Archive for November 2017

“The Book of Mormon”–touring company review   Leave a comment

Was it ‘The third time’s a charm’ or was it the dynamic performances by Robert Colvin, Conner Peirson and Kim Exum that made this performance on “The Book of Mormon” stand out in its third trip to South Florida?

This production explains why this show has won 9 Tony Awards including Best musical and had been playing to sold out crowds since opening on Broadway in 2011.  

Robert Colvin, as Elder Price and Conner Peirson as Elder Cunningham are Mormon missionaries sent to Uganda for 2 years to recruit new members to the faith. One of their rules is that they must be by each other’s side that whole time. Elder Price is full of himself who expects greatness to be his, while Elder Cunningham knows more about “Star Wars”, “Star Trek” and “Lord of the Rings” than he does about the Mormon religion. Kim Exum is Nabulungi, the leader’s daughter, a native of Uganda who is a love interest to one of the boys and not the one you would expect.

According to the program Colvin is the understudy for the role of Elder Price and played the role this evening. I don’t know whether it was his first or hundredth time playing the role but he owned it. Delivering the opening number “Hello” with the ensemble or “I Believe” Colvin wins over the audience and when things take a bad turn for him they are on his side pulling for him to be okay. He is also the butt of one of the funniest bits in the show and that’s a play on words that you will understand only if you have seen “The Book of Mormon”!

Conner Peirson is one of the most natural, funniest men you will ever see on stage. Whether it is walking, talking, singing, glancing or lying you will laugh out loud and, yet, when he is hurting or doing wrong you want to hold him and tell him that everything will be okay. He has a running bit through the whole show calling Nabulungi every name but her real name that never fails to get a laugh from the audience. There is nothing funnier than his explaining the Mormon religion to the natives, trying to ‘sell’ them the religion except maybe the “Baptize Me” number with Exum.

Kim Exum seems to have it all starting with a sweet, melodic voice, beautiful looks and handles comedy and drama with equal first rate ability.

Talking about Colvin, Peirson and Exum does not take anything away from the other 29 members of the cast who excel in both individual roles or as an ensemble. Each give as much, even more, than you could ask of any musical performer.

Every aspect of this touring show from costumes by Ann Roth to the scenic designs by Scott Pask to the 12 piece orchestra under the direction of Alan Bukowiecki, to name just a few, contribute, and explain, why “The Book of Mormon” is a hit on Broadway and touring.

The book, and some of the songs, by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone gets a little ‘rough’ at times and though it is satire and a ‘musical comedy’ “The Book of Mormon” touches on many serious issues making it more of a show for grownups than kids.

The running time is 2 hours and 22 minutes including a 20 minute intermission. The show coming to the Arsht Center in Miami is “Finding Neverland” December 26-31.

 

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“Wonder”–movie review–a wondrous film   Leave a comment

 

“Wonder” might not win any awards, not even mentioned for any, but it is one of the most heartfelt, moving movies of the year. It is a story of many loves: between a mother and son, mother and daughter, father and son, father and daughter, brother and sister along with what it means to be different.

In this case Auggie was born facial deformities and had to go through many operations to be able to talk, see, hear, among other things. His mother stepped off her path to home school him which was a must due to all the surgeries but decided at the age of 10 Auggie was ready, had to, join the real world and started him at middle school where most of the kids would also be facing a strange world.

Kids can be cruel to each other, especially to those who are different, and Auggie is taunted, classmates being ugly towards him, afraid of touching him thinking he might be contagious, not being friendly to him but ostracizing him, making fun of his looks and generally bullying him. Due to his facial abnormalities he looks forward to Halloween so his face can be covered with the kids not knowing who he is and he can cat, be, one of them.

Based on a best-selling young adult novel by R. J. Palacio and adapted for the screen by Stephen Chbosky, Steven Conrad and Jack Thorne “Wonder” it is a film for everyone who have had to deal with problems, people and just life in general. “Wonder” is about children and adults made for children and adults.

Jacob Tremblay, as Auggie, had a breakout role in “The Room” and follows that up with a different acting challenge meeting it head on and makes Auggie a real child with all the problems a child faces learning, knowing his deformity is just another one. His older sister Via, played superbly by Izabela Vidovic, loves her brother but knows she had to be shunted aside by her parents while Auggie was in and out of hospitals. As he starts middle school she is just starting high school after her best friend, Danielle Rose Russell, returned from a summer away a different person than the one she was. She also meets Nadji Jeter who introduces her to the school theatre group.

Of the other children all come across as children you knew when you went to school. There is Noah Jupe as Jack who befriends Auggie and unknowingly turns his back on him, Bryce Gheisar as Julian the lead bully with his own group of followers who make things worse for Auggie and when Julian is faced with his bullying his parents stand up for him.

When it comes to the adults the principal, Mandy Patinkin and his homeroom teacher Daveed Diggs treat Auggie as just another kid while Ali Liebert, a science teacher, backs Auggie’s interest in science and his class project. Sonia Braga’s cameo as Via’s grandmother has an effective scene with her granddaughter.

Jacob Tremblay is the star of the movie but Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, as parents all kids wish they had, contribute not only as loving, supporting parents but parents who deal with the problems their younger son has to face. They are both warm, strong people yet you see the concern as she sends her boy off to school and the realization that both her children may soon be leaving their home. Wilson is the fun dad, the one who can make his kids live safe and who can act as childish as they do yet let them see how much he also loves their mother.

Director Stephen Chbosky does an excellent job showing the home life, the school life and the social interactions, both negative and positive, between young people, moving smoothly bringing emotional times, looking at and answering hard questions, while showing the most important lessons both kids and adults need to learn.

“Wonder” is a film parents can take their children to without embarrassment and both will be entertained, share recognizable moments from their own relationships with each other and others and during the 133 minutes of the film bringing the audience along for the ride and involve them emotionally.

Wonder trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob7fPOzbmzE

Posted November 29, 2017 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, MOVIES, Uncategorized

“Novitiate”–movie review–should be seen   Leave a comment

“Novitiate” takes place in the early 1960s when what was referred to as Vatican II began to make changes in the Catholic Church and those changes would be powerful and extreme, as the closing credits show.

We follow a young girl named Cathleen as she becomes a postulant for 6 months and then a year and a half in the quarters with the other novices and it makes Marine Corps’ boot camp look like child’s play!  Cathleen enters the order after one day feeling the presence of God and we watch her process to becoming a full fledged nun.

We meet other postulants who are there for various reasons, some succeeding, others leaving before the decision has to be made and others are basically thrown out.

All are under the charge of the Reverend Mother who makes it clear that she speaks for God. She has been a nun for 40 years and is having problems with the new rules coming from Rome that she feels demeans her religion, nuns and her.

There is a lot in this film that I feel most people, especially males, don’t know what a female went through to become a nun and I don’t know how much has changed but I left the film in awe of these women. I am not saying much else but this is a mesmerizing movie with very few clichés.

Melissa Leo, as the Reverend Mother is a stern disciplinarian who believes in her relationship with Christ and wants her novices to feel the love she feels and her inner fight with the Vatican II new rules is tearing her apart.

Cathleen is played as a child by Eliza Mason, as a 12 year old by Sasha Mason and at 17 by Margaret Qualley all giving fine performances, especially the latter. Her mother played by Julianne Nicholson is spot on while other postulants and nuns are played by Maddie Hasson, Rebecca Dayan, Ashley Bell, Morgan Saylor, Liana Liberato, Dianna Agron and Cathleen’s father in a short role by Chris Zylka are all natural in their roles.

I have always had the Hollywood versions of nuns and knew most weren’t like Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Jennifer Jones but more like the mean Sisters walking around with rulers to slap knuckles and having seen what nuns go through to become a nun I am surprised more aren’t like the latter!

“Novitiate” is an excellent film that holds your interest and should be seen.

 

 

Movie trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6QrP53BEug

Posted November 27, 2017 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

The First Baptist Chorch of Fort Lauderdale Christmas Pageant Part 1   Leave a comment

Pageant Photos Collage #FTL PAGEANT

(I don’t know how many parts this will be as I took many videos which, hopefully, will be better than the photos! I really want you to get a taste of the spectacular presentation!)

 As a Jewish boy in the Bronx I was treated to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas pageant every year by a couple of my Catholic friends for something like 10 years in a row. NOTHING I ever saw–not the Rockettes, not the reproduction of ice skating in Central Park, etc., even comes close to what I saw today. It blew me away! Folks, the talent, the singing, dancing, instrumental performers not to mention the lighting, special effects, production, set decoration, backdrops, heck even the donkey, horses and goats were spectacular. There are snowflakes, confetti, even red heart-shaped balloons falling from the ceiling with, people, animals, walking, singing and dancing down the aisles. I don’t know how many people were in the cast but they were, in age, from toddlers to seniors and each one could step on a professional Broadway stage today! I wish the program had a list of who sang what because some of the soloists were breathtaking and without giving away any spoilers watch for that kid singing “Happy Birthday Jesus”. Talking about Broadway, I see all the touring shows that come through South Florida and not had a one that could equal the first act of this pageant. I, literally, could go on talking for the next 2 and a half hours (that’s how long the show is including a 15-minute intermission.!) including the second half which though we may think we know the story is presented in such a way it is as if we are seeing/hearing it for the first time and just as affecting. It is playing November 30 to December 17–give yourself, yours and your friends the best Christmas AND Hannakuh gift ever! Go to the First Baptist Fort Lauderdale Church website and get tickets before they are completely sold out!

It is worth a trip to Fort Lauderdale to see this Pageant!

“Roman J. Israel Esq.” and the Golden Corral   Leave a comment

It was a so-so movie and a pretty bad Thanksgiving buffet BUT I did wake up in the morning and I am thankful for that!

Denzel Washington never gives less than his best but sometimes even that isn’t enough to save a movie and Dan Gilroy, the director, who also wrote the screenplay, let’s the actor, as the title character, down in the second half of this 2 hour and 2 minutes film.

When we first meet Roman he is living in a studio apartment packed to the rafters with papers, books and more pictures on his wall than I have! He is ‘old school’ with his Afro, the way he dresses and, as we quickly learn, a veteran at fighting for civil rights along with being honest, ethical, principled and a savant of law.

He is a partner in a law office where he does all hebehind the scenes work and his partner handles all the court dates. Within a day his partner has a heart attack, is certain to die and the law firm has to be dissolved leaving Ramon without a partner, a job, alone and living in the past unable to be part of the present or future. George Pierce, played by Colin Farrell, is brought in by the dying partner’s niece to close the office. Unable to get a job he eventually takes a job at George’s firm. He is also invited to speak at the civil rights organization run by Maya, Carmen Ejogo, where he applied for a job, and she recognizes he is a man this generation owes a debt to for all his years of fighting.

All of a sudden Roman finds himself in front of judges fighting for clients which he shouldn’t be doing for many reasons. It is at this point that the screenplay loses its way and the theme of losing one’s moral center turns into an uninteresting thriller and even Denzel Washington who gives a fine odd-ball character performance loses the audience.

Though it is a given that Farrell is, like Washington, a fine actor the two just don’t seem to be working together in the same film. There definitely should have been more of Carmen Ejogo!

“Roman J. Israel, Esq.” goes downhill after the first hour and really can’t be recommended unless you are a diehard fan of Washington, and I am, but still it is a no.

Movie trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CItEtnp3nPY

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Golden Corral Nov 23 2017 collage

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”–movie review–Master Class in Acting   Leave a comment

Walking into “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” you expect to be wowed by Frances McDormand not only by the word of mouth but just by taking one look at the movie trailer and you are not disappointed. Mildred Hayes is a hard, sassy talking, take no bull from anyone, headstrong woman who doesn’t give an inch and gets laughs just by the way she delivers a zinger.  Her daughter had been raped, killed and burned alive 7 months before and the case seems to be cold and she won’t stand for it.

She rents 3 billboards on a very seldom driven road stating 1) RAPED WHILE DYING 2) AND STILL NO ARRESTS and 3) HOW COME, CHIEF WILLOUGHBY? Along with everything else Mildred has the guilt of the last words saying to her daughter, “I Hope you do get raped!” in anger and frustration with her. As horrible as that sounds you are on her side no matter what she does and says and you never know what that will be!

As good as McDormand is, and she is good, Woody Harrelson, as Chief Willoughby, matches her anger, frustration with the absence of leads and not being able to help the woman though they are alike in many ways. He has problems of his own to face and there is a 2-3 minute scene between him and his wife Anne, played by Abbie Cornish, showing what love is all about. He also, obviously, loves his 2 daughters.

Giving Harrelson and McDormand a run for best performance in this movie is saying a lot and Sam Rockwell as a dim-witted, racist, violent police officer does just that. Caleb Landry Jones as the advertiser who rents the billboards to Mildred is fierce though seems to be a bit too young for the role. John Hawks, as Mildred’s wife beating ex-husband Charlie and his new 19 year old girlfriend Samara Weaving are just two of the townspeople against her and the billboards. Lucas Hedges, as the son of Mildred and Charlie, definitely his mother’s son, Clarke Peters is a new police chief while Peter Dinklage is a car dealer who gives Mildred an alibi when she needs one and Sandy Martin as Rockwell’s mother all add to the movie.

This is a deep movie in spite of the foul language and the many laughs from situations, but it has many dark moments, a lot of violence, resolved and unresolved relationships and though all the characters are frayed in one way or another you come to care for them because of the screenplay and direction by Martin McDonagh.

“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”, aside from its cumbersome title, will be mentioned in many categories during award time and is a must see.

Movie Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jit3YhGx5pU

The ‘Icing on the cake’   Leave a comment

Posted November 23, 2017 by greatmartin in FLORIDA, FORT LAUDERDALE, Uncategorized

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