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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Get on the bus for 'Hello, Dolly!'


                                        Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly!/New York Lifestyles Magazine

Dear Theatre Fans,

Get on the bus*, even for a day, to New York City to see Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! before she leaves the show in January.

The Divine Miss M is 71 which just goes to show you how young 70 is. (Speak for yourself.)

Hello, Dolly! is Ms. Midler's first leading role in a Broadway musical which earned her this year's Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. The show won three more Tonys (Best Revival of a Musical, Costume Design, and Gavin Creel won for Best Featured Actor in a Musical). It was nominated for six more.

Fans, it happened one night in New York (and maybe, more), that some audience members stood up in their seats, cheered, and applauded the performance in the middle of the show.  More than once.  Several times.  That was a first for me. 

I've read Bette Midler's replacement, Donna Murphy, is fabulous, and congrats to Ms. Murphy, but, right now (save Tuesdays and some other dates) it's the Divine Miss M whose spell over the audience is unmistakable. She transmits her magic across the stage and envelopes the spellbound in her rapture. 
  
She loves the role. And so do her fellow actors. The electrical connection between performers and guests is undeniable. Everyone has a good time and joins the celebration, but I don't want to go overboard.

When the orchestra started up, I knew the music must be a recording since the sounds were too perfect for live.  Wrong.  Conductor Andy Einhorn elicits magnificent production by all. But, lest I exaggerate.

Speaking of costumes: Hold your breath for colors and design au spectaculaire(Costume designer Santo Loquasto won the Tony.) Folks, it's the 1890s with colors and luxurious costumes to admire. Hats, yellow suits, orange suits, green, you name it.  So many to see!  So many dancers, perfectly in sync (by Warren Carlyle). 

Here's how the Guide to Musical Theatre describes the outfits (which includes orange and yellow suits worn by men!)  

Turn of the century: New York City and Yonkers. Bright, cartoon costumes of the dress and styles of the period. (Ruffled dresses, large hats, parasols, striped pants, vests, spats, waistcoats), shopkeeper smocks, horse costume, green waiter suits with white aprons, floor-length evening dresses, lodge uniform, tights, high-button shoes, parade costumes (police, sports club, dance-hall girls, opera Association etc.), male formal suit and evening cape, "Hello, Dolly" evening dress, sailor dress, traveling clothes

On her website Bette Midler says: “I just want to say that revival is an interesting word. It means that something is near death and it’s been brought back to life. Hello, Dolly! never really went away. It has been here all along. It’s in our DNA. It’s optimism, it’s democracy, it’s color, it’s love of life. It’s hilarity. This is a classic. Come and see it. It’s not just me! This has the ability to life your spirits in these terrible, terrible times.”

More applause is due Ms. Midler for her sponsorship of charities and adoption of highways on the east and west coasts for the Adopt-A-Highway project.


Thank you, Bette Midler and Director Jerry Zaks!

(*My fav bus line is the Vamoose Gold.)

Tickets are here and other places. (Check the Web.)  Better hurry.  Several dates are sold out.

When:  Matinees at 2 p.m. on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Tuesday and Thursday night shows begin at 7 p.m.  Other nights, 8 p.m.  No shows on Mondays and most Sunday eves.  Remember, Ms. Midler does not perform on Tuesday and some other nights. 

Where:  Sam S. Shubert Theatre, 225 W. 44th St., New York City, 10036


Duration:  2 hours and 35 minutes, one intermission 

patricialesli@gmail.com

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Second City was second rate in D.C.


The cast of Second City in Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand included Tyler Davis, Ross Taylor, Angela Alise, Chucho Perez, Katie Kershaw, and Ryan Asher/Kennedy Center and Second City

This was a comedy?  

That's the way it was billed in the Kennedy Center promotion, but "hilarious" it was not.

With a song about abortions?  

A skit on "Black Heaven"?  

Please. 

We expected comedy, since we were in "the need for a good laugh!" like the promo promised, and/or certainly politics since the Kennedy Center described Second City's Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand, "a show that focuses as much on the people as the politics."

Huh?  

Little to nada, except for the standard, tiresome Trump and Steve Bannon jokes.  (Capitol Steps was sold out.)  

The second act was all improv which didn't fare nearly as well as the first act when the cast used a crutch from the audience in the person of Colin from Arlington, 14 going on 16.

If there was a costume designer, that would have been a surprise since apparel was everyday and mundane. Not much in the way of props, other than chairs, and for lighting: lavendar and pink backdrops on patterned windows.
  
This is not to criticize the ability of the actors. Far from it.  I have been lucky enough to attend two of their performances in Chicago which leaves one marveling at the talent and how they pull it off.
   
But at this show, the improv needed improv.

As my friend, Maureen, said:  "When they have to rely on the F-bomb for every other word, you know they've reached their limit." And as for my smart friend, Catherine, whom we ran into before the show started, she left at intermission!

Not worth $67!

Fifteen minutes until Kim Jong-un's missiles reach the U.S. 
Do what you want to do now! And do it fast.  
Like, head for the exit!
Ross Taylor, center, and other cast members from Second City's Almost Accurate Guide to America: Divided We Stand/Kennedy Center and Second City

patricialesli@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Herndon sings Rodgers & Hammerstein



The set for A Grand Night for Singing at NextStop Theatre, Herndon/Photo by Lock and Company

When was the last time you sang Oh What a Beautiful Morning while you sat in traffic on 66 or stood on a packed Metro when there were no seats?

Yeah, me neither, but now that I've seen A Grand Night for Singing at the NextStop Theatre in Herndon, I am ready to adjust my attitude and let it all out.
Sarah Ann Sillers in A Grand Night for Singing at NextStop Theatre, Herndon/Photo, NextStop

It's a lovely night of medleys by five charming actors (Matthew Hirsh, Katherine Riddle, Sarah Anne Sillers, Karen Vincent, and Marquise White) delighted to welcome you with Some Enchanted Evening and Rodgers and Hammerstein's big hits like Hello Young Lovers, If I Loved You, It Might As Well Be Spring, Honey Bun, and I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.


The songs are about love, the fashion of the 1940s, 1950s, and post World War II when the composers were composing, long before all things Russian, pipelines and climate change. (I can't wait to hear those. Have the composers started making Trump music yet, like the playwrights are writing Trump scripts?

Marquise White's solo in This Nearly Was Mine stood out in a night of standouts, like the dancing by White, Hirsh and Vincent singing It's Me.  Ms. Vincent's small stature belies her strong voice.

Michael J. Bobbitt directs and doubles amazingly as choreographer in coaching the actors to reach the high notes and maintain their happy demeanors, all while courting the audience with synchronized high kicks and dreamy harmonization.

 Sexy lighting by Jason Arnold deepens the mood at the vaudeville show, a musical without plot that the audience comes to watch in a jazz club which has two nice bars, one open and serving drinks before the show and at intermission, and the other, stretching almost the length of the set behind the musicians who get a workout the whole night. (Evan Hoffman, set designer.)

Karen Young played cello while pianist Elisa Rosman conducted, accompanied by percussionists Hayden Busby or Glenn Scimonelli and on reeds, Mitch Bassman or Lindsay Williams. 

By choosing their seats on the floor and in the first row, members of the audience become part of a silent cast, sitting at round tables and drinking their brews while the actors whirl about them, sit at their elbows and occasionally extend a hand and arm: Shall We Dance?

It's something wonderful for fans of the King and I, South Pacific, Carousel, Oklahoma!, State Fair, Cinderella, Flower Drum Song, and the Sound of Music and more.

Grand Night won two Tony awards and ran for 52 performances when it opened on Broadway in 1993.

Enthusiasm and fun are catching. Smiles are contagious.  Try it on Metro.  I hope I am on your car.

Other production team members are Bobby Libby, assistant director; Robert Croghan, costumes; Reid May, sound designer; Laura Moody, stage manager; Jessica Dubish, assistant stage manager; Scott Rodger, sound mixer, and Brittney Mongold, scenics

What: Rodgers & Hammerstein's A Grand Night for Singing

When: Wednesday through Saturday nights at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and a wait list for the Sunday 7 p.m. August 12 show. Now through August 20, 2017. 

Where: NextStop Theatre, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA 20170 in the back right corner of Sunset Business Park, near the intersection of Spring Street/Sunset Hills Road. Right off the Fairfax County Parkway. A wee big hard to find and I would allow an extra 15 minutes if this is your first visit.

Free parking: Available near the door.

*How much: Tickets are $40 with group discounts and student rush seats (if available).  Call 866-811-4111.


Duration:  A little under two hours with one 15-minute intermission.

Rating: G. Appropriate for all age levels.
 

For more information: 703-481-5930 or info@nextstoptheatre.org 

patricialesli@gmail.com





Saturday, August 5, 2017

International pianists at the Kennedy Center

The hands and arms of Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017.  According to program notes, Ms. Lee played Etudes No. 3 and No. 4 by E. Wild (1915-2010)/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines

Young pianists from Korea, Italy, and China were on the program last week at the Ninth Annual Washington International Piano Festival held at the Kennedy Center and the Catholic University of America. Faculty members at CUA, Nikita Fitenko and Ivo Kaitchev, founded the Festival in 2009.
Benedetta Conte of Italy at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017, playing Musica ricercata, No. 8 by Ligeti (1923-2006)/Photo by Patricia Leslie 

The Festival's goal is "to provide the best learning experience for everyone by combining an intensive educational program with an outstanding concert series presented by world-class pianists."  More than 50 teachers, pianists, and guest artists participate every year in the week-long festival which offers paying students private lessons, master classes, lectures, workshops, concerts, and receptions.

(Please pardon the poor quality of these photographs, but the Kennedy Center usher made me stand behind the ropes to take pictures, and the distance to the subjects is one reason for the unsatisfactory output.) 
 Subin Hwang of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Appassionata and I, Allegro assai by Beethoven (1770-1827)/Photo by Patricia Leslie 
 Ruiqing Liu of China at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing "Choi was chasing the moon" by J. Wang (b. 1933), the piece which matched the delicate stature of the player/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
Jialin Song of China at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 Pathetique, III. Rondo: Allegro by Beethoven/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Haeun Yim of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Preludes Op. 28/1 and 8 by Chopin (1810-1849), the best selection of the event/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Jae Hu Kim of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Arabesque No. 2 by Debussy (1862-1918) /Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017, playing, according to the program, Etudes No. 3 and No. 4 by E. Wild (1915-2010).  It sounded like she played chords from "The Man I Love" by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983), the most appealing piece to me/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The hands and arms of Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
The hands and arms of Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
The hands and arms of Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
 Laehyung Woo of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90 by Beethoven and Sonata Sz. 80 by Bartok (1881-1945) which seemed the most technically difficult/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The hands and arms of Laehyung Woo of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
The arms of Laehyung Woo of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017)/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
 Yifu Xu of China at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Four Pieces from Eight Memories in Watercolor by T. Dun (b. 1957) and Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor, Op. 39 by Chopin/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Yifu Xu of China at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017, playing Four Pieces from Eight Memories in Watercolor by T. Dun (b. 1957) and Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor, Op. 39 by Chopin, the most beautiful selection of the evening, at least to me/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
 The contestants at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen
with its black lines

patricialesli@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bike the Mt. Vernon Trail

You can bike the Mt. Vernon Trail but you're better off riding your own bike than renting one of these available for rent at the Washington Sailing Marina since, of the bikes pictured above, only one was suitable for riding. All the others had flat tires, the attendant said.   Photo by Patricia Leslie
The "quality" bikes (says the Washington Sailing Marina's website) are so bad (they remain outdoors during the elements) the hand grips stick to your hands but an attendant fixed that with paper towels which he taped to the handle bar.  Nice! Actually, they worked for the whole ride. Whatdya expect for $11/hour? Like everything else, you get what you pay for Here, not much.  Christine had to ride a man's bike without a kickstand, and it may not have had brakes either.  At least, it had wheels which went around/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail heading toward Alexandria. A straight shot/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail heading toward Alexandria. Up ahead, a big curve down a hill/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail heading toward Alexandria, a good place to take your dog out for a Sunday stroll in the park/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail in Alexandria. Look out for drivers opening car doors into you and your bicycle!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A park alongside the Potomac River in Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A park alongside the Potomac River in Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
In a park alongside the Potomac River in Alexandria, you can read under an umbrella/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail in Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail in Alexandria, look!  In the sky! It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's a plane!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria there's plenty of room to ride, walk, and run/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
It may seem like you're in a swamp along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria and that's because you are!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria, dogs are welcome and a'scampering they will go!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A gorgeous scene overlooking the Washington Sailing Marina from the Mt. Vernon Trail/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Time for a brew at the Washington Sailing Marina/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Time to sit and relax at the Washington Sailing Marina and watch the planes come and go, in and out of National Airport/Photo by Patricia Leslie

patricialesli@gmail.com