This week was pretty light in activity, but time and money can force one to sit on the couch, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite activities. I got myself off the couch twice during this week, to head off to the movies once (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and then again to attend an event at the Museum of Modern Art, aka, MoMA (photography exhibit, The Raincoats and Kathleen Hanna DJing). I also stopped into my favorite hotel bar at the Warwick on 6th Avenue and 53th Street. It’s nice and dark inside. I’m usually by myself whenever I happen to stop in, which leads me to think that the staff may suspect that I’m a hotel call girl by some of the stares I get from them. But hey, that’s part of the excitement, I guess. I met an awesome Czech bartender and I will have to go back in for more crazy conversation about European politics and Lincoln Town Cars.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Ziegfeld Theater, NYC
I’m a nerd. What can I say? I have read all of the Harry Potter books and faithfully attend almost every movie close to its opening, usually at New York’s last movie palace, the Ziegfeld Theater. The Ziegfeld has a huge screen, comfortable seats, great sound, and bathroom stalls complete with toilet and sink inside the stall. The Ziegfeld is a place that evokes old-fashioned Hollywood and shows just one film at a time, not like the Mega-Plexes on 42nd Street, the AMC or the Regal E-Walk. I saw Lawrence of Arabia complete with musical overturn there, and if a movie that I want to see is playing, I will go out of my way to see it at the Ziegfeld. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has been split into two movies, so I’m hoping that the next installment that releases on July 15th, 2011, will play at the Ziegfeld, too. Who needs IMAX when you have the Ziegfield?
There’s really nothing that I want to say about the movie. The visuals were great and though there is a long swath of the movie that moves slowly as our three heroes go into hiding to find the horcruxes and unnoticed by Voldemort at the same time, I didn’t mind so much. The three main actors, Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint, have grown up on our movie screens and turned into fine young actors who I hope will develop their craft throughout their lifetime. They have certainly learned from a slew of the best British actors out there who have appeared in the Harry Potter movies. Life for a child actor can be difficult to continue in performance as they grow up and I wish them all the best on whatever journeys they make in the profession.
Daniel Radcliffe is well on his way to a long-term career on the stage. In 2008, I saw Radcliffe on Broadway in a limited-run production of Equus. The story centers around a disturbed young man who blinds several horses during a fit of religious and sexual rage and repression. The entire play is a psychological drama between the boy (Alan Strang) and his therapist (Dr. Dysart), with the therapist trying to get Strang to unload on why he blinded the horses and Dysart trying to get a grip on his own life, too. I’ve never been fond of the play. It’s too “angsty” for me with a lot of 1970s psycho-drama thrown in, but it’s a great acting vehicle for actors who are in control of their craft and was an excellent way for Radcliffe to stretch his acting wings away from Harry Potter. The production was controversial because the Alan Strang character played by Radcliffe has to appear nude onstage for one scene. A seventeen year-old naked Harry Potter sent a lot of hearts aflutter, but really, if you’ve ever seen a production of Equus, you know that there isn’t too much to see anyway. Plus, it’s not that stimulating sexually… Strang is naked while talking about how he stabbed out the eyes of horses, after all. Woot. Sexy. Not.
Radcliffe will be coming back to Broadway in February 2011 in one of the smartest and slyest musicals of them all, How To Succeed in Business (Without Even Trying). The musical, based on the book of the same name by Shepherd Mead, was first published in 1952 with the subtitle of The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune. Mead worked in the advertising firm of Benton & Bowles (one of the ad agencies based on the teevee show Mad Men), and when he retired, he wrote the satirical manual after climbing from a job in the mailroom to a vice-presidency. After several attempts to turn the book into a play, Frank Loesser (Guys and Dolls) and Abe Burrows successfully created the musical, eventually winning a Pulitzer Prize for their efforts.
The story centers around J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer who hears passages from the book, “How To Succeed in Business…” telling him to do all sorts of things to move on up the corporate ladder. His boss, J.B. Biggley, played by the funny and seasoned John Larroquette (surprisingly making his Broadway début in the show) cluelessly lets Finch take over a contest for the the World Wide Wicket Company and hilarity ensues. The cast is rounded out by Finch’s love interest, Rosemary Pilkington (Rose Hemingway), a secretary at the company, the boss’s squeeze, Hedy LaRue (Tammy Blanchard), the boss’s nephew working his way up from the mailroom, Bud Frump (Christopher J. Hanke), and lastly by Rosemary’s friend and fellow secretary, Smitty. Smitty will be played by Mary Faber, who now appears as Heather in the Broadway production of American Idiot. Faber is the second lead/featured actor in American Idiot to go on to other Broadway productions, the first being Joshua Henry, who played the Favorite Son in American Idiot in Berkeley and Broadway and now stars in the Scottsboro Boys at the Lyceum Theater. Everyone will miss Faber in American Idiot, but wishes her the best in her new role. Faber’s last show in American Idiot will take place on December 12, 2011.
The original choreography of How to Succeed in Business… was created by the Broadway legend, Bob Fosse, though he’s not credited as the primary choreographer of the original show. Fosse also did the movie version that came out in 1967. Though Fosse is dead, I do hope that they keep some key elements of his original choreography, which is Broadway all the way. And speaking of that 1967 movie version… if this Broadway production is a hit, I can completely see it being turned into a movie starring Radcliffe. After all, every great movie gets a remake for good or bad, and it’s probably time that this one did, too. Especially if the production and Radcliffe are successful on Broadway.
How to Succeed in Business (Without Really Trying) previews at the Al Hirschfeld Theater on February 27th, 2011 and opens on March 27th, 2011. Here’s a synopsis of the plot at TheatreHistory.com.
The Raincoats and Pictures by Women Exhibit – MoMA
I am not in the habit of attending events at MoMA. It’s not my favorite museum in the world, it’s too small, overly crowded and has line management from hell. What it has going for it, of course, is the quality and depth of its modern art and photography collection — if you like that sort of stuff — which I happen to like. I decided at the last-minute to attend this event as my friend David told me about it and he knows that I like to see old punk bands from back in the day perform, most of whom I’ve never heard of. In this case, it was a female “post punk” band called The Raincoats. The night included a very comprehensive and thought-provoking exhibit of photographs by women, appropriately titled, “Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography.” The exhibit continues until April 4th, 2011 and includes photographers such as Diane Arbus, Berenice Abbot, Adrian Piper, and Alex Prager. One of my favorites were a series of photographs from Francis Benjamin Johnson (1864-1952), one of the earliest female photographers and photojournalists. The photographs displayed from Johnson were a series commissioned by the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, an African-American school around the turn of the century that eventually became Hampton College in Virginia. The photographs depict young African-Americans doing all sorts of college and school-related activities and it’s refreshing to see images of blacks from the time period as they do their classroom exercises and physical workouts. You can view some of Johnson’s portraiture and architectural photographs at the Library of Congress.
The works of female photographic icons, Diane Arbus and Berenice Abbott were excellent, but it was the large-print photographs of Alex Prager that really caught my attention. Prager’s work has a deep sense of pathos surrounding beautiful women in potentially charged situations, all with a retro-throwback 1950s style. Prager works from Los Angeles, and her photographs have a California flavor to them with their depiction of the endless sunshine that pervades California, with a sense that something is not quite right in the perfection and beauty. Prager’s women are glammed up and find themselves in all sorts of compromising situations, but there is always a sense that they are in control, even if they have completely lost control within the context of the photograph. Visit Prager’s site for more information on her work, and here’s a list of articles about her work at the site.
The Raincoats, along with DJ Kathleen Hanna, appeared as part of MoMA’s Pop Rally events that feature “collaborations with artists and musical acts, performances, film screenings, receptions, and special viewings of exhibitions at moderate prices.” You may know Hanna as the female voice on Green Day’s American Idiot song, “Nobody Likes You,” but she’s better known as a founding member of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre, and is both a legend and controversial figure in the world of feminist punk Riot Girrl culture. I didn’t hear most of her DJing because I spent so much time in the bar at the Warwick Hotel that I didn’t get back to MoMA until the line was crazy and it took almost 25 minutes just to get my ticket and wristband and get inside. I went upstairs to look at the photography, and by the time I finished, the Raincoats were playing and the crowd was thick in MoMA’s atrium. So thick, in fact, that it was difficult to move… not that anyone was moving to the Raincoats, but that’s probably because their music isn’t really danceable or moveable. I was really hoping that a moshpit would break out and some serious art would get damaged, but alas, that was only in head.
The Raincoats hail from the United Kingdom and have been around since the late 1970s. The two founding members of the band, Ana da Silva and Gina Birch met at art school and formed a band in 1977 with members of The Slits and other female bands of the time. Their music certainly has an art school feel to it with its dissonant vocals, violin, and eclectic lyrics and music presentation. Kurt Cobain was really into The Raincoats, and wrote that their lyrics made him happy, which was probably a tall order to fulfill.
The Raincoats – “Fairytale in the Supermarket” – MoMA, Nov. 20, 2001 – pristeen t
As to the performance, if I knew their music from back in the day and felt the way that Cobain did about their lyrics, I may have enjoyed myself more, but as it was, I probably should have stayed at the Warwick Bar. I could overlook the rusty nature of the band and their several false starts and the washed-out sound in the space, but the entire evening was a bit too much on the art school and feminist polemical side of the musical equation for me. I sometimes break out in hives at events that take place in museums and I’m not that comfortable in them for the most part, particularly at MoMA. I couldn’t hear most of those lyrics that made Cobain happy, though one from a new song could plainly be heard, “When you ask me if I’m a feminist, I say, why the hell would I not be?” Uh, OK. Toward the end of the show, Hanna came onstage and they sang an Ari Up (of the Slits, who recently died at the age of 48), song together and ended the set with The Raincoats’ most well-known song, “Fairytale in the Supermarket.”
The Raincoats with Kathleen Hanna sing Ari Up’s “Vindictive” at MoMA – jennpelly
Whatever my feelings on the band or the show are, The Raincoats are loved in feminist post-punk music circles, and if you’d like to check out some of their work, they have music on sale at their site and here’s their MySpace page with a few tunes on it as well. Here’s Kathleen Hanna’s take on the band and their music. Here’s some other reviews of the show and scene: Crawdaddy; Pelly Twins Blog; Artforum.
What We Didn’t Hear: Jesse Malin featuring Green Day – Nowhere….
I said last week that I’d briefly mention this, so here goes. Sometime this year Jesse Malin and Green Day got drunk together and wrote/recorded a song called “Depression Times” with Malin on vocals and featuring Green Day on instruments and back-up vocals. The song was going to play on Rich Russo’s Sunday night show on RXP101.9, but at the last minute, Russo said he had “equipment issues” and the song didn’t materialize. A week went by and no song and a third week later, RXP DJ Matt Pinfield announced on his Facebook that the song would début on RXP’s morning show and again, it was pulled at the last possible moment. This leaves me wondering if the song actually exists or if it’s just a figment of someone’s imagination. I have no idea what is happening, but someone has pulled the song three times and since Russo’s original tweet about playing the song was posted on Green Day’s official site, it’s probably not Green Day. I know that the music industry is a bit unpredictable, that’s a given, but after three failed attempts to get the song heard just once, few people on the Green Day Community forum believe that it exists in the first place and some are beginning to not care. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see and be pleasantly surprised (I hope) in the end, when it does materialize.
For a little background on how “Depression Times” came about as well as Malin’s friendship with Green Day, here’s two snippets of interviews with Jesse Malin:
Über Röck Magazine, Jesse Malin, Exclusive Interview
When you toured with Green Day did you ever think they’d go on to be such a world wide phenomenon? Do you still keep in touch with Billy Joe? I always believed that they were a very powerful band and Billie is a real and talented writer. Who knew a punk rock opera would connect so well. I remember when Mike Dirnt told me about it one night while I was DJing at Niagara and I thought he was out of his mind. Now they’re gonna be on Broadway. I talk to Billie Joe regularly. He’s a good friend. I recently recorded a song with the three Green Day guys called ‘Depression Times’. Maybe it’ll come out some time soon. We might name the band Drunk In New York.
Distorted Magazine – Three Cords and an Attitude: Jesse Malin