Sunday, September 30, 2018

U.S. Army Chorus opens St. John's free First Wednesday concert series, Oct. 3

The U.S. Army Chorus

American spirituals, patriotic favorites, and more are set to be performed by the United States Army Chorus when it opens this year's series of free concerts at St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, on October 3. 

The lunchtime concerts are part of the church's First Wednesday performances played monthly at 12:10 p.m. and lasting about 35 minutes.

Formed in 1956 to accompany the U.S. Army Band, the U.S. Army Chorus regularly sings with the National Symphony Orchestra on Memorial Day, Independence Day, at other patriotic events, and for visiting heads of state. It tours the U.S. and performs with local symphonies.

Also called "Pershing's Own," the chorus, whose members speak more than 26 languages and dialects, is one of the few professional male choruses in the U.S.

In the Chorus's repertoire are traditional military music, pop, Broadway, folk, and classical tunes. 
Major Leonel A. Pena is the director.
St. John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square, Washington, D.C./ Photo by Patricia Leslie

St. John's founded in 1815 is known to many Washington residents as the yellow church at Lafayette Square, and often called the “Church of the Presidents.” Beginning with James Madison who was president from 1809 to 1817, every president has been a member of St. John's or has attended services at the church. A plaque at the rear of St. John's designates the pew where President Abraham Lincoln often sat when he stopped by the church during the Civil War.

For those on lunch break, food trucks are located at Farragut Square, two blocks away.

Who: The U.S. Army Chorus

What: First Wednesday Concerts

When: 12:10 p.m., October 3, 2018

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

How much: No charge

Duration: About 35 minutes

Wheelchair accessible

Metro stations: McPherson Square (White House exit), Farragut North, or Farragut West

For more information:
Contact Michael Lodico, St. John's director of music ministry, at 202-270-6265.

Future dates and artists of the First Wednesday Concerts are:

November 7: The Ars Nova Brass Quintet with organist Michael Lodico 

December 5: The Episcopal High School Chamber Chorus will sing Music of the Season under the direction of Brent Erstad.

January 9, 2019 (second Wednesday): Concert organist Colin Lynch will play works by French composers.

February 6: Baritone Bob McDonald's sings jazz from Broadway shows.

March 6: No concert due to Ash Wednesday.

April 3: A concert by percussionist Tom Maloy and organist Michael Lodico

May 1: Music by organist Lisa Galoci and trumpeter Chuck Seipp to include the world premiere of Paul Leavitt's Fanfare for Trumpet and Organ

June 5: The U.S. Air Force Strings with pianist Brent Erstad will play Gerald Finzi's Ecologue and Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis

Monday, September 24, 2018

Herndon has a hit!

The cast of The Wedding Singer at NextStop Theatre in Herndon is getting ready to swing from the lights/Photo by Lock and Co.

You are invited to crash one of several weddings in The Wedding Singer and have almost as much fun as the cast at the NextStop Theatre where one theatregoer was heard to say, "I could see that again."

The Wedding Singer is packed with frivolity, a large cast, pretty costuming, and rockin' music. (It's 1985, after all.)

And what can go wrong at a wedding (or two)? Audiences love 'em.

Everyone is dressed up in wedding finery, designed by costumer Amy MacDonald who has her hands full creating numerous outfits for many guests at many weddings.

Weddings mean music and dancing, and it's almost non-stop in this show, put on by choreographers, Cathy Oh and Mark Hidalgo, who have dancers matching steps magnificiently in great time, all the while singing. That it's a smaller stage than one would expect for a dance team this large is never a consideration. In this production, size does not matter.  

THE bride and groom are the stars, of course: Molly Rumberger's tiny frame belies her strong voice, and Ricky Drummond carries the show.

Acting from one extreme to another is James Finley who is quite at ease, mind you, in duplicitous roles as the conniving Wall Street baron, another groom (the one you grow to hate), and a preacher man, characters all dressed appropriately in slick con man attire or clergy clothing, whatever is required. (Clothes make the man as Robbie, THE groom, shortly discovers.)

Several of my favorite characters are performed by Rick Westerkamp, the dance captain, who, like several cast members, has multiple roles, but he doubles, triples, barreling out on stage in the first number as the lucky groom, then, in the last scene, after several other roles, he is Imelda Marcos (still living, age 89) in varying shades of pink, head-to-toe with a wig (one of several crafted by Sue Pinkman) which extends about a foot towards the hanging lights, and "she" carries a shoe box!

Two of my other favorites were Grandmom Rosie (Marylee Nicholas) whose every sentence was a scream, and George (Evan LaChance), the adorable band member with long hair and bearing a great resemblance (at least in the dark, after the show (?)) to Conan O'Brien. With each of their appearances, the audience laughter grew louder. 

My only complaints were the lighting, which no doubt has improved from missing the main performer a few times, and the "bad," totally gratuitous, offensive words which serve no purpose other than to make old fogies like me cringe. We did not use these now commonplace, vulgar words in the 80s and their omission would make the show suitable for a larger audience.

(The strip tease numbers and simulated sex scenes were not off putting.)

On the top row I had trouble at times hearing the single word which produced gales of audience laughter, but a youngster in her 20s who sat on the front row told me she missed some of the words, too

Another reason not to sit on high is because you stand no chance of being selected by cast members to twirl around the dance floor before the show begins.

Take your dancin' shoes and get ready to spin!

The Wedding Singer is based on the 1998 movie starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. It opened on Broadway in 2006 and was nominated for eight Drama Desk awards and five Tonys, including Best Musical and Best Choreography.

The book is by Chad Beguelin (who also wrote the lyrics) and Tim Herlihy with music by Matthew Sklar. Evan Hoffmann directs. 

Other cast members are: Joshua Redford, Amanda Leigh Corbett, Rachel Barlaam, and in the ensemble, Carolyn Burke, Jaclyn Young, Ivana Alexander, Carl Williams, Colton Needles, and Amanda Spellman.

Also on the creative team are J.D. Madsen, scenics; Brittany Shemuga, lighting; Reid May, sound; Alex Wade, properties; Laura Moody, stage manager; Kathleen Veer and Kate York, assistant stage managers; James Morrison and Jonathan Abolins, master electricians

Steve Przybylski conducts the orchestra and plays keyboards, assisted by Elisa Rosman; Chip Carvell and Rick Penalta are the guitarists, and on alternate nights, on the bass are Jared Creason and Jonas Creason, and, drums, Jim Hofmann and Alex Aucoin. 

What: The Wedding Singer
When: Thursday through Saturday nights at 8 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m., weekend matinees at 2 p.m., now through October 14, 2018.

Where: NextStop Theatre Company, 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 on a first visit, so allow an extra 15 minutes. The program notes that GPS map systems often give incorrect driving directions once inside the Sunset Business Park. From the "Taste of the World" restaurant, circle counter-clockwise around the building and look for maroon awning

Free parking:
Available near the door.

Admission: Tickets start at $40 with 20% discounts for eight or more. If any seats remain at curtain time, student rush tickets may be sold for $5 cash. Before the show, there are student discounts and senior discounts (for season purchases). For more information, check here.

Duration: About two hours with one intermission

Language rating: X

Skin and sex: Striptease numbers and simulated sex scenes

For more information: 703-481-5930 or

Sunday, September 23, 2018

The 'new' Tysons library still has leaks

At the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library today/Photo by Patricia Leslie

When visiting the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, library users need more than a library card.  They need umbrellas, towels, and galoshes, too.
Two and a half months later and the "new and improved" Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library still has leaks.

This is after an earlier round of leaks was discovered at the library in July. Then the library had been open only nine months after a $5.6 million renovation had kept it closed for almost two years.
At the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library today/Photo by Patricia Leslie

A staff member told me when the library crew arrived at work this morning, they discovered water dripping on copiers and other equipment, causing some of the ceiling to collapse, meeting rooms to close, and the halt in customer copying.

"Don't worry, it will be fixed tomorrow," said the staffer, but who pays?  Insurance is probably adequate, but what about the designer and builder of the library? What does this do to insurance rates? What part of this bill lands in the taxpayers' wallets?

At the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library today/Photo by Patricia Leslie
If you were planning a tutoring session today at the Tysons-Pimmit Regional Library, you needed galoshes and towels inside this meeting room and maybe some gloves to pick up debris/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The Tenley-Friendship library in D.C. has had leaks, too, but the second leak at Tysons in under three months?  Come on!

In addition to books, periodicals, computers, and reference help, this library always has on hand huge supplies of heavy-duty plastic and caution tape.  

Be careful, the ceiling tiles you trip over may have asbestos.  Oh, that's right.  It's not used any more.

Maybe it's a new way to build libraries with leaks so refurbishment (planned obsolescence) is unceasing. 

(Since I do not want you to think ill of me, Mr. Builder and Mr. Designer, I do not mean to state or think the unthinkable, the impossible.  Just a little drip of humor, I insert.)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Today is the last day for 'Heavy Metal' at the Women's Museum

This expresses how I feel many days! It is Self-portrait 4, 2005 by Carolina Rieckhof Brommer (b. 1979, Lima, Peru). Read more about her below/Photo by Patricia Leslie


It's a feast for bored art eyes ending today at the National Museum of Women in the Arts at 5 p.m.  

Metal is the medium of choice for women artists who have "heavy metal" in the show.

My hair in the morning?  No, it's Self-portrait 3, 2004 by Carolina Rieckhof Brommer (b. 1979, Lima, Peru). The artist's experience as a costume designer made her aware of restricted and uncomfortable clothing many women wear. This is an example of wearable art which can be "empowering and protective-often all at the same time," according to label copy/Photo by Patricia Leslie

A museum press release says one purpose of the exhibition is to disrupt the common believe that metal belongs to men only, despite women working in the field for centuries.

The presentation is the fifth of the Museum's Women to Watch series, shown every two to five years which features works by underrepresented artists from states and countries where NMWA has outreach committees.

To gain more attention at that next party, wrap this snake around your neck and record your responses. Made of stainless steel, 14-karat gold solder and Mediterranean coral, it's titled sacredheartknot, 2015 by Lois Brooks (b. 1969, Ann Arbor, Michigan).  The label says Ms. Brooks tries to create a sense of unease and finds inspiration in fairy tales and nursery rhymes "which often have macabre undertones."/Photo by Patricia Leslie
This reminds me of the Titanic, but this creation depicts a smaller iceberg  above the ship, not below, and this, on second glance, looks to be a city in the hull of a helmet. Somewhere there is oil, so maybe this is the Titanic in Texas? Or, the evolution of a city in Texas. Kelsey Wishik (b. 1990, Charleston, S.C.)  is the artist who made Space City, 2012 of mild steel/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Ho hum, unlike most who are smarter than I, I still do this! Holly Laws (b. 1963, Savannah, Georgia) says the caging unfolds the story of this domestic chore, mostly done by women. It is a respectful presentation of notorious "women's work," which many resent (ahem) having to perform.  The titles are (from left) Placeholder and Three Eastern Bluebirds, both, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie

From committees' submissions, NMWA curators selected 50 works from 20 artists including Cheryl Eve Acosta (b. 1980, Mayaguez, Puerto Rico) who has 17 different pieces of jewelry on display.

Some of the artists used recycled materials such as can tabs (Alice Hope).  Charlotte Charbonnel used iron filings and a singular sound from the Pacific Ocean (not metal), however, the sound echoed that of a train (which qualifies) and is titled Train End. Leila Khoury makes monuments to places affected by the war in Syria. Artists used tin, aluminum, steel, bronze, brass, pewter, silver, and gold.

This is a portion of Grandfather, Cricket and I, 2016 by Carolina Sardi (b. 1967, La Plata, Argentina) which is plated steel over a painted wall which look like luscious jewel pieces to me (earrings, necklace, brooch, anyone?)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A beehive of porcupine quills? Or, a fancy chandelier made for the lobby of the World Wildlife Fund or other animal lover? Not to make light of any of these pieces but just to show what they can suggest! Alice Hope (b. 1966, Hong Kong) made this untitled piece last year of steel ball chain, used fishing tackle, and found netting, one of three works she has in the show. The wall label says the artist repeats processes in making art, like that required in "women's work" (sewing), all ending in "deep texture and movement."/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Does this suggest slinkys to you? They are still available on the Web.  The Second Part, 2014, one of four works in the show by Paula Castillo (b. 1961, Belen, New Mexico), is made of fencing nails and auto-body finish.  Ms. Castillo "finds beauty" in industrial remains which help her visualize "how human-made and natural forces perpetually remake the world we inhabit," according to the wall copy/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A close-up of another by Alice Hope (b. 1966, Hong Kong), also untitled and made in 2004/Photo by Patricia Leslie

It is fun to admire the ingenuity of these artists and wonder about the sources of their inspirations. The museum is an excellent place to bring children who can join their parents to admire the wonders of creativity, and come up with their own ideas about just exactly what is here and what they can make from it.

A catalogue ($21.95) is available in the shop or online.  

What: Heavy Metal-Women to Watch 2018
When: Through today. The National Museum of Women in the Arts is open Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sundays, 12-5 p.m.

Where: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005

Admission: Free on the first Sunday each month. Otherwise, fees are $10, adults; $8, seniors and students; and free for members and children, 18 and under.

For more information: 202-783-5000

Metro station: Metro Center. Exit at 13th Street and walk two blocks north.


Saturday, September 15, 2018

Gala Theatre's 'Like Water for Chocolate' is like, wow

Tita (Ines Dominguez del Corral) looks on longingly as her sister, the bride (Guadalupe Campos) dances with Pedro (Peter Pereyra) in Gala Hispanic Theatre's Like Water for Chocolate/photo by Daniel Martinez

Take a family with three daughters, add some weddings, several births and deaths, mix in laughter and sorrow, ghosts, a tang of gunfire, roosters, barking dogs, dancing, love, sex, lots of sex, and what do you have? 

Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate) on stage now at Gala Hispanic Theatre, a delight of a show whose joys overcomes the heartaches, and it's the U.S. premiere.

The place and timing are in Mexico, about 100 years ago where two revolutions were underway, the national civil war, and one at a home of entrenched traditions where daughters did, more or less, what their mamas told them to do.

Every ingredient you want in a play is here and more to savor! Magnifico!

Director Olga Sánchez conducts a talented crew but none more able than Luz Nicolas, Mama Elena in the play, the hated, cruel, and vindictive wicked witch of this stage with hair severely pulled back to augment her sharp features.  (Costumer Moyenda Kulemeka's simple and refined apparel keeps the mom in black, and the other actors in colorful garb, none which detracts from the script.)

Tita (
Inez Dominguez del Corral) is Mama Elena's youngest daughter, imprisoned for life and sentenced to caring for her mother who ages in the finest of traditions 

He brought her flowers, starring Ines Dominguez del Corral as Tita in Gala Hispanic Theatre's Like Water for Chocolate/photo by Daniel Martinez

The man who waits for no one, Pedro (Peter Pereyra), and enjoys soon enough the "services" of two women, Tita and her older sister,  Rosaura (Guadalupe Campos), marries Rosaura, so he can be "closer" to Tita whom Evil Mother has banned from love and happiness.

Crazy? Yes, like most families.   

Meanwhile, the other sister, an energetic Gertrudis (Yaremis Felix) consumes a Tita magic potion dish (does the script come with recipes?) and "ignites," running off with a guerrilla warrior and his pals who eventually barnstorm the home with guns and hot takes.   

The passion, which the now-always-beaming Gertrudis shares with her newly-found love, comes straight from the oven, enough to heat up the stage and the audience, too.  (If this were in January, no heating elements would be necessary for anyone in the house. The "fight and intimacy director," Jonathan Ezra Rubin, adds a heaping side of relish to saucy and scalding scenes.)

Preparing consistently perfect chile en nogada is practically impossible, and this Chocolate has its weaknesses, particularly in the second act when the first act's successful time passage technique become tiresome.  

Music (and sound) by David Crandall spice up Chocolate's menu with perfect timing for explosives, lights, and action.

Demands for frequent and varied lighting changes are amply satisfied under Christopher Annas-Lee's excellent guidance to add zest to the many scenes (ably designed by Mariana Fernandez).  The centerpiece on the stage is the kitchen table which serves multiple purposes (including births). (Properties by Tony Koehler)

Windows with moving curtains double as frames for regularly-appearing ghosts with messages and enforce the notion of "magical realism." That's the genre here which is a contradictory term itself, but that defines this domicile of peachy walls and warmth, conflict, and fire. 

Spoken in Spanish with English subtitles, but Chocolate's strong story soon eclipses reading subtitles which becomes unnecessary.
The play is based on the 1989 bestselling first novel by Laura Esquivel and adapted for the stage by Garbi Losada.

Adding more seasoning to the presentation are images in Gala's lobby of the Mexican Revolution from the collection of Dr. Barbara Tenebaum and James Kiernan.

Coming up September 23 after the 2 p.m. performance is a discussion with cookbook author, Chef Pati Jinich, the James Beard Award winner and host of the PBS Pati's Mexican Table series who is also the resident chef at the Mexican Cultural Institute.

Other members of the Chocolate cast are Carlos Castillo as Don Pascual; Delbis Cardona, Dr. John Brown; Karen Romero, narrator; and crowd favorites Teresa Yenque who is Nacha, and Karen Morales, Chencha.

The technical crew also includes Niomi Collard, projections; Catherine Nunez, stage manager; Devin Mahoney, technical director; and Heather McKay, English translator.

What: Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate)

When: Now through October 7, 2018, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m.

Where: Gala Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20010.

Tickets: $48 and $30 for seniors (65+), military, students, and those ages 30 and under, with additional discounts for groups of 10 and more. Go online to order: GALA Ticket Box

(To read subtitles comfortably, English-only guests should request seating in rows E through H.)

Duration:  About 2. 5 hours with one 10 minute intermission.

Language and ages:  Rated "G.Content is adult. 

Metro stations: Columbia Heights or McPherson Square and take a bus or the Circulator from McPherson up 14th or walk two miles.

Parking: Available nearby. Ask about Gala's $4 flat rate.

For more information: Call (202) 234-7174 and/or email

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Double fault movie: 'John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection'

From John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection/Oscilloscope Laboratories

Dear Tennis Fans,

That this movie earned a 100% audience rating and 88%  critics rating at Rotten Tomatoes is shocking, but given the now-that-I-think-of-it expected audience, maybe not so surprising.

But, hey!  I was a member of the so-called expected audience and for me, John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection is an error, a dud.  It is awful.

Half of the film is devoted to McEnroe's temper tantrums, although none of his in this film, quite matches that of Serena Williams last weekend at the U.S. Open.

The French documentary is not about his life, his upbringing, training, or great matchesIt's not about his motivators or methodology which we, the underperforming (or non-performing) can hope to adapt in some manner or another.  

It's not an update on what he's doing in life now besides working as a sports commentator.  What's it all about, Johnny?

It's a single year of his tennis life, 1984, when he played and lost (to Ivan Lendl) at Roland Garros Stadium at the French Open. (McEnroe still gets ill when he has to go to France.)

Despite the loss, this movie star still holds the single year season record, a 96.5% win rate.

The movie has clips from a few great matches with...whom?  Save for the last match, competitors are hidden from view.

I was yearning to see Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, some of the greats McEnroe battled. Instead, I saw lots of McEnroe's shoes, his grimaces, his frowns, his unhappiness, and his towels.  

Oh, and there's the red clay.  (All, about the same shade.) Lots of it to be seen when he points to the lines and argues with officials, never successfully, about what he thinks are errant calls.

Also, there is a surfeit of narration and computer drawings about his serve, his arm positions, his style, his bent knees, in slow motion. A  technical film, for tennis coaches and their students, and that's about all.

In the words of every sub-teen:  b - o - r - i - n - g.

I think I was hoping to see the film, Borg v. McEnroe I've heard about.  Perfection? This ain't it!

I saw it so you don't have to.

Julien Faraut wrote and directed; Mathieu Amalric, narrated.