Friday, October 30, 2009

The 101 Dalmations Musical is Barkalicious!

Sometimes a show gets it just right in its ability to appeal to a wide audience. Sometimes a show manages to be enjoyable for all ages. The 101 Dalmations Musical, now playing at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, is one of those rare shows.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I saw it the other night. I hadn't read about it aside from knowing it was considered 'family friendly'. I'm glad I chose to go see it! It was fun. It was cute. It was entertaining. It was well worth going to see.

As always with the Broadway Series, it was top notch talent from start to finish. It's a perfect show for introducing the younger generation to the joys of theatre! It's entertaining, has many good family messages, the bad "guy" gets it in the end and everyone lives happily ever after. What more could you want from a Broadway show?

If you don't have tickets yet, I'd suggest you scramble and see if there are any left. Sunday is the last day. Sunday is also going to be the best day to see it here in Atlanta as there's going to be all kinds of extra treats that day! There will be some free events prior to the show (tickets to the show are not required to enjoy the pre-show events).

Jake’s Ice Cream to Serve Spotted Ice Cream, Inspired by “The 101 Dalmatians Musical,” at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Sunday, November 1

Enjoy the Family Musical and Delicious Treats to Benefit the Gwinnett Humane Society

Atlanta Broadway Series invites you to experience a delicious scoop of “101 Smiles,” the Dalmatian-inspired flavor offered by Jake’s Ice Cream in honor of “The 101 Dalmatians Musical.” The ice cream expert will be on hand to serve up this spotted treat beginning at 1 p.m. and continuing throughout the “The 101 Dalmatian Musical” Send-Off Spectacular on November 1. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Gwinnett Humane Society.

101 Smiles, Jake’s Ice Cream
Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Large Chocolate Chips
$4 a cup, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting Gwinnett Humane Society

Sunday, November 1, 2009, 1 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30339770-916-2800

Bring the family together for a fun-filled afternoon that satisfies their sweet tooth while benefitting Gwinnett Humane Society. Event entry is FREE; however, tickets to the show must be purchased. There’s still time to get great seats at http://www.ticketmaster.com/, by calling 800-982-2787 or at the Cobb Energy Centre box office. Prices start at $15.
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A "RAIN"-y night in Georgia...

I have a confession to make... I've never been a huge fan of the Beatles. Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike the Beatles music, in fact I enjoy it. I'm just not one who knows the words, knows any trivia or keeps (or kept) up with their "doings".

However, last night I went to see "RAIN - A Tribute to the Beatles" at the Fabulous Fox Theatre and found myself standing up with the rest of the crowd cheering, clapping and singing along. I enjoyed every single minute of their tribute to the group that changed music as we know it forever.

Every Beatles song RAIN sang evoked a memory and I realized just how much the Beatles tunes have been a part of my life, even without being a die-hard fan. The "concert" was a fun-packed trip down memory lane.

It was a fabulous concert! I heard the true Beatles fans raving about it and saw at least three generations of concert-goers "come together" in laughter, joy and musical appreciation. Everyone was on their feet, singing along at times, clapping, and yes, sometimes dancing.

I got a kick out of watching the old commercials and other snippets of history that played on the screens beside and behind RAIN. It's hard to believe how much has changed since the Beatles first stepped into the limelight.

This is one Fox show that should be on everyone's must-see list. Unfortunately, you only have a few days to slide it into your schedule.

Parents, it's one that you can bring your children to see, too. Share a part of your past and use it as a way to open a dialogue about your past and the world's history if you want to take it that far... If not, just enjoy the music.

It's fun --- RAIN - A Tribute to the Beatles does a great job of capturing the look, feel and talent of the original fab-four. For all those who weren't lucky enough to see the original Beatles in concert, this is the closest you'll ever come to getting a sense of what it was like when they moved onto the world stage back in the 60's.

RAIN will play the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta from October 6-11, 2009. Performances are Tuesday-Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 2 pm and 8 pm and Sunday at 1:30 pm and 7 pm. Tickets are on sale NOW at all Ticketmaster outlets, at 800-982-2787 and online at www.ticketmaster.com. Ticket prices range from $20 and up. Special group rates are available through the Fox Group Sales Dept. at 404-881-2000.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Change your view of the world... read "The Kite Runner"

Sometimes books can powerfully change the way you view certain aspects of your world. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was such a book for me.

I'll confess, when a friend of mine sent me Klaled Hosseini's two books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, I wasn't particularly looking forward to reading them. She had spoken glowingly of both books earlier and included a note in the books telling me that The Kite Runner was the first, but if I only had time for one to please read A Thousand Splendid Suns. My genre of choice in reading is usually mystery, science fiction and similar. However, timing is everything and I ran out of books the day after I received the pair. I figured I'd give them a shot. I hate to start with the second in what I thought at the time was a series, so I picked up The Kite Runner thinking I'd force myself to get through it if needed (that written by a person who would read a shampoo bottle if nothing else were available...).

To steal a partial line from Hosseini's second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which I have just begun... I read with enchantment.

When I put the book down I had a different view of my world. I spent half a lifetime in someone else's shoes and my own shoes didn't quite fit the same.

Hosseini drew me into the mind of young Amir giving me glimpses of life in Afghanistan before the Taliban, the Russians and others changed an entire culture. I saw the United States through Amir's eyes as he and his father adjusted to the loss of more than just a comfortable way of life. The book carried me through roughly thirty years of tumultuous and sometimes horrific history, past September 11th, then back around to a bit of hope.

The Kite Runner is more than just a story about a changing world, it's a story of relationships and growth. It's simply written yet powerfully riveting. It slightly knocked my comfortable world of it's axis a bit, giving me a little bit better understanding of another culture on a personal level.

Hosseini is an excellent storyteller. After reading The Kite Runner, I can't imagine that A Thousand Splendid Suns could be better, but I'm in the process of finding out! I'm on page 5, I'll let you know what I think when I finish.

The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini
Riverhead Books
Published by the Penguin Group

Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: Other Places - A Family's World War II Experience in Germany and the US

Author Ria Veeren takes readers back to World War II and the struggles of one Dutch family in Other Places. The story is her story as she tells of her immigration to America in 1948 and also of the events which led to her immigration.

Of interest in the book are parts of her family's life in Holland and in Germany during World War II and her father's role in providing for his family during a time of war. Excerpts from her father's, Jack Veeren, diary will appeal to those who have an avid interest in history. The elder Veeren, a photographer, served as in interpreter for the Americans immediately after the war.

Those of who have never lived through a war or have the memories shared by the greatest generation will benefit from learning about the effects of a war on everyday people. Other Places is this experience for one family and worth reading.

Staff Report

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Book Review: defining Twilight; Enticing Teens to Learn

"Quick," I said to my teenager. "Define futilely." The eyes that bore back into mine were blank, almost oblivious to my question. "Are you woolgathering?"

"What is this?", asked the teenager who was now experiencing grave misgivings over the decision to walk in to the room with me as I sat reading.

So began my excursion into defining Twilight by Brian Leaf, a delightful book chock full of vocabulary words. What's the deal?

The Twilight book series by Stephenie Meyer has been the latest rage among teens and young adults for a couple of years now. The movie is seen on a regular basis at my house as others descend in droves. The books are so popular that I've walked in and found the teens playing Twilight Trivia or reciting favorite lines of the movie. The books are kept close as a reference so the kids can be sure of their facts.

I admit I had seen the movie, but had not taken time to actually read the book. When asked to review defining Twilight, I knew I had to bite the bullet and jump head first into the land of chaste vampires. The Twilight book was fun to read, and it was full of wonderful words not commonly used by teens today. Do they understand the meanings?

Enter Leaf's defining Twilight, and it's a match made perfect for any student studying to take one of the college entrance exams. Leaf has provided an entertaining way to use the Twilight book as an aid to learning vocabulary. It's a great concept. Read the page in the book, and define the word. There are also quick exercises to use to complement learning the definitions.

It sure beats digging out the old Digests I had to use when I was studying for the SAT. Perhaps I would have scored better on the standardized tests of my day if someone had made learning the vocabulary more pertinent to the times.

Leaf will release his second book in the Defining series in October. I can't wait to see the words he defines and introduce them to my teen.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

You really do have "Fun at The Fred"

Two for One tickets for Peter Cetera (tonight) at www.FayetteFrontPage.com

The Fred? What's a Fred you ask? "The Fred" is short for the Frederick Brown Jr Amphitheater in Peachtree City, Georgia. It's an outdoor amphitheater with a fantastic sound system, tables, food, regular and lawn seating and a great line up of concerts every year.

This year Kenny Loggins, LeAnn Rimes, Get Back! (the cast of Beatlemania), The Beach Boys, The Spinners, The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, Hippiefest (4th annual), Peter Cetera and Amy Grant are and were part of the line-up.

Tonight is Peter Cetera's final night at The Fred. I went last night and was surprised. I like Chicago and I like Peter Cetera, but wasn't jumping up and down about seeing him. My mistake... it was a great, absolutely first-rate, concert.

Not only is his voice in tip-top condition, but the songs he's written are amazing. I had no idea he had touched so many in his career.

It's interesting going to concerts of some of the "oldies" (not that there's anything old about Cetera!). I love going to the concerts, but many didn't do much after their peak back in the 70's or 80's or whenever. The concerts are like a walk down memory lane. Loads of fun, but nothing new. Sometimes you can really tell that the voices have had some wear and tear, songs are changed slightly to accommodate aging voices.

None of that is true with Cetera. His voice got stronger as the night went on. He has continued to be "more than Chicago" through the years and has a prominent solo career. I had forgotten how many songs he has done!

The band and backup singers with him last night were stellar. I would buy a CD by his female singer, Kim Keyes. Phenomenal talent! Ditto Bruce Gaitsch, lead guitar. He does an outstanding song about 3/4 of the way through the concert that I'll buy if it's on a CD somewhere. Every band member is a stand-alone great talent... put them together, add Peter Cetera into the mix and WOW!

There are still tickets for tonight's concert. If you go to www.FayetteFrontPage.com you'll see two links on the front page for 2-for-1 tickets! What a bargain...

p.s. yours truly had backstage passes so I had my picture made with Cetera. Good looking guy... from all angles

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Last night for Hippifest and it's a must-be-there-event!!!

No matter where you are in Atlanta... no matter where you are in the state of Georgia... hop into your VW or your van and head to Peachtree City for Hippiefest!!!

Tonight is the last night of this jam-packed musical night of flat out fun, fun, fun. Humor, history and loads of surprisingly good music will keep you swaying, clapping and singing along until the end.

Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night fame ends the show with his powerful voice singing One (is the loneliest number), Joy to the World (Jeremiah was a bullfrog...), and other songs you'll instantly recognize and love, no matter what your age.

Flo & Eddie of Turtles fame host the event and then, right before Negron, they wow you with some of the very memorable Turtles hits.

Mitch Ryder had everyone up on their feet... think CC Rider and other great Detroit Wheels rock n' roll music.

I'd love to have heard more from Badfinger! They had loads of hits and unfortunately we only heard a few. Of course, that was true of all the bands on tap last night at the first Hippiefest show in Peachtree City at The Fred.

Who doesn't remember Brewer & Shipley's "One Toke Over the Line"? They open the show, and start everyone rockin'.

The only problem I had with the entire show is there's a bit of downtime between each act. The momentum gets revved up and then there's peace and quiet for just long enough to lose the high. Oh man, does that ever remind you of the 60's and 70's? I went with my two sisters and we made quite a few jokes about that one... Granted we were just babes back when some of this music was popular, but we still grew up listening to it all and could sing every word (thankfully it was loud or those around us would have cleared out.... singing is not one of our better talents).

Dig out your tie-dye, bell bottoms, head bands, scarf tops, platform shoes, dangling jewelry or whatever you have that reminds you of the 70's*, then pack your cooler (food, beer & wine allowed) and go to The Fred tonight. The only allowable excuse for NOT going is if you happen to have tickets to see GREASE with Taylor Hicks at the Fox.

Psychedelic. Flower Power. Peace. Love... and all that stuff.

Tickets at www.amphitheater.org or call The Fred Box office at 770-631-0630.

*there's a good mix of those who get in the mood and dress up, and those who come in regular style dress. It's an outdoor concert and a beautiful venue. Food and beverages are available. Tickets are still available. Bring your blanket and sit on the lawn!

http://www.fayettefrontpage.com/arts/09/8-3-09_hippifest.html

For more information, please see the tour's official site at www.hippiefest.net. (I'm getting on the list so I'll be sure to find out where Hippiefest 2010 is going to be... )

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Chang chang ah chang-itty chang shoo bop

Grease... had me a blast!

First, before I forget, here's a BIG tip if you're one of those that likes to sneak out when the play ends and the clapping starts: Don't. Do not leave. Stick around.

Hint as to why: Later today I'm heading to the store to buy Taylor Hicks' new CD.

OK, now that I have that out of the way, here's my thoughts on Grease at the fantastically Fantabulous Fox Theater in Atlanta.

It was good, you know what I mean? (are you saying, tell me more, tell me more?)

What a way to celebrate the end of our long summer nights and the beginning of school!

'Nuff, I'm going to stop trying to pull in the catchy, memorable lyrics from songs and just give you the scoop. It was fun, even before the 8 o'clock official start of the play. Another hot tip: Do not be late, be in your seats early or you'll miss some cool action.

I would recommend that you not see the movie prior to seeing the play as it's hard not to make comparisons. The play is slightly different from the movie version, although similar enough that you'll enjoy even if you're a movie-version Grease fanatic.

Also, if you're like me, you "hear" the songs as sung by John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John and friends when watching the play. They're not identical and shouldn't be. Think of Travolta and Newton-John on music steroids. The Grease cast have polished, strong, voices and they shine.

This is a sanitized version of the original stage musical Grease by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. If you'd like to find out more about the history and understand why the play differs just a bit from the movie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grease_(musical) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grease_(film).

Taylor Hicks of American Idol fame does a superb job as "Teen Angel", the role originally played by Frankie Avalon. He won't be in every show, so if you're going because Hicks' name is included, be sure to check. I noticed that some of the people around us where there simply because Taylor Hicks had a role. It's great that his participation is introducing some to the theater. I heard a number of people say they wished he had a bigger role or had more songs in the musical. His inclusion was definitely a high point!

Grease is great. One of the many things I loved was the interaction the actors had with the audience. By the end of the show even the most staid, regardless of age, were clapping and moving with the music.

I'm always awed when I encounter great talent. Everyone in Grease deserves a standing ovation. I highly recommend the show --- tickets are still available and well worth the expense.

My laugh lines are a little deeper, the music is still running through my head and I have a new CD to purchase...
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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Oh, What a Night!

I had a huge problem with Jersey Boys, The story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons.

Huge.

Monumental.

Rather than bore you with a long explanation I'll be brief:
It ended.
I had to leave.
The singing stopped.
The fun fizzled.

I hated to leave.

I wanted it to keep going. I wish I were in the theater watching it again right now.

I can't remember enjoying a play as much as I enjoyed Jersey Boys in years, if ever.

I found it difficult to be "proper" and sit when what I really wanted was to be in the aisle dancing. I could tell I wasn't the only one itching to stand, to dance, to sing along, to move! If just one person had been brave enough to get things moving, I know the entire theater would have been on their feet throughout the entire performance!

Sometimes it's difficult to make the leaps that some plays make jumping from one song to the next. It's as though they made up something just so they could get a song in and it just doesn't flow. Jersey Boys was seamless.

It was amazing how well the play moved and how clearly it conveyed the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons using their own music. Every little bit of the play was perfect in my estimation.

Jersey Boys, The story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons is playing at the Fabulous Fox Theatre through June 21st. If you love theater and you love music, this play is one you can't miss. Beg, cajole, borrow, give up your lunches to pay for a ticket, do whatever you have to, but make sure you see this one!

Want to learn more? http://www.jerseyboysinfo.com/ or http://www.foxtheatre.org/.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Not so Happy Days at the Fox Theatre

I give Happy Days 2.5 out of 5 possible paloozas.

Have you ever seen a movie that depicted people at a show getting up and leaving because it was so bad? Last night at the Fox Theatre I experienced it in "real life" for the first time. And yes, I felt horrible knowing the actors in the new musical had poured so much into the play. I can't imagine how it felt to those on stage to see the theater partially empty out while you were singing and acting your heart out.

Fortunately for those on stage the fault was not theirs. Hopefully they didn't take it personally, although how could they not?

During the first act I struggled to hear the words from the stage. I thought it was MY hearing! I would hear some in the audience laugh at a quip I'd missed and it confirmed that I needed to get my hearing checked. I spent a portion of the first act trying to decide how I'd feel about wearing a hearing aide. I thought about the commercials with the earpiece that looked like a bluetooth phone, wondering if that would help me distinguish words.

I kept looking around to see if anyone else seemed to be having difficulty. No, everyone appeared to be politely, intently, listening.

It wasn't until intermission that the irritation of my fellow theater-goers erupted. I wasn't alone. My hearing hadn't deteriorated to the point where I couldn't hear well!

As I walked around I overheard bits and pieces of conversations. Some were, like me, relieved to discover they didn't have a hearing problem. Others were cornering ushers to ask how they could get a refund. Some wanted tickets to another play in exchange. Many headed out the doors.

I happened upon a beleaguered someone I assumed was the Fox Theatre manager surrounded by a small group. He explained that the theatrical group opted to use their own production equipment rather than the Fox Theatre equipment. I felt bad for him, too. I would not have wanted to be the one trying to placate patrons who were used to Fox Theatre quality.

He assured those listening that those backstage had been told. I didn't pick up WHEN they were notified. If it was during rehearsal and they ignored the warning, a pox on them! If they only discovered the problem during the first act, that was a bit more understandable. However, I would have stopped the play at whatever point notified and fixed it. They didn't.

Patrons don't care who created the problem, nor does it help the Fox. People associate bad sound with the play AND the theatre. I hope that the Fox will consider changing their policies to require groups to use their equipment.

We decided to tough it out and watch the remainder of the play, hoping the sound would be fixed. Many didn't stay. Randomly looking around it looked like up to a third of the audience cleared out during intermission.

The problems with the equipment had not been fixed.

As the play continued more and more people got up and left. I saw people texting messages and playing with their phones rather than watching the play. One older gentleman who should have known better rudely answered his phone and started talking. He walked up the aisle with his companion and I overheard him saying "No we're leaving, the play isn't very good."

I shushed him, after all we were trying, trying desperately, to listen to the play.

I imagine they must have been scrambling to fix the equipment during the first part of the second act as toward the end one person's voice after another became clearer. By the end of Happy Days we could all miraculously understand what was happening on stage!

As I discovered, finally, the actors could sing. In some cases, exceptionally well. It's a shame their talents were muffled due to technical problems.

I hate to judge a play that I couldn't hear well as I know it probably colored my overall feelings. Typically good theater grabs you and wraps you into the story and the music. This one didn't. Even without the sound equipment problems I'm not sure it would be a play I would give a palooza about.

None of the songs were the kind you'd remember. Even those designed to engage the audience, inviting clapping along, didn't. In one scene James Dean and Elvis visit the Fonz. A choir of clapping singers join in, swaying with the beat of the music. Typically I'd be the first to start clapping along. No interest. It was as though the audience were sitting on their hands.

I had a tough time with the story line. Bolero dressed tough-guy wrestlers? A Fonz who was only tough for the first part of the show? Yes, I know in the "real" Happy Days series the Fonz ended up changing his ways and teaching school (or so I've been told), but I only remember the "cool" Fonz.

I talked to a few people about the story line since last night and they assured me it was faithful to the Happy Days television series, so chances are it was just me. I'm not a big television watcher so don't take my criticism of the story line to heart or let it keep you from going to see the play if given the opportunity.

It's highly possible that I'd have an entirely different take on the production if I'd been able to hear the quips, had not missed many of the words and had been able to enjoy the superb voices I heard toward the end throughout.

Again, I feel bad for those who shared their wonderful talents with such enthusiasm last night. Have you ever been to a play where the audience didn't give a standing ovation at the end? Only about a third of the audience stood up, and all of those who did were in the back middle area. That's where I heard the laughs coming from during the play, too. It made me wonder if they were the only ones who heard the actors clearly. If so, maybe that group who loved the play is the gauge you should use when considering whether to give Happy Days a try.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spamalot is a Whole Lotta Hot!

Monty Python's Spamalot is not for the faint of heart who adhere to "pc" rules. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is politically correct about this hold-your-sides-laughing spoof on everything sacred and non-sacred.

The Knights of the Round Table led by Richard Chamberlain as King Arthur ride off into complete craziness in their search for the possibly holy grail. Chamberlain gives a standing-ovation performance as he first searches for his knights then goes of on the quest after a brief sojourn in Camelot.

The Lady of the Lake, Merle Dandridge, is outstanding! Her powerful voice was the highlight of the entire play. Her strong list of credits are a testament to her versatility and phenomenal talent.

We noted that a number of people around us knew the various character's words by heart showing that this absolutely zany play has a strong following. While it did distract from the play, and I didn't feel the need to be enlightened as to what was going to happen next by some, it is a testament to just how addictive Spamalot can be!

I can't remember ever laughing as much at a play. A few of us were discussing it afterwards and trying to come up with a good way to explain what we'd just seen. How do you explain anything Monty Python? Many have tried.

The play is based on Python's very popular movie by the same name. If you liked the movie, you'll love the play. If you didn't like the movie, you'll still like the play.

You'll want to Monty Python's Spamalot again, mainly because the zingers come so quickly you'll have to go a second time to catch the ones you missed.

Atlanta Broadway Series
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
March 17 - 22
http://www.montypythonsspamalot.com/

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