelchair accessible

Metro stations: McPherson Square, Farragut North, or Farragut West

Food trucks: Located two blocks away at Farragut Square

For more information: Contact Michael Lodico at 202-270-

6265, Michael.Lodico@stjohns-dc.org.

Other St. John's First Wednesday concerts, all starting at 12:10 p.m., are:

December 4: Madrigal Singers from St. Albans & National Cathedral schools directed by organist Benjamin Hutto, performing seasonal music

January 8, 2014 (2nd Wednesday): Organist Richard Fitzgerald improvises on themes from the stained glass windows of St. John's

February 5: Soloists from St. John's Choir perform baroque music for Valentine's Day

March 12 (2nd Wednesday)
: Virtuoso Organist Dongho Lee performs Charles Ives's Variations on "America" and other works

April 2: The U.S. Air Force Strings conducted by 2nd Lt. Shanti Nolan, with organist Michael Lodico, perform Francis Poulenc's Organ Concerto

May 7: Easter music for trumpet and organ with A. Scott Wood and Benjamin Hutto

June 4: Organist Alan Morrison