Thursday, January 18, 2018

Bright Star at PTC

When I went to New York almost two years ago there was one night when the group didn't have theatre tickets together and we were free to get tickets on our own.  I thought about Waitress (which I eventually saw with my friend Esther) and I also thought about Bright Star because I had heard so many great things about it.  But then Hamilton became a possibility and that eclipsed everything else!  Of course, seeing the original cast of Hamilton on Broadway was a dream come true but there was a little part of me that regretted the fact that I didn't get a chance to see Bright Star.  Little did I know that the show would be coming to Salt Lake City so soon and that almost the entire cast would be reprising their roles from the Broadway production, including the incomparable Carmen Cusack as Alice Murphy!  It is fantastic and to say that I loved it would be an understatement.  Featuring music and lyrics by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, the story takes place in North Carolina during the 1920s and just after World War II.  After returning from the war, Billy Cane (A.J. Shively) briefly returns to his small town and his childhood friend Margot (Maddie Shea Baldwin) but he decides to try writing for a magazine in Asheville and meets the uptight editor, Alice Murphy, who once made Hemingway cry.  When the magazine staff tease Alice about her boring existence, we see her (literally) transform into a wild and rebellious girl in love with Jimmy Ray Dobbs (Patrick Cummings).  The narrative goes back and forth from one timeline to the other as Alice learns to deal with heartache and loss and Billy learns the importance of home and the one who really loves him.  There is a plot twist that I predicted almost immediately but I was still completely engaged with the story because the performances are wonderful and the bluegrass music is incredible!  The song "Please Don't Take Him" brought tears to my eyes and I do not know how Cusack can sing it with such emotion night after night.  I think my favorite song in the show is "Asheville" because it is sung by a girl who is worried that the boy she loves will forget all about her when he goes to the big city.  Baldwin fills it with such longing and I liked how the song is staged.  In fact, the staging of the entire show is extremely clever with the ensemble cast moving props and scenery on and off stage seamlessly.  Finally, the band, sitting in a rustic cottage that is moved to various places on stage, is superb.  I especially enjoyed the fiddle solos played by Martha McDonnell.  Pioneer Theatre Company is only the third regional theater to produce this musical and I consider myself lucky to get to see such an amazing cast right here in SLC!  I highly recommend seeing this show, but you better hurry because tickets are going fast!  The rush pass line was the longest I've seen for any show at PTC (Including Newsies!).  Go here for tickets and information.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Post

Since yesterday was a day off from school I decided to see The Post and it is simply marvelous.  Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) is the only female publisher of a newspaper after taking over the Washington Post from her deceased husband.  She feels inadequate and often defers to the powerful men around her, including her editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks).  A source gives the New York Times documents chronicling the clandestine policies of four administrations in Vietnam.  When the New York Times receives an injunction against publishing any more stories, a reporter from the Washington Post goes after the source and also receives the documents.  Katharine Graham must balance her friendship with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) along with her fears about the reaction of investors after taking the newspaper public not to mention the possibility of committing a felony against the freedom of the press.  In one of the most powerful scenes in the movie, she overrules all of the powerful men around her and decides to publish.  This movie is slow and the Supreme Court case upholding the freedom of the press is almost an afterthought but there are a few things that make this film absolutely brilliant.  First, it taps into the zeitgeist of our current times.  Although set in 1971 this movie may as well be about the attempts of the press to hold our current administration accountable.  Second, I love that the film emphasizes the difficulties faced by a woman in a position of power.  Time and time again we see Graham enter a room filled entirely of men and there is a particular scene where Graham is relegated to the living room with all of the wives of powerful men while they stay in the dining room to discuss business that really angered me.  However, the powerful scene where Graham tells her Chairman of the Board that the paper belongs to her and a scene where she walks down the steps of the Supreme Court with women looking to her as a role model made me want to cheer out loud!  Finally, the performances of both Streep and Hanks are just superb as are those in the all-star ensemble cast including Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Paulson, Tracy Letts, and Bradley Whitford among others.  Steven Spielberg has done it again and I highly recommend this movie!

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Yesterday I had the opportunity to see The Treasure of the Sierra Madre for the first time on the big screen in honor of its 70th Anniversary.  I love being able to see these classic movies as they were meant to be seen and this one about greed and betrayal is spectacular.  Frank Dobbs (Humphrey Bogart) and Bob Curtain (Tim Holt) are down and out in Tampico, Mexico in the 1920s when they meet an old prospector (Walter Huston) full of wild stories about the fortune to be made in the mountains.  Dobbs and Curtain decide to put in with him and they endure many hardships before finding the mother lode.  Even after acquiring enough gold for all three of them to live comfortably for the rest of their lives they still want more and soon begin to distrust each other.  When a stranger happens upon their mine they contemplate killing him rather than take him on as a partner.  After fighting off a group of bandits they decide to close down the mine but Dobbs turns against them in one of the most ironic endings I've ever seen.  This movie does move at a very slow pace but the point is not really the adventure but what the adventure does to the men and this theme is very compelling.  Bogart gives an incredible performance as a man slowly driven mad by his own greed and I also really enjoyed Huston as the grizzled old prospector, especially when he does his famous jig when they discover gold.  This movie also includes one of the most famous lines when a bandit says, "We don't need no badges.  I don't have to show you any stinking badges."  My Dad quotes this line to me all of the time but I never knew what it meant.  Now I do!  This is a fantastic movie and I recommend seeing it on the big screen.  You have another opportunity on Jan. 17 (go here for tickets).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Call Me By Your Name

Several of my friends saw Call Me By Your Name at Sundance last year and were blown away by it so I have been eagerly anticipating its wide release for what seems like such a long time!  I finally got to see it last night because Salt Lake Film Society brought it to SLC a week earlier than planned.  This film left me an emotional mess and I'm pretty sure that I will be seeing it several more times.  Elio Perlman (Timothee Chalamet) is spending the summer in Northern Italy with his family when Oliver (Armie Hammer), a doctoral student, comes to stay to assist his father (Michael Stuhlbarg), who is a professor of archaeology.  Elio develops feelings for Oliver and awkwardly tries to gauge his feelings, even beginning a relationship with a girl (Esther Garrel) to make him jealous.  The scenes between Elio and Oliver are long and drawn out but they are fraught with so much tension (Chalamet and Hammer have unbelievable chemistry) until they finally begin a physical relationship.  Eventually, Oliver must go home which leaves Elio brokenhearted but, in what is arguably the best scene in the film, his father tells him that it is better to feel sad than to feel nothing at all and that he should be grateful to have had such a special relationship because they are rare.  In my opinion this is one of the best coming of age films about first love ever made and, if you have ever loved someone that you can't be with, you definitely need to see it.  I started crying when Elio says goodbye to Oliver at the train station and I was a complete mess by the end credits. Timothee Chalamet is absolutely brilliant in this role and, as much as Gary Oldman impressed me as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour, I think Chalamet is deserving of the Oscar for the final shot alone.  His quiet restraint as he cries after hearing some devastating news simply shattered me.  The cinematography is beautiful, almost making the lush countryside a character itself, and, while I loved the songs by Sufjan Stevens which are so evocative, the use of "Love My Way" by The Psychedelic Furs pretty much did me in (it is a favorite from my youth and many memories came rushing back to me of high school).  It is an amazing film and I highly recommend it!

Note:  If I had seen this before the end of the year, my Top Ten list would be different.  This film is definitely up there with A Ghost Story and Personal Shopper.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fischer Conducts Rachmaninoff & Stravinsky

Most Friday nights you can find me at Abravanel Hall attending a Utah Symphony concert.  I go so often that the ushers recognize me and one even called me by name last night!  She explained to the couple ahead of me in line, in minute detail, where they were sitting but when I presented my ticket she greeted me like a long lost friend and said that I certainly didn't need any help finding my seat!  It made me laugh!  How could I miss a concert featuring Rachmaninoff?  This is the third concert this season to feature one of my very favorite composers and I couldn't be happier.  Last night's concert began with Funeral Song by Stravinsky.  Thierry Fischer addressed the audience for the second week in a row (I find him to be utterly charming) to tell us that this is the first time that the orchestra has ever played this piece in Abravanel Hall.  Stravinsky wrote it in honor of Rimsky-Korsakov and I loved it because it was very somber and atmospheric.  Next came Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 1. Squeal!  I love this piece so much because it is so dramatic and emotional.  The orchestra was joined by Stephen Hough on piano and he was absolutely brilliant!  I loved watching his fingers fly across the keyboard!  After the intermission the orchestra played The Firebird by Stravinsky.  This was commissioned by Serge Diaghilev for the Ballet Russes and tells the story of how Prince Ivan spares the life of the Firebird and, in gratitude, it returns when summoned by Ivan to defeat the evil Koschei the Immortal.  There were supertitles projected on the screen to tell the story but I could understand what was happening just by listening to the music because it evoked so many images, especially during the "Infernal Dance."  I really liked the themes played by the flute (to me the flute represented the Firebird), the use of three harps to create a magical world, and a trumpet fanfare performed from the balcony.  Once again, it was a wonderful concert and I definitely recommend getting a ticket to tonight's performance (go here for tickets).
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