Theater for All

When I came across reduced tickets to a production of Billy Elliot the Musical, I immediately bought them—not only because I love the film and musical, but also because it was being produced by a theater company that I hadn’t been acquainted with yet.

Wheelock Family Theatre is on the campus of Wheelock College. The company has been producing family-friendly theater since 1981. The night that my friend and I went, the large auditorium was almost full. It was great to see children in the audience as well as on the stage. I didn’t get involved with theater until I was in high school, but I danced and sang when I was a youngster, and both were wonderful experiences.

The performance was great. I’m sure that the young man who played the lead will be on Broadway someday. He acted, sang, and danced beautifully. I appreciated the nontraditional casting of some characters and the open captioning for audience members with hearing difficulties.

If you haven’t seen the film or musical, I highly recommend both. It’s a classic story of  love and strife among family members, overcoming obstacles, and following your dreams. I also highly recommend this theater company because of its honorable mission.

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What Would Charlie Do?

I’m officially done with the AFI’s Top 100 film list! I didn’t watch the films in order, and I couldn’t have planned a better final viewing: Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times.

Charlie Chaplin

Courtesy of tasteofcinema.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve watched a few of his other films, and this one is my favorite (so far). As I laughed out loud while watching it, I marveled at the fact that I was laughing out loud while watching it. This silent film that Chaplin produced 80 YEARS AGO was still funny and relevant and entertaining.

Chaplin plays a factory worker who has a breakdown caused by the monotony of being a cog in the industrialized machine. He gets himself into all kinds of comical scrapes, meets a girl, gets into more scrapes. Somehow he and his girl escape the scrapes and the film ends on a hopeful note.

I read that this film was supposed to be his first “talkie” but he decided to keep it silent to preserve the Little Tramp’s charming, childlike persona. Smart move.

If Chaplin were alive today, I wonder how he would poke subtle fun at the current society: even more industrialization, computers, smartphones, social media. He would have SO much good material.

 

 

Great Scots

I have an affinity for Scotland, since many of my dad’s maternal ancestors lived there. When I think of Scotland, I think of wild and windy remote areas and tough, headstrong people who like to have a laugh. I’ve only ever been to Edinburgh—it’s a beautiful city—but I hope to return someday to visit the ancestral homeland and the wild and windy remote areas.

So I was grateful to have the opportunity to see two great Scots speak last week: Alan Cumming and Harry Benson.

Alan Cumming is simply amazing. He acts, he sings, he writes, he photographs. Many people who watch TV know him from The Good Wife; I’ve known him from his movies in the ’90s. And as the Masterpiece Mystery! host, of course.

He was in town to promote his book You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams, composed of brief life stories accompanied by photos he’s taken. I could have listened to him tell stories for hours. He seemed so down-to-earth, charming, and witty. I think Scots have their very own version of a smirk and eye twinkle.

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He signed books afterward but I didn’t have it in me to stand in line that particular night. But I do love him! I hope he brings his sappy songs concert to New England sometime.

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He particularly enjoyed telling the story of meeting Oprah, who inspired the title of this book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had never heard of Harry Benson, but when I read the description of the documentary about him—and read that he would be in attendance at a local screening—I had to attend. I wish I could be Harry Benson, one of the world’s most prolific photojournalists. He grew up in Glasgow, getting his start at a local paper and then moving on to the cutthroat atmosphere of Fleet Street in London.

He was asked to photograph the Beatles’ first visit to the States in 1964 and things just went up from there. He has photographed pretty much every celebrity throughout the past 50 years, including 11 U.S. presidents. He was there when Martin Luther King was assassinated and when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. He photographed the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the Somalian refugees in the 1990s.

Calling him driven and hardworking is an understatement. But he also was able to connect with loners such as Bobby Fischer and Michael Jackson and gain the trust of countless celebrities and political figures. His sense of humor and no-nonsense style shone through in the documentary, and in real life when he answered questions from the moderator and the audience at the screening.

Both he and Alan survived bleak childhoods to share awe-inspiring talent, grace, and humor with the world. It was thrilling to hear these successful artists share their life stories.

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry's wife, Gigi; Harry, Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

From left to right: producer Heather Silverman; Harry’s wife, Gigi; Harry; Boston Globe arts editor Rebecca Ostriker

People Say We Monkey Around

I watched a lot of TV when I was growing up. Back when sitcoms ruled the day. I remember doing plenty of other things, too: reading, playing outside, playing dress-up, playing with dolls, doing more reading, listening to Casey Kasem’s Top 40. But somehow there was still plenty of time for sitting in front of the TV.

One show that I enjoyed was The Monkees. The Monkees were cute and funny and I dug their music. Mike Nesmith was my favorite; I liked his sideburns and his knit hat.

So when I heard that Micky and Peter were going to make a Boston stop on their 50th anniversary tour, I had to go. Yes, 50th.

Unfortunately photography was not allowed during the show. So all I can do is allow the memories to light the corners of my mind.

The show was fabulous because Micky and Peter were just as playful as ever, and a screen behind them was constantly rolling footage from the TV series. They paid tribute to their late band member, Davy Jones, a few times and I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.

Peter and Micky came out with a new album (with guest appearances by Mike Nesmith) and I bought it after the show. SO good. Two of my favorite musicians, Ben Gibbard and Rivers Cuomo, wrote songs for the album.

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I highly recommend the album. I also recommend the Monkees’ cult classic film called Head…if you want to experience a drug-infused frenzy without ingesting any drugs. Wow. There is a lot going on in this movie.

OK, I still have one birthday list item to report on. I’m only three months behind schedule…stay tuned for a recap of my birthday trip to Hyannis, Massachusetts!

The Wild Bunch

I don’t think I grasped the true meaning of the phrase “Wild West” until I saw the film The Wild Bunch a few weeks ago.

This film holds the 80th place on AFI’s top 100 list. AFI also deemed it the sixth-best Western of all time.

When a slew of innocent bystanders were riddled with bullets within the first 10 minutes of the film, I knew it was going to be a violent ride. The Wild Bunch is a group of outlaws, some of them retirement age, who are ready to retire after one last robbery in Texas. Unfortunately they’re duped and they head to Mexico for refuge. They make a deal with a corrupt Mexican general to steal a shipment of U.S. guns for him in exchange for money. To make a long story short, it doesn’t end well at all.

I would bet money that Quentin Tarantino was inspired by this film…

The Wild Bunch

Courtesy of loftcinema.com

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