Monday, September 21, 2009

September: Awe -- August: Osage County

Yipes, I'm still reeling from the psychological onslaught that was August: Osage County. At the Ahmanson, we had prepared ourselves for a 3-1/2 hour night. (Two intermissions? Was this Wagner?) I assure you, it flies by quickly. I really enjoyed myself, but as with any good dramas, was left to ponder and wonder about life.

I winced here and there at some of the language, as I wondered if some of the audience would prove unable to tolerate such saltiness. But the play takes place in rural Oklahoma. Real people can be puritanical and polite, and they can be vituperative and nasty. In this play, you get Jerry Springer redux.

When it comes to wincing, however, the language pales in comparison to the melodramatic, soap opera stunts in the plotline. These people do it all. We see dish-throwing, yes, but that's the fun part. We cover death, alcohol, sexual traumas, adultery, sibling rivalry, racism, mental impairment, battery, drugs, and Florida.

In many ways, the play is quite tough on women. Except for the housekeeper, all the women in this play have character flaws that create and sustain their misery. Yes, their weaknesses drive the play on all cyclinders, but one can't help but wonder why the women are held to such a miserable place in life.

Of course, Estelle Parson steals every stinking scene she's in. Everyone makes a fuss about her running about and down the stairs, and yes, 82 year olds don't usually do that. But I was amazed by her verbal agility. She was so in control of her character!

The eldest daughter was, to me, the most interesting character. She was strong but weak, in love but hateful. How conflicted she, as an everywoman, seemed!

The father and son character seemed genuinely open and caring. They wore their weaknesses on their sleeves and stood strongly against attacks from others. The other two male characters were weak, yes, but they seemed able to attribute their problems to the influence of drugs and alcohol. The women were left with nothing to blame but themselves.

The housekeeper was a fascinating character. She comes off slow and simple. She is here because she has no choice: she needs the money. But surprisingly, given the antics of the
families, she's the hare to the rabbits around her. She's attentive, caring and is the base of stability, with a wonderful heroic turn towards the end. She said all of 50 words all night, but the play would have been unbearable without her.

I admit that I thought that the soap opera elements would be most irritating. They were manipulative, yes, but unlike daytime dramas, the gimmicks aren't there to move the story along. They're in this play to give us an opportunity to peer into the minds and characters. It's the slowly exposing personalities that move the story along here.

And that's what makes this play so interesting. For all the yelling, cursing, blaspheming and insolence, the quiet pain and secret motivations are what speak most loudly to the viewer. The shock value of the profane is obvious, but that final, eerie scene at the top of the house - that was the most stunning and lasting image of all.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

David Cook in Concert

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

Quite fun to be there. The opening acts were wonderful and I've downloaded some of their stuff since the show.

These are the David Cook videos that I've posted here on the blog. Since there were a bunch of videos, I'm grouping them all together here in this posting.

The David Cook photos are here

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David Cook in concert - photos

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

These are the pictures that I took of David and his band that night.

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David Cook - Light On

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

In this piece, the keyboards were covered by Tony of Crash Kings.

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David Cook - Come Back to Me

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

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David Cook - Declaration

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

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David Cook - Bar-ba-sol

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

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David Cook - I Did It for You

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

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David Cook - Lie

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

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David Cook, just jamming in concert

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

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David Cook - Mr Sensitive

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

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David Cook - Heros

Saw David Cook perform on Sep 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood. His opening acts were Crash Kings and Ryan Star. We met Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay afterwards, but missed Jason Castro and Brooke White.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ryan Star opens for David Cook in Hollywood

September 9, 2009 at the Fonda in Hollywood

David Cook sang backup to Ryan Star. Ryan was an opening act for David, but they surprised the fanatical crowd by having David come out to sing a wonderful duet.

Ryan was really enjoyable. Love his sound and vocal qualities. They sang quite well together

David and Ryan Star singing together

David Cook singing backup

David and Ryan Star singing together

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Syesha, Ramiele and Mel at the David Cook concert on Sep 9, 2009

Just a picture of us from the David Cook concert in Hollywood on September 9, 2009. They look fabulous, don't they?
Sorry it's blurry, but a friend took the picture and, well, he's not a photographer by profession.

That's Syesha Mercado on the left, Ramiele Malubay in the middle, and me on the right. I couldn't find Jason Castro or Brooke White.

Keep an eye out on this blog for further pictures and comments from the David Cook concert

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Idol Degeneres


On American Idol

I was quite surprised, as were most folks who are familiar with both shows. Ellen's not a singer. Not a musician. Not a record producer.

I ponder this, since I only heard the news after I got back from the David Cook concert (and got to meet Syesha Mercado and Ramiele Malubay, too!). Check out the blog later on for photos and comments. I saw it from Twitter and Facebook, which were practically choking in shock.

Did I like it? Perhaps not at first. But that's probably because I was perplexed and, well hey, it was different. But I think it's a good match.

a. Ellen obviously loves music, like most people.
b. She's amusing to watch because she's funny. Paula was amusing to watch because she said or did funny things.
c. We'll never have to see Ellen kiss Simon Cowell (good heavens)!
d. She's a nice person.

So for American Idol, they get the following.

a. A judge who's nice (replacing the "nice" judge Paula)
b. A judge who's funny (replacing the sometimes odd and funny Paula).
c. A judge who may not be a musician but knows a lot of musicians and likes music (like Paula)
d. A judge who enjoys dancing to music (like Paula) - - can't wait to see her boogie on the show
e. A judge who brings her own huge fan base (more than Paula).

In some ways, I'm disappointed we don't get to see Ellen judge the local competitions. I can only imagine what her mugs would have looked like whenever the next aspiring William Hung sang.

But she'll bring pleasant and non-mean judging to the table, like Paula did. ("Well, you're dress is lovely" or "I love that makeup job"). I'm certain she'll be constructive in her critique, as she seems to know how to bring up touchy points during her talk show.

So brava, Ellen. Good choices all around.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Sweet! And Lo Legally Blond tastes great

Should I be surprised? The playful Legally Blond movie was so cheery and encouraging, shouldn't a staged version be equally enjoyable?

Success in one medium does no have to translate to success in a live format. Musical audiences demand non-stop, toe-tapping tunes. Musicals don't have to be bright and cheery, but the melodies need to be recognizable and evocative. Stage audiences usually have far less patience with the trite and cute. Why pay the high ticket prices when you can watch kittens frolic at home?

But Legally Blond at Hollywood's Pantages Theater was able to pull it off. The writing was fluffy, the music was sometimes corny, but overall, it worked. Here's a play where at first you may not want to root for the lead, Elle, but you've been irresistably drawn to her unfamiliar underdog position. Elle to me is both feminine and feminist, but feminist in a post-modern, acceptable to Fox News America manner.

I especially liked D.B Bonds, who played Emmett. He carried his role with just the right amount of charisma and, in his nerdier moments, awkwardness. The character was changed from the movie, with a boost to the play's basic themes. He even got what I thought was the best number, as Emmett had bee living all his young life with a chip on his shoulder.

For the movie, Elle eventually succeeded because chose to be the person she was meant to be and, somewhat, to do so in her own manner. In the play, a greater emphasis was made on the exploiting your individual strengths, character, and uniqueness, including quirky mannerisms. Emmett was goaded into success by Elle, which gave a nice complement to her own journey.

The dancing was very good, if rather frenetic. But the whirling dance routines, marred only by the oddly misplaced Irish riverdancing, needed to be wild, because the rolling music demanded it.

As noted by other critics, Reese Witherspoon as Elle is a tough act to follow. As such, one can't help but being disappointed that Elle wasn't a diva. Let's face it. This girl *must* be a diva. Whether it's the staging, the actress, the writing or her lack of show stopping numbers, Elle wasn't the diva that many of us wanted.

Though we lacked divas, we did have stage-stealers. The dog and the UPS guy, couldn't have had sappier and corny scenes, but who cares! And the various gay characters added some of that diva aspects, too, but that's still not going to catch up with Reese.

Finally, I did find that a sub-text of the show was left unexplored. We as a society were held to be rather a sad mob of the superficial. You can't succeed unless you can craft a first-impression look that dazzles. I find that disturbing, and the play didn't do enough to counter that sentiment. Yes, ultimately, inner beauty, strength and character were shown to be most important qualities, but only when brought out against the face of social pressures. Our hair-stylist and UPS guy actually offer the necessary counterweight, as they found happiness without those trappings. Sadly, it wasn't emphasized.

Will people find the musical light and forgetful? Probably, but many others can enjoy a story that's deeper than the movie and surprising in musicality.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Cal Phil Slashes Its Way to a High Note

On Saturday night July 25, the California Philharmonic (or CalPhil) hit a splendid high note. The theme for the evening (and CalPhil always has a theme in its delightful summer setting at the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia) was Swords and Chivalry.

We tore through Scotland the Brave (arranged by Vrtacnik) and danced through selections of Lerner and Loewe's soaring "Camelot". We even had a chance to listen to Michael Kamen's muscular Main Theme from "Robin Hood Prince of Thieves".

But I was blown away by the impressive Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43, from Rachmaninoff. The guest pianist was genius Robert Edward Thies, of International Prokofiev Competition fame. He showed that you could delight and restrain, express both power and romantic sensuality, masterful individualism and sensible orchestral blending. Maestro Victor Vener led the CalPhil to breath-taking levels with Thies at the keyboard. I looked around me at the other regulars at our table and could tell we were listening to something altogether special.

James Horner's Braveheart (Opening Theme and Bannockburn) came after the Intermission. We also got to listen to a traditional Highland Music and Dance, as performed by Cabar Feidh Pipe Band and Highland Dancers. Both were reasonably handled and quite popular.

I'm not certain I appreciated the Richard Wager Tristan and Isolde (Prelude and Love Death) as much as others. I found some of the pacing and retards to be unnecessarily exaggerated. I think I became convinced of my opinion when we heard Lohengrin's Prelude to Act III to wrap up the formal program, and the tempo seemed far more comfortable. In retrospect, with the brilliance of the Rachmaninoff and Thies performance, I may be more critical because I felt the bar was raised so high.

The evening ended with an encore of the bagpipes, this time doing the highly popular "Amazing Grace" arrangement. It went quite well, though I did find it odd to end the evening on such a somber note. Perhaps that's a good idea. For swords and chivalry may thematically be an assertive statement of masculinity, strength, and noble behavior, much less exhilarating music, they still suggest war, pain and death.

And as such, "Amazing Grace" may be the only way to end such a night of swords and chivalry.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Alot of Spamalot

Jaded much? Spoiled much? Spamalot?

Yup, third time to see Spamalot. First was opening month on Broadway with all the winning stars (Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce, Hank Azaria, diva Sara Ramirez). Then saw the London version a couple summers ago. This time, I caught my regular season tickets on Friday night (July 24), so I didn't have to go out of my way. Spamalot finally made its way to L.A., and I honestly wondered if they'd get it.

Of course, I also was baffled the Broadway got it. It doesn't fit the normal demographics for a Broadway show after all. Geeky guys mumbling "Ni" don't usually seek out the latest musical. But L.A. has so much of that "cool" vibe going, I thought that there might be a disconnect as well.

But there were lots of good guffaws and rolling eyes, even from the folks who like me have season tickets at the Ahmanson and will sit in on just about anything. I had to explain the Finnish jokes in the program to my partner, but other than that, it was smooth sailing.

The talented Merle Dandridge was quite good in going for that diva turn. The current incarnation of the show (since London) has the diva Lady of the Lake making a lot more musical mugshots and camping it up all over the place. I still prefer the more nuanced Ramirez performance, but Dandridge was good in doing what the director asked. She certainly has the physique and practically Norma Desmond-esque control of the stage during the Diva's Lament tune.

John O'Hurley seemed quite at ease as King Arthur, though he did succomb to the improvisation antics of Rick Holmes during the Knights of Ni scene. He should, as he's done it for a while, though the role of Arthur doesn't offer the same scene stealing opportunities as Sir Lancelot (Rick Holmes again), Sir Galahad (Ben Davis) or Sir Robin (James Beamen).

Oddly, the staging at the Ahmanson was unusually bad. You could see the backstage actors and actresses preparing for their entrances. Microphones crackled, voices sounded distant and muffled, and the kicker of it all, an enormous and well-recognized "Microsoft Windows shutdown" ditty boomed throughout the Ahmanson during the curtain call. I'm sure Eric Idle and the other Monty Python crew would have found that error ironic if not amusing given we just saw a show that took place during Middle Ages.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

American Idols Live 2009 Tour - Ontario California July 17, 2009

Skipped the crowded and humongous L.A. Staples Center this year to once again catch American Idols Live tour at a smaller, more intimate location. Had never been to the Citizen's Bank Arena in Ontario California, but will definitely return. (Hey, free parking and adjacent to a factory outlet mall - what a gem!) And wow, pretty good seats for Los Angeles.

But of course the reason we were there was to catch our American Idols. Wow! I have to say, I didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did last year, when I was a huge fan of David Cook and David Archuleta. This year, I loved the top 5 but for the most part liked almost all of the top 10.

As mentioned on other blogs, before the show started, the crowd went insane whenever Adam Lambert's name or image appeared. What a riot!

The concert had an intermission, with contestants 5-10 (bottom 6) performing in the first act. It was a pretty solid first act and one that really led me to realize that we were going to be entertained the entire night long.

Here's what I thought about the show. My pictures are at Flickr.

  • #10. Michael Sarver was loads of fun and did a good job kicking things off. He sang "I'm in Love with a Girl" and Ne-Yo's "Closer" with a really pleasing disco sound. Pretty surprising to me, that's for sure.

    Michael clip

  • #9. Megan Joy seemed ok, and better than on tv. She was the one weak point to me, but perhaps that's because she was never really one of my favorites. Her numbers were "Let Your Hair Down" and "Tears Dry on Their Own".

  • #8 Scott MacIntyre came in next with some really good-natured fun and jokes. His piano playing rocked with "Bend and Break" and "A Thousand Miles" . Really, quite entertaining. I was surprised how smooth his voice was, since he acted like he lost his way through the show.

    Scott clip

  • #7 Lil Rounds made me think, "OMG This is the woman who I thought would go deep in Idol this season but never showed up." She was awesome and she rocked. So sassy, so brassy, and so ... curvaceous. She strutted her way through "Single Ladies" that had me bouncing like a fool.

  • Lil Clip 1
  • Lil Clip 2

  • #6 First came digital clouds. Lots of them. Then came Anoop Desai's smiling face, among the clouds. Anoop's performance was sexy and R&B... And then, look out Adam. He bumped and he did some grinding. The women in the audience just went about wild. But he sure handled "Always on My Mind" and "Turn out the Lights" like the smoothest pro.

    Anoop Clip 1
    Anoop Clip 2

  • #5 Matt Giraud most assuredly proved America wrong and the judges "saved" him. We voted him out earlier, and but during this show he certainly showed how entertaining he could and should have been on tv. His keyboards were on fire as he ripped "Georgia on my mind" and "Hard to Handle".

    Matt Clip

  • We were then treated to a "bottom 6" medley that really was far better than any dance and medley number during the year. Pretty impressive! Perhaps the extra rehearsing did good!

    Medley 1
    Medley 2

  • #4 Allison Iraheta - my girl rocked and rocked. She was awesome, bouncing around on stage like some manic rock star. She burst through "Baracuda" like she was in the middle of a taped video. It was awesome and I can't wait to see her own show.

    Allison Clip 1
    Allison Clip 2
    Allison Clip 3

  • #3 Danny Gokey really got the girls in the audience screaming. I always liked Danny but I never really understood the love that he got from the women. But he did a great job with Michael Jackson's "Pretty Young Thing" and surprised me with his jacket-comes-off "Maria Maria". He did do a little sermonizing tonight, but it wasn't as odd as some bloggers were suggesting.

    Danny Clip 1
    Danny Clip 2
    Danny Clip 3

  • #2 And then ... the female vocal chords in the audience went PING. I mean, honestly, this must be what sitting in an Elvis or Beatles concert felt like. If you weren't Adam Lambert, then you were just a pretend male as far as the women in the audience were concerned. It was bizarre and exciting. He'll be a raging success some day. From my video clips, you can see green light flashes - that's where the strobe lights went berserk. Adam burned up the stage, but I still think that he did best with the song that, to me, convinced me of his star qualities: Mad World.

    Adam Clip 1
    Adam Clip 2
    Adam and Allison
    Adam Clip 3

  • #1 Kris Allen. Now there's a star. Who would want to follow Adam? Someone who knows they're good and that he's loved. His style's totally different, but wow that guys fun and talented. He played piano, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar. And that Kris kick step is pretty hot to see. Thank goodness he didn't have to sing "No Boundaries" on this tour. Instead, he reprised his awesome "Heartless" version. Even better yet, he brought out a new "All These Things That I've Done", which was drop dead fantastic. He also did "Bright Lights" and "Ain't No Sunshine" in fantastic Kris Allen style. And, as an extra wow, he started "Bright Lights" on the piano and ended it with a jam on the electric guitar. Way cool. Finally, gasp, he had the audacity to belt out a beautiful "Hey Jude", which had a rather prickly and suspicious Beatles fan like me remarkably impressed.

    Kris Clip 1
    Kris Clip 2
    Kris Clip 3
    Kris Clip 4
    Kris Clip 5

    And at the end, the entire troup came out to do one more medley. They totally danced and sang out Journey's "Don't Stop Believin" in a way that was all too perfect for this show.

    Final Medley

    Was it a good show? No doubt. I rarely think that medley concerts are fun, but for two years in a row "American Idols Live" has wowed me. Thanks for a fantastic year guys and I look forward to seeing you live solo. (Or meet up with me on September 9 when I catch David Cook solo here in Hollywood).

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  • Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Integrity Eucharist @ General Convention 2009

    As a singer, I don't usually remember most of the events or church services that I participate in. However, last Friday's service at the Episcopal church General Convention, a triennial event, struck me with particular joy and thankfulness for gifts granted to me.

    It was a Eucharist service, with communion, brought to us at the Anaheim Hilton by Integrity. It was full of ubuntu (I in you and you in me), incense, multi-culturalism, and love, and Christ. Episcopalians from across the country formed a standing room only congregation of perhaps 1600 people.

    The sermon was outstanding, brought by the Episcopal Church's first female priest, retired-Bishop of Massachusetts Barbara Harris. I have to say that as a performer, I usually put myself at length from the service, as I have to stay somewhat focused on the music. But this sermon was honestly poignant, assertive and frank. For the first time in my life, I had to restrain myself from standing and shouting "Allelujah", as I was sitting directly behind the Bishop during her sermon...

    So, since this is my entertainment blog, here's my recap of the music.

    We sang
    Wade in the Water - arranged by Carl Hayward
    Wana Baraka, - traditional Kenyan folks song arranged by Shawn Kirchner
    Sanctus - from Misa Bilingue, Kevin P Joyce
    Savior of the world, save us - Community of Taize
    Take, Oh Take me as I am - John L Bell
    Sweet Hour of Prayer - words William W Walford, Music William Bradley, arranged by James Walker
    Lead me, guide me - Dois Akers, arranged by Richard Smallwood
    Nada te turbe - Community of Taize
    Breathe on me, Breath of God - Nova Vita, Lister R Peace
    Siyahamba - South African folk song

    We also sang a processional song, along with a Cantor: Amen, we praise your name, O God, by Gobingca George Mxadana. Check out a supershort clip.

    The words were:

    Amen sia-kudu-misa! Amen sia-kudu-misa!
    Amen, ba-wo. Amen, ba-wo. Amen, sia-kudo-misa!

    The procession included drums and worked itself throughout the entire crowded ballroom.

    Here's another short musical clips I found.

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    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Next to Normal - Way beyond Normal

    The acting, the music, the staging. If Billy Elliott didn't have such a feel good story, this show would and should have swept the Tony awards.

    Breath-taking and broad at some points, claustrophobic and critical at others, Next to Normal blew me away. I somewhat expected a Rent-redux musical, but this was so much more. The story could easily have been an oh-too-predictable Oxygen or Lifetime movie of the week. Instead, we were gripped in the ever-surprising twists of this roller-coaster ride.

    And to top it all off, the music, singing and acting were all top notch.

    It's a bleak story, that doesn't seem so tough at the beginning. But stories about schizophrenia work best when you slowly realize that normal isn't really normal.

    And, yes, this is a play that had me crying during the final few minutes. Sigh.

    In some ways, the central theme of the book strikes me to carry well into non-psychotic areas as well. If "normal" cannot be achieved, then life can actually progress with love and honesty if you are willing to accept "next to normal". It's a tough lesson to learn for this family, and it certainly seems like a difficult one for American society in general to accept. I for one would love to see America look at our potpourri of peoples and issues and politics and accept that the 1950's concepts of normal just can't work anymore. Instead we need to move on in full honesty of our strengths and weaknesses, so that an almost normal life can be acceptable.

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    Diva and Divo - Swooning to Patti and Mandy

    It was a Diva-lover's night. on Thursday. Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin brought their popular show to Los Angeles' Ahmanson theater. Looking around the crowd, one could see a wide range of ages, though it definitely skewed to a more mature audience with a "broadway musical" sensibility.

    The first act was lively and a delight. There was an amusing and pleasant dance using office chairs. Vocally, I think Patti was more 'on'. Mandy, though quite a joy to watch and listen, seemed to have a thicker voice than I recall when I saw him at the Hollywood Bowl back in the mid-90s. It wasn't bad, but I think his voice is most exhilarating when leaping around doing falsetto gymnastics.

    To cap off the act was an expected populist flourish: Don't Cry for Me Argentina sung by Patti.

    The second act was dark and deep. I suspect that many in the audience may have drifted off during these still and serious moments, but I found it intense and profound. I almost regretted the eventual return to lightness.

    Overall, a serious Broadway lover's dream come true! Thank you Diva and Divo!

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    Saturday, June 20, 2009

    Dame Edna - Her First Last Tour

    Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna, rocked the Ahmanson theater Friday night. What a delight.

    Dame Edna performed with a pianist and her supposed daughter. What made this performance particularly entertaining was her relentless work with the audience. Perhaps in an homage to all that is Hollywood, she brought the audience up to sit with her on the stage and interviewed them as a talk show host. So up we welcome, Lori, Patricia, Evelyn and "Senior".

    She poked at Lori's detached house in Valencia, at Evelyn's undying giggles, at Evelyn's townhouse in Pasadena, and "Senior" for his supposed drinking ("Seniorita" of course). There were some song and dance numbers. All that between a few costume changes, no less.

    In the end, she tossed out what felt like 8 cases of gladiolas to the audience and to the ashtrays (balconies). That was an impressive backhand to get those things up there at her age (b. 1934). And in performance art fashion, she had the glads all up and dancing in an almost synchronized effort. Beautiful.

    She wrapped up her act with that dastardly agent, Barry Humphries, locking her in the dressing room and coming out on stage to steal her final bows.

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    Friday, June 19, 2009

    Performance Anxiety

    "Play Ikau..."
    "Play Feelings..."
    "Play Nadia's Theme..."

    I grew up with a mediocre piano instructor and a limited array of sheet music at my disposal. I rarely played in front of strangers and when I did, it was often filled with distress and a feeling of oppression. They were largely on occasions when my parents would "encourage" me to perform in front of others.

    Yes, this is about, performance anxiety.

    So I surprised myself when I assented to playing for the Taize service at church last night. It's not as though I don't want to participate. For the past twenty years, though, my public performances have been in music. I've sung on a Hollywood stage, at Disney Hall, in downtown L.A. churches, and in Pasadena churches. OK, so I did Dead Parrot with Michael Palin at the Royal Festival Hall in London in an ad lib fashion during a book signing. But that's it. No piano.

    I attend Taize services because I can relax and meditate, pray and reflect. It's certainly not what I experienced last night.

    The chapel was hot, as the cold wet spell in Pasadena finally gave way to more typical warm temperatures. I was uncomfortable hot. My palms got sweaty and my glasses got steamy.

    And boy was I stressed. For the first few songs, I kept losing my place in the simple chant music. It's not by all means rocket science, but it surprised me how anxious I was.

    I finally calmed down, played more straight-forward, without flourish, and all straightened up. Soon I was able to allow the music and the meditation soothe me.

    Will I do it again? Sure. I think I won't be as stressed as before. But after watching another season of American Idol where people sang as they played, and thinking of all the musician singers I've loved all these years, I've come to thoroughly appreciate the talent people have out there. What a joy and gift to be able to play multiple instruments (yes, the voicebox is an instrument that must be mastered) in front of strangers.

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    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Tony Awards

    What is it about the Tony Awards that just gets me all excited. Not sure. Certainly it had its ups and downs. Angela may own Broadway, but 3 young lads are the talk of the town... Well, so is a certain American Idol (Constantine Margoulis) who was nominated this year.

    And I thought Neil Patrick Harris was a delightfully entertaining and restrained host.

    No, I think it's the annual expose to those of us in the sticks (if Pasadena and Los Angeles can be thought of that way, then I'm sure the fine folks of Manhattan would be fine with it) to the wonders of Broadway. New shows (sometimes). New stars (perhaps). And most importantly, an emphasis on the real-time, the immediate, the unrecorded masterpiece that is live theatre.

    I love in Tinseltown and everywhere you look they're filming something. TV crews love the leafy and hilly looks of Altadena (where I live). I can't tell you how often I've seen film crews at my rather photogenic church.

    But recorded media is manipulative. You have time to correct errors, remove blemishes, obscure reality, tint anything. That's essential to its charm of course, but when I see the dancing and the drama during the Tonys, it reinforces in me my passion for live music, drama, expository, and performance.

    And hey, as though to make it more impressive, the final number had Doogie, I mean, Neil Patrick Harris singing about the memorable events and winners of the night. The verses may have been written largely ahead of time, but the assembly into a finished number had to occur during that evening.

    Now THAT'S live theatre at its best

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    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Kris Allen wins American Idol 2009 Season 8

    Post-partem and post-competition analysis

    I really enjoyed Kris Allen and Adam Lambert competition this year. In my eyes, these were the two who entertained me most thoroughly throughout the season.

    Adam was my David Archuleta for this season. Last year, the manvoice coming out of the boybody of David Archuleta was such a surprise and joy that you just had to assume he'd be in the finals, if not the winner. This year, Adam had a rockvoice coming out of a glambody and you also had to assume that his vocal gymnastics would land him a win.

    Kris was my David Cook for this season. Last year, each subsequent week had me shed my initial impression that Cookie was a mass murderer punk. Week after week, he grew to me to be a gifted vocalist with a clever and fine ear to popular taste. Kris's almost non-existent coverage (except for the "white chocolate" quartet during group rounds) didn't even allow us to register him on our radar, except as that cute twink. But like Cookie, he showed week after week to have an interesting and savvy ear for popular taste.

    And like last year, I ended up voting for the creative person who grew on me. It's an odd thing to select someone who may show star quality right away. First impressions truly are very important. But the reason I preferred last year's method of selecting the final 12 to this year's method was that we grew familiar and fond of certain performers. It was a way to bond with them, to like them.

    The best part of these 4 hombres is that they appear humble yet confident. That's not just a sure vote getter, but it's also encouraging that nice people can do well in entertainment.

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    Tuesday, May 19, 2009

    Finals - American Idol - 2009 May 19

    Here we are! Pins and needles all day, wondering how entertained I was going to be by these two boys. I wanted Allison, Kris and Adam in the final 3 and am glad that I got two of my three in here.

    First we'll have Adam Lambert of San Diego. Next we'll have Kris Allen of Arkansas.

    First, Thanks for the excellent season in review Jim. Those were pretty close to my thoughts it looks like.

    Here we go! Live from my hotel room in Chicago (and not back in Los Angeles)

    7:00 OK, so we didn't have that totally cheesy boxing comparison like last year. At least they acknowledged the many people who competed leading up to this night this year.

    7:02 According to Ryan, it's Acoustic Rocker versus Glam Rocker, Conway versus California, the Guy-Next-Door versus the Guyliner

    7:03 Simon's wearing his end-of-season suit.

    7:04 Lots of famous folks in the audience. Each guy sings three times. They sing a Kara song, a song picked by Simon Fuller and then a song of their choice. Now, a long commercial

    7:09 Adam as a kid - he was hyper and loud? Really?

    7:10 Mad World in the blue light AND fog AND the staircase. And in a majorly 1980s sort of trenchcoat. Man this is an awesome and intense song. I love this - so glad he's reprising it. The extra production stuff added isn't to my taste but his vocals are so lush and beautiful! Not an easy number to top at all.

    7:12 Randy is in a heck of a suit combo. Kara said blahblah. Surprise, Paula is proud of Adam.

    7:14 Simon thought he was over-theatrical? Hmmmmm, why did he start with a diss of Adam? Last year, he gave all the props to Archie and America picked David Cook.

    7:15 Kris is re-singing Ain't No Sunshine! Surprised me on this one, as I thought he'd do Falling Slowly - but it was his first real dark horse number. Such a huge contrast between this and Adam. Huuuuuge retard on the beginning. Tied to the piano and not roaming, no fog machine like Adam. Ooh, he's mixing up the tempo and going major emo the interpretation! And he's showing his falsetto, too.

    7:18 Randy loved that performance as one of Kris's best. Ditto Kara. Paula said he's a great artist. Simon believes that Kris truly belongs on this stage after that last performance. Wow, where's the ovation?

    7:21 Ryan forces the issue. Simon calls Round 1 to Kris. Commercial

    7:25 Adam sings Change is Going to Come, as picked by Simon Fuller. Wow, totally done with a huge R&B sound. Lots of amazing falsettos and scales. Incredible rich sound and amazing vocal play.

    7:28 Randy kissed his butt. Kara kissed his butt. Paula kissed his butt. His iconic butt. Simon thinks Adam is 100% back in the game. Man that trenchcoat really bugged Simon.

    7:30 Commercial

    7:35 Kris Allen now is singing Simon Fuller's choice (What's Going On, Marvin Gaye), with a guitar and and his trio of bongos and guitar. Love the relaxed and groovy sound. This is really showing how we will have a recognizable sound coming from him professionally soon.

    7:38 Randy thought it was just ok. Kara thought it was just ok. Paula loved it. Simon thought it was inadequate for this round in the finals.

    7:39 Simon gives this round resoundingly to Adam

    7:42 The semifinalists are brought back together

    7:43 Now, we're going to hear Kara's song, No Boundaries. Something's wrong with Adam's mike I think - Sound's weird. Gasp, is it Adam? Nice rock sound. No screaming at all tonight. Really comes off like a rock anthem. Something Queen could have done. Only problem is the song's an emotional, melodic, rhythmic dud. It stinks. It's a shame Adam has to carry it out to us.

    7:47 Randy loves Adam but thought he was pitchy. Kara is thankful that he sang her song. Paula is awed by Adam. Simon said he thought Adam sang like he's this year's winner.

    7:49 Commercial

    7:53 Kris is now starting up No Boundaries. He's totally stripped the song of all the built up rock drama that Adam had. Oh he's building up. Hmmm, the only problem is that it's showing a little weakness in his voice on the scale up. I like the interpretation because I think I can remember it more (not saying much given the material). Actually, this interpretation works better for Kara's song.

    7:55 Randy thinks Kris's key might have been too high but thought the song suited him better than Adam. Kara said he should be judged on the season. Paula sort of blew a kiss at his twink look. Simon believes he deserves to be on the stage. So in other words, nobody wanted to bad mouth him. Ryan doesn't ask who won this round. To me it was a draw.

    7:58 Adam is at 866-idol-01 866-idol-03 and 866-idol-05 while kris is 866-idol-02 866-idol-04 and 866-idol-06

    7:59 Recap time.

    OK, so this was a tough one. I agree with Simon on the first two rounds. They never said who won the final round, but it sure sounded like a draw to me, based on their statements. It was also a draw to me, based on my assessments.

    OK I gotta admit, these two look really good together! Trying to keep my mind focused...

    8:00 Carrie Underwood now sings the closing. She's not in a humongous dress, but in a jeans and boots combo. She's singing Sweet Home. Now they're recapping the season visually behind her. Yikes, Tatiana! Oh no, I bet she returns tomorrow... This song really shows why we all loved Carrie a few years ago.

    And earliest headlines? Adam Lambert tops Kris Allen on 'American Idol' -- but not by much...

    Phew, what a final! Now.... Who to vote for? It really was a draw... Maybe I'll watch this new show Glee first....

    9:10 WOW, I really enjoyed the pilot of Glee. Just a (church) choir singer at heart here I guess.

    9:11 Anyway, here's how I see Idol. As I've mentioned all week, I think that Kris will get the bulk of Danny's votes. If the separation between Kris and Adam was only 1 million votes, then I think Kris will win. But, given the body of work throughout the season, I have a slightest preference for Adam. He I think has shown the most consistency and guts all year long. In the end, I will likely be downloading more Kris albums, but for this contest, I guess I have to favor Adam.

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    Wednesday, May 13, 2009

    American Idol Finalists Selected! Simon Predicts Big Ding Dong Next Week

    9:00 And this... is one of the dumbest beginnings to an American Idols show ever

    9:01 OK, at least it didn't have Seacrest trying to be all melodramatic. So not really that bad

    9:02 Show starts with 88 million votes registered. I have no idea how many I turned in.

    9:03 Ford commercial

    9:04 OK, so without a doubt, it's no wonder America's automotive companies are failing. These are the absolutely worst commercials ever. If it weren't for the opportunity for eye candy, you wonder why they even bother

    9:05 Keyes is giving a very important message about African children suffering from HIV. Text ALIVE to 90999 and you'll donate $5 to help their plight.

    9:06 A kid named to Noah is singing a song in English that he learned just this week. Interesting sound. A cross between modern American rhythms and African harmonies and phrasing.

    9:09 It's a long song. He's breaking it down now, whatever that means.

    9:10 We're up to the commercial and it's gonna be a long night.

    9:13 We watch Danny's homecoming

    9:19 We get teased because Danny is not told about his results

    9:20 Now Kris

    9:21 Free cheese dip? Scary...

    9:24 Nice homecoming

    9:25 commercial

    9:30 Jordan Sparks is doing her new song. Girl looks good.

    9:31 Nice refrain "Why does love always feel like a battlefield"

    9:33 Aww, she still has some pipes... And gams...

    9:37 Now Adam's hometown visit

    9:38 I don't want to see the streaker

    9:41 Nice to see the theater place he went to as a kid to see the children

    9:42 Huh, he went to a good high school... Well, except for the streaker

    9:42 Adam Lambert visited a Marine base? Interesting... Why do streakers love showing up at schools?

    9:44 Commercial

    9:48 Katy Perry will perform. Interesting, Adam and Kris looked relaxed and Danny's stressed. Oh Danny admits to being stressed about the wait. That's what he gets for never being in the bottom 3.

    9:49 Um, what is she wearing?

    9:52 Not exactly a memorable song. The outfit was far more memorable.

    9:56 Finally Here it is

    9:56 And the first finalist is: Kris Allen!!!! Look at the look of surprise on all the judges faces! Sorry folks, you don't know everything! Take that! Good job Kris!

    9:57 And he faces Adam Lambert!!!

    9:58 It's my matchup that I've been expecting (I wanted Allison vs Kris but was realistic because America didn't like Allison).

    9:59 We get to say goodbye to Danny and his good, predictable, unsurprising singing.

    9:59 Danny sings goodbye to everyone, as time runs out. And, of course, he sings his slow, predictable, oddly phrased lament. Admittedly, it's tough to hit those falsettos when you're choked up.

    10:00 I have to say, I hope he finally gets to grieve for his wife. He never really had enough time to grieve for her when the audition happened. I mean, come on people, it takes a while to get over that sort of thing. And now that the crass commercialization of her death is over, he can actually feel his lamentations.

    10:02 Simon didn't expect tonight. Ummm he said this could be a real big ding dong... Ummm

    10:03 Ummm

    10:04 Ummm

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    Tuesday, May 12, 2009

    Final 3 - American Idol - 2009 May 12

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    7:43 Getting ready for the show. Trying to follow the micro-blogging format for the moment. Not sure if it'll work, but hey, I'm in a hotel room and so there's not much else to do.

    7:44 So many new ways of trying out the blogging. I had a post-results blog last week.

    7:50 And this micro-blogging is very different from my past blogs. Check out last week's format, one that I've used for the past couple years.

    7:52 Start already!

    8:00 These are your top three - three unsmiling statues. stern and stoic.

    8:02 Here come the guys, and this time they're allowed to smile

    8:03 Paula picks Danny Gokey's song: "Dance Little Sister" by Terrance Trend d'Arby

    8:04 Oh he's starting it pretty upbeat. And sort of loud and breathy. Why is he so mad at his little sister? He's sort of commanding her to dance. Hmm, I miss Cookie and Archie's dancing last year.

    8:06 It was alright in energy I guess, but not particularly fun to watch. Kara said something I agree with: It wasn't something that we'd remember.

    8:07 So Paula sips the Danny juice?

    8:08 Boy the judges get alot of airtime! Danny's fanbase will vote at 866-IDOLS-01, 866-IDOLS-04 and 866-IDOLS-07.

    8:10 Finally a commercial. Isn't it amazing how much time is wasted? I don't understand why we get only two songs from each singer instead of 3 like years past. What happened to Clive? Did he kick the bucket?

    8:14 Kara and Randy picked something for Kris - why does he have a blue fingernail? He's supposed to sing "Apologize" by New Republic.

    8:15 Kris is singing this straight and not big. I like it this way, though I think David Archuleta's take last year had a catchier arrangement.

    8:16 Hmmm what's with that falsetto? Oh good he's staying away from it. I like Kris's folksy sound. Oh dear, if he's going to play the piano (with closeups of his playing), please wash those hands!

    8:17 Randy liked it. Kara thought it just competent. Paula pointed out a bum note. Simon bashed not Kris but the judges

    8:20 Kris is 866-IDOLS-02, 866-IDOLS-05 and 866-IDOLS-08. Poor guy didn't have a chance to talk before the commercial.

    8:25 Simon will have Adam sing "One" by U2 and he's name-dropping Ambassador Bono's name.

    8:26 He started it out in an amazingly slow and unacted manner. I really like it when he does this. It's so tender and sweet when he's simple and plain.

    8:27 Out comes the high notes. I liked the tender part more. He returned to the simple part after the very short loud part. They showed his boyfriend there for a moment and then focused on his proud papa.

    8:28 A love fest for Adam. They really just want to hand him the gosh darn tiara now. Last year, they sort of wanted to do the same for Archie but David Cook's fans disagreed.

    8:31 Wow 3 minutes of loving blather before the commercial! Adam is 866-IDOLS-03, 866-IDOLS-06 and 866-IDOLS-09.

    8:35 Idol gives back overview... Carrie Underwood does the report.

    8:39 And now back to commercials... So, we miss out on an extra song from each singer, we miss out on the homecoming coverage, and we instead get something that they could have shared with us in weeks past? What a rip off! I thought this was a singing competition!

    8:43 Danny Gokey gets to talk about himself. Of course, he's going to do "You are so beautiful" by Joe Cocker.

    8:44 He's starting it soft and simple, which is quite a surprise for him. I don't think he's ever sung like this before. Though his phrasing is similar.

    8:45 He just broke out into his loud section. He ended it rather simply, which for him is a good thing.

    8:46 Ok, so everybody just oozed on him.

    8:49 Kris is singing "Heartless" by Tanye West... Interesting

    8:50 Ooh, acoustic guitar solo. NICE. Wow, he's all out there on his own. Very hot. I love that he did this thing so true to himself. This was awesome - I'll totally love downloading this one.

    8:51 Randy loved it more than the original! Kara called it fearless. Paula had a muted response. Simon loved it.

    8:58 Adam will be doing "Crying" from Aerosmith. Oh, this is gonna be a loud one. There he goes, he's scaling it up and down all 17 octaves in his range. Hmm, it's really too much in some ways because he was just trying to show off his stuff, like a diva flexing her breasts.

    9:01 Everyone's sucking up, including Simon.

    9:02 No matter how he polarizes the audience, I do like the way Adam always compliments everyone he can. It's so nice. Nobody else on the show has done that to his extent.

    How did I like the six songs? Here they are in my order
    1. Kris #2
    2. Adam #1
    3. Adam #2
    4. Danny #2
    5. Kris #2
    6. Danny #1

    Voting for Kris and Adam... See ya again real soon!

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    Saturday, May 9, 2009

    Ain't Misbehavin - and Ain't Bad

    I think back to my review of Jersey Boys and how, though I thoroughly enjoyed the music and acting, found the book to be weak. Well Ain't Misbehavin' doesn't even bother with a story.

    It's really a musical revue, with a well-selected array of Fats Waller music to enjoy. The singing and posturing (there wasn't a story so it's tough to call it acting) were well done, though I have to say that it might be time to consider new actors. We watched basically the same cast as most audiences of the past 25 years. Lovely voices, great performances, but somewhat oddly out of place when the songs were supposed to be performed by younger adults.

    Nonetheless, some numbers were appreciably enjoyable. Honeysuckle Rose was a joy, as was the amusing You're Feet's Too Big.

    Eugene Barry-Hill
    Doug Eskew
    Aermelia McQueen
    Roz Ryan
    Debra Walton

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    Thursday, May 7, 2009

    Bye Bye Allison! Recapping American Idol Final 4

    I knew it was going to be a tough week. These were my four favorites as the Finals round developed. I'm sort of the mindset that I'd be happy with any one of these four going on and winning. More importantly, as the Daughtry, Aiken, Hudson, et al examples show, losing isn't exactly that bad either.

    First off, Ryan mentioned repeatedly that the order in which they were making announced Top 3 finalists were not in any numeric sequence. That means: they wanted to milk the drama. The longer we stay tuned, the more commercials we watch and the greater the odds that American persistently remains the top show in the country.

    So what's with all the news articles and blogs that announce "Shocker, Kris saved"? Was he that bad? I don't think so. I believe that Adam was the only one whose song choice was perfect for him for Rock night. All three remaining were susceptible to voter disinterest after a poorer song choices.

    I do know were song choice influenced me. Danny's choice of a song where he could to scream makes some sense, since he does like to belt it out. But his best performance of the finals so far has been during Rat Pack week, where he was original and restrained that scream of his. And of all songs to scream to, why on earth would he pick one that was so fraught with peril during a live performance? That's moxy, yes, but not exactly good strategy.

    I'm really disappointed that Allison will be going home. I am certain that she'll be on the radio. How can you keep that preternaturally mature (for a 17yo) voice down? It's like last year's David Archuleta. A man voice in a boy body - it's just too good to keep quiet. But Allison's good fortune is that she knows what she excels in, tailors songs to her sound, and has the maturity to know that her sound may or may not be for everyone.

    And, awww, she held herself together pretty well and didn't cry alot. Not bad for a 17yo.

    So I'm in quandry. Who do I want to see in the finals?

    I love Adam's voice, mostly when it's restrained. I enjoy his glam rock singing, but I've never been a fan of glam rock performances. I love Freddie Mercury's singing and am a huge Queen fan, but I bet I'd have alot of raised eyebrow action going on if I attended one of their concerts. Most of Adam's numbers come off too strong for me, so it's best if I just listen to him on iTunes. Or watch him take over Broadway.

    I love Kris's interpretations and quirky folk rock sound. I bet he can do well fronting a band with a similar sound. For the most part, I'm assuming that it will lean country. Most of the songs I've downloaded from iTunes this season have been Kris's and Allison's. He's a good listen and I would enjoy seeing his honest humility in the top 2.

    Danny's voice I've always liked. But he's lost the key a few times too many for me and played it unremarkably safe. It's a shame really, since he voice has alot of potential to come out swinging. He'd make a fine solo artist. What unnerves me, though, is his similarity to Taylor Hicks. Taylor had a great soul sound. Taylor looked silly dancing. Taylor had a peculiar look. Taylor looked like he was older than everyone else. Taylor remained conservative with his sound. Sound familiar? Now, Taylor won American Idol, so the ingredients in and of themselves aren't bad. But he hasn't exactly been a commercial success.

    So who to pick? I can't decide until I hear them. Based on my downloads, I may want to see Adam and Kris. No matter how it turns out next week, though, I'm sure I'll be happy because this has been a really enjoyable final group of 4.

    And you?
    a) What was your impression of Allison's good bye?
    b) Who do you want to see in the Final Two?
    c) What will be the most surprising thing we'll see next week?

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    Tuesday, May 5, 2009

    Final 4 - American Idol 2009 May 5

    Woohoo - American Idol is on Cinco de Mayo... So, I'm combining Cinco de Mayo with Idol... Taking a tequila shot whenever we hear Randy's "da bomb", feel Simon's wrath, smell Kara's pits, or ogle Paula's well, you know....

    So it's Rock night. This will clearly favor Adam and Allison. I saw a blog that referred to these two as "Adison", so I'll stick with that nickname. Adison should rock out tonight. Kranny (Kris and Danny) will be ermmmm less likely to do well, IMHO.

    So we have Slash from Guns N Roses here to deliver sage counsel to these kids. Interesting. Wondering if his neurons will be misfiring like Keith Richards... Hmm, so far he's understandable.

    5701 or 1866-idols05 Adam Lambert
    Whole Lot of Love Led Zep
    Of course Adam would do this song, which is on everyone's favorite rock list. Adam wants to kill this week and I bet he's going to. He looks like Robert Plant meets Queen. Dang. I have to start with a score of 50? This will be a weird range of scores tonight then. He's not working on the improv notes like he typically does. OK, I get it. It gives alot more power to his voice if he holds back. Scoring starts at 50. He killed. He's definitely a rock star.

    So far, no tequila shots. Kara is wearing a jacket and Paula's hiding her cleavage.

    5702 or 1866-idols06 Allison Iraheta
    Cry Baby - Janis Joplin
    Aww Poor Allison. She has to follow that great performance. Slash repeated Simon in his critique and said that Allison needs to be less fearful. Hmm surprised she's doing this number. Starts slow and quiet and then unfurls that voice. Her hair is toned down this week. Look at those pants! I like her performance but I'm hearing a couple of uncertain notes. I wish she chose a better song for herself. She sang it well though. Score 35. Finally, she's getting spunky and not just smiling and taking it.

    Hmmm I'm taking a shot anyway - Simon's been all nice and Randy's not used the word bomb. What's up with tonight?

    Kris Allen and Danny Gokey - Renegade - Styx
    I love Styx, but these guys look ummm angry. Kris is wearing some serious leather tonight. Danny looks like he's just come in from a job interview. They're not even working with each other. Ooh, finally, nice harmonies. This song really showcases Danny more than Kris.

    Paula cleavage sighting. Tequila shot.

    Ooh, Kris did not look happy. Maybe it's because his pants are too tight. I suspect it's because Danny had the better parts in that duet.

    5703 or 1866-idols07 Kris Allen
    Come Together - Beatles
    He's doing Come Together? Oh Kris... not sure about this. Not sure his voice is strong enough. Beatlemaniacs like me know... Slash didn't seem too impressed either. Oh I dunno. Kris isn't stoned enough to do this number. He's too cleancut to say these high lyrics. It's an ok performance so far. Not really the type of kick butt performance that got me to favor him the past few weeks, but he's got a good interpretation on it. Ooh, Simon didn't like it - it was too safe. (Tequila shot) Score 30.

    5704 or 1866-idols08 Danny Gokey
    Dream On - Aerosmith
    Oh he cannot be doing this song. The final scream should have deterred him. So far a nice starting sound but I'm hearing some off notes. He does the chorus part ok so far. He changed outfits. Now he's dressed like he's conducting a job interview. Oh no the falsetto is coming. OOOOOOO NO. Danny. Danny. Someone killed Danny. Someone killed my eardrums. What on earth was that? Score 15. Song choice is everything sometimes, and murderous final notes is indeed bad. Huh, he didn't think it was bad? Ummm....

    Thanks Simon. (Tequila shot)

    Wow, what an interesting night so far. I think it's turning out as everyone expected. Adam and Allison are rocking out and Kris and Danny are struggling.

    Allison Iraheta and Adam Lambert - Slow Ride - Foghat
    I love this song. They're singing together and it's a balanced number by equals. And in contrast to the two guys, these two look like they're having fun!

    Ooh, who did Danny piss off. While replaying the phone numbers, they replayed that awful scream by Danny. Poor thing.

    OK that wraps it up... I love all these 4 singers so it's a tough choice. I think they went in the order they sang tonight.

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    Broadway Idol - Constantine Maroulis

    As a prelude to tonight's American Idol Rawk-fest, one of AI's better-known rockers of years past has succeeded on the Great Broad Way. Yup Season 4 finalist Constantine Maroulis has been nominated for a Tony Award. According to the still solvent L.A. Times he was nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.

    If you haven't heard much about Rock of Ages, it did receive a few Tony nominations. According to their website, it features music of JOURNEY, NIGHT RANGER, STYX, REO SPEEDWAGON, PAT BENATAR, TWISTED SISTER, POISON, ASIA, and WHITESNAKE.

    His competition is pretty tough. He's competing against the three boys starring in "Billy Elliot, The Musical", one of my favorite musicals of the past few years. Though I preferred the London showing, the US performances were still exquisite.

    American Idol has really been a hit on stage, if not as much on iTunes. Diana DeGarmo of season 3 made her Broadway debut in Hairspray . Other idol finalists and semi-finalists on New York stages include Clay Aikens (Spamalot), Tamyra Gray (Bombay Dreams), Josh Strickland (Tarzan), and Frenchie Davis (Rent), and LaToya London (Color Purple). Jennifer Huson has made several appearances in various musicals. Constantine has also shown in Wedding Singer.

    Constantine stands to do better in the Tony standings than he did under American Idol. On Idol, he was voted off in the 6th place position. In New York, there will only five nominees to compete against.

    David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik, and Kiril Kulish - Billy Elliot, The Musical
    Gavin Creel - Hair
    Brian d’Arcy James - Shrek The Musical
    Constantine Maroulis - Rock of Ages
    J. Robert Spencer - Next to Normal

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    Tuesday, April 28, 2009

    American Idol 2009 April 28 - Top 5 - Rat Pack

    Rat Pack and Jamie Fooooooooooooxxxxxx!

    Wow, he's incredible. He's just so amazing, as a performer and as an actor. What a great way to start the show

    Oh, no, Kris is in the crappy #1 pole position. This is horrible. HORRIBLE. He's my current favorite. Did you see him in the latest USA Today article? It basically says that he could be sneak in and surge past Danny and (because of the way voters switch allegiances once their faves lose) possibly take on Adam directly.... Where has USAToday been? For Pete's sake, in terms of American Idol fanatics and voting tendencies, there has clearly been an unprecedented ground-swell favoring Kris. He might not overtake Adam, but there's no doubt that his suppressed fame in the beginning rounds had no effect whatsoever on the general public.

    I want to be clear about this: I want a "Kris v Adam" final almost as much as a I wanted "David v David" final last year.

    Think about it! They're just so.... dissimilar! It'd be wonderful... Any red state voter should be pushing for this final, because it would give them their first chance in a year to vote for someone who's actually popular.

    01/06. Kris Allen - Thinking of You
    Wow, Jamie wants to work with Kris? That's intense! So he chose a ballad that must have made Anoop jealous. Hmmm. Okay, I have to admit, the boy looks good in that tight suit. Ooh, uptick in the tempo. Hmm Not a confident falsetto high note. Oh this is a wonderful transition. Oooooh, perfect Rat Pack money note. Now that was a sultry, sexy, hot performance. Not sure what to say other than "He totally wants to win". I typically start at 50 for the first person, but don't be surprised if that's one of the high scores right now. Paula said he went from "adorable boy next door" to "gentleman"... I just say "dang if Simon says Kris is wet, then let's see him wet".

    02/07 Allison Iraheta - Someone to Watch Over Me
    Amazing. I was blown away. This was incredible. She finally shows depth, and agility. This girl simply cannot be just turning 17! She looked and sounded so beyond her years. If she decides to do someone other than rock, she'll still excel. Score 55. Simon, what are you smoking?

    03/08 Matt Giraud - My Funny Valentine
    Jamie gives great advice. A lower key register will give Matt's vocal range a chance to shine. Hmmm, it also gives him a chance to warble off pitch here and there. And there. And here. Well, Jamie was right, the money note was really good. Score 40. OK, Simon, you really must be smoking something. There's no way he could have topped Allison tonight dude.

    [Honesty: I had one too many free Bud Lights at the Scottsbluff Nebraska Hampton Inn convention center lounge, while waiting for the show to begin.]

    04/09 Danny Gokey - Come Rain or Shine
    Well, this is nice. This is only the second week (and the second week in a row no less) that Danny has really shined in this show. He finally is showing some creativity and artistic guts. I like the sound and the interpretation and wow, love the glasses. Hey Danny, I have a picture of my Dad carrying me around as a baby and he wore those same glasses back in the day. Score 54.

    [Commercial break: I laughed alot but whoa that Minute Maid boost commercial was simply inappropriate for this show. There are kids watching this thing, people!]

    05/10 Adam Lambert - Feeling Good
    Adam, dressed as Steve Martin, gets to saunter down those steps like he's walking into the prom. The theatrics is way over the top. Even Frank and Deano couldn't have done this song this way. Is it really a Rat Pack number? No matter. It was a beautiful, falsetto-ridden, lavish and lush song with tremendous clarity. The second to last measure, which lasted 3 minutes longer than Bill Clinton's impeachment trial, was spectacular... And needed three bathroom breaks.... Score 51.

    I don't think I've ever score an American Idol episode this close. They're all very good and I don't think anybody really choked. There were some really good moments here.

    What do you think?

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    Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    American Idol 2009 Apr 21 - Top 6 + 1

    Wow, so here we are, getting ready to review this week's edition and I can't figure out what to title this blog entry. It's supposed to be "Top 6" but then last week the judges saved Matt Giraud. We still have 7 contestants. But this week, eek, they eject two contestants. It's gonna be a rough night tomorrow night!

    Before we begin, I was reviewing my top list with friend Sally of Castro Valley to see which of our contestants matched. We seem to agree that the top 4 remaining are Adam, Kris, Danny and Allison. I have to say, though I really like Allison, I have my doubts about her longevity here. She's just too much, methinks, for America at large. But I wonder what the Apple iTunes sales are looking like, because I know that she's one of my favorites to download.

    So, here we go. Let's get on with it.

    Hmm, they're removing the intro stuff.

    1. Lil Rounds - I'm Every Woman

    Hmm, sounds only just fine. Not great. She has a good sound as always but I really don't get the feel about what she's all about. She just sings things so directly or karaoke. It wasn't original again or even interpreted, really - that's the problem. Ouch, Simon doesn't mince words. I will give her a score 50, since she's the first person.

    2. Kris Allen - She Works Hard for the Money

    Interesting, they're interviewing Kris. Why didn't they interview Lil? They put her in the lousy #1 spot and then didn't let her talk except to sound all talkback.

    Oooooo, nice interpretation! Very 70s and still avoiding the whole disco thing. One odd note at the start. Mmm this is a delish interpretation. Very original. It's all folksy and artsy. This is one to download. Awesome. Loved it! Score 88.

    3. Danny Gokey - September

    This is good. Not as predictable as a typical Danny song. I do like his voice, but he does have a predictability about him... Including a predictable offkey note. And he's just not the disco dancer. He really energizes the song with that raspy voice. It's alot more interesting that I expected. And didn't miss a note this week. Score 68. Huh, is she deaf? Kara said he doesn't ever have pitch problems. Allow me to replay his previous performances, please.

    4. Allison Iraheta - Hot Stuff

    Wow, she's starting it all slow. Where is this going? Nice transition. She's turned this into a real hot rocking song. This is a totally listenable rock song now. Very very good. Love that paused money note! I could see Aerosmith doing this rendition. Loved it. Score 89.

    5. Adam Lambert - If I Can't Have You

    Oh, surprising. He's doing it as a ballad. I love it when he does slow songs. Not expected at all for this song. Wow, he's so imposing on that stage vocally. You just don't wanna go against him directly. Of course he has to throw in the falsetto screams in there. Wow, that was impressive. Score 87. Paula is crying?

    6. Matt Giraud - Stayin Alive

    Well Matt's got a nice sound this week - unlike last week. Nice use of his really good falsetto. He's doing some reasonable dance steps. Hmm, odd climb to the money note but finished it nicely. He sings it well for the most part, but it wasn't the original version. Score 60.

    7. Anoop Desai - Dim All the Lights

    Anoop is doing what he does best, which is sing ballads slowly. Hmm a couple of pitchy notes there. Not enjoying the look either - he looks like a wedding singer in London. It's a ok rendition, but my goodness his strength is really a sleepy one for me. Score 64.

    So, in order of how I liked them in descending order:

    04 Allison
    02 Kris
    05 Adam
    03 Danny
    07 Anoop
    06 Matt
    01 Lil

    But the first three are essentially a tie and I'm just trying to break the tie. OK, time to vote!

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    Tuesday, April 14, 2009

    American Idol - 2009 Apr 14 - Top 7

    OK, last week I was a little rude. I might just edit and add back the comments that I had entered for the others. But I really was impressed by that version of Mad World. It wasn't merely despondent like the version that Adam based it upon; it was forlorn, creepy, and unhinged. Thank heavens!

    Well tonight, inexplicably, we have Quentin Tarantino as the guest judge. Not sure why he's such a music master, but at least he knows movies and soundtracks. Hmm, he was a guest judge in season 3. I didn't watch it back then, so I'll pretend he knows what he's doing here.

    1. Allison Iraheta "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
    Ooh a very nice sweet and tender start. A little spotty in the chorus, but she's got that rocker sentimentality about her. The problem for me is that I *love* the David Cook version last year. So this is tough for me because I have to compare against that one. But it's really a good performance. I give a 50, because she's first and compare everyone against her.

    2. Anoop Desai "Look Into My Eyes"
    He only sings ballads? It's clear and a nice simple delivery. But it's not about to grab anyone by the collar and make them go out and buy the song. Hmm, a slight country sound to it. is he still going for some country voters? All notes are on key. I give it 55. I'd give it more but it was sorta limp for the most part.

    3. Adam Lambert "Born to Be Wild"
    I think I like Adam most when he's restrained, so this movie genre seems to be a risk. Hmm it's sort of a Queen-version of Adam. Sound-wise, he's right on to me.It's almost Zep-like in his falsetto. What's not to like about the sound? I just wish he didn't wring out every single melodramatic cliche during his performances. Score 70. Simon did say something that resonated with me. Great sound but a Rocky Horror look.

    4. Matt Giraud "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman"
    He's just so Justin sometimes. I guess that wins votes. Nice lovely start. He really should do the whole Billy Joel piano-man thing. Doubt he could do Elton. Huh, what was that? That was a very weird middle. Nice falsetto money note to maybe mask that really odd middle section. Score 35.

    5. Danny Gokey "Endless Love"
    Looks better without his glasses. Yes please restrain those hands. One weird note at the beginning. I like the approach he's taking. He's sort of doing the "dude singing to his wife at the wedding" sound to me. It's a nice sound but there's no way you can do anything with this song - it's just boring. Score 48.

    6. Kris Allen "Falling Slowly"
    I'm not familiar with this song. Sort of pitchy first three notes. Nice cleaned up look for a change. Interesting, he's going for a more emo sound and look. Ooh nice falsetto. Dull song to me but he's making it work. At least he does his Kris yell during one part. Hmm, almost a slightly David Cook sound. Is it Cook night? Randy's wrong I think tonight because Kris sang a lower register than he has before. Score 60.

    7. Lil Rounds "The Rose"
    Now this is one of my favorite songs of all time. She karaoked Tina last week. Hmm, she's now impersonating Bette. She can't seem to do a diva song without an impersonation unfortunately. Where are these notes heading? She's doing a slightly more gospel sound to the piece but no it's not working. And there's no gravitas if she's doing it gospel. Hmm more than a few wrong notes. Oh Lil, where's the Lil from the first part of the year? No she messed up the money note. :( Score 20.

    Rankings, top to bottom
    03 Adam
    06 Kris
    02 Anoop
    01 Allison
    05 Danny
    04 Matt
    07 Lil

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    Tuesday, April 7, 2009

    American Idol - Top 8 - Apr 7, 2009

    Total Knockout - Adam + 7 Wannabes Tonight.

    Amazing. Adam was the only one that mattered tonight. It was that far in a different league.

    The performers came and went in the following order...

    01 Danny Gokey

    02 Kris Allen

    03 Lil Rounds

    04 Anoop Desai

    05 Scott McIntyre

    06 Allison Iraheta

    07 Matt Giraud

    But the only one that mattered was this one:

    08 Adam Lambert - Mad World
    I'm loving this. Wow, This is spooky and slightly crazy and it's just so 80s meets emo. This is wonderful minimalist pop. I think Bronksi Beat could have done this. Very very hot. Simon gave a standing ovation! Wow. That has to be one of the best interpretations on Idol I've seen. Slightly off on the closer but dang good.

    I might deign to give my opinion on the others... But why bother? It was that good...

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    Tuesday, March 31, 2009

    American Idol - Top 9 - March 31, 2009

    1. Anoop Desai - Caught Up
    OK, he's got some sort of strange fascist looking outfit going on. Anoop has gone Peronista. I'm not really enjoying the tough guy act. Maybe it's because I am unfamiliar with this song. The song doesn't really give the singer alot of vocal play so not sure what he could have done. Not a good song really for him because he comes across like he's trying too hard. I give 50 to the first singer and go from there.

    2. Megan Joy - Turn Your Lights Down Low
    Hope Megan can look good because after the last several weeks worth of performances, I'm not counting on her voice. Oh dear. Someone should really put her out of her misery and vote her off already. This is quite painful. What's with that dancing? Score 10.

    3. Danny Gokey - What Hurts the Most
    I like the new glasses. Singing a country song, Danny seems to be going for Michael's natural voter base. He's got an enjoyable voice timbre but there are odd notes here and there. The song is a good one for him, it's rather plain performance but his voice covers that. Not sure about his phrasing but it's definitely better than his other work in the Top 13. Score 70.

    4. Allison Iraheta - Don't Speak
    OK what's with the anime Pebbles look here? The hair has to go, but oooo I like that voice. Nice rich sound and a wonderful money note. Only a couple of odd tremors in there but an otherwise really good vocal performance for me. Interesting, they're really picking on her outfit. Score 80.

    5. Scott McIntyre - Love You Just the Way You Are
    Um, what's with the flock of seagulls hair? He has a lovely sweet voice but his performance is rather plain again. His vocalization can seem forced. Like Danny, he's had a good night in comparison to previous weeks. Nice money note but it was still a rather safe note. Score 65.

    6. Matt Giraud - You Found Me
    Spotty start to me. I don't get the way the crowd is set up all around him so close. Seems like favoritism. He's good when he's powering his voice but I'm not as impressed with his more tender voices. I like the falsetto. But in some ways, it wasn't the sort of song that suited him to me. Score 55.

    7. Lil Rounds - I Surrender
    Interesting hair. Oh no. Not a good song choice to me, because it seems like it's too low a register for her voice. And, as she powers up, she's ending up shouting instead of singing. If she moved it up a bit, she could come off alot more effusively and natural. Score 60. Oh good heavens, the baby comes out and hugs Randy. Of course Lil would cry. Heck, Stalin would have cried.

    8. Adam Lambert - Play That Funky Music
    He's going to go opposite from last week. But I loved last week. Hope this turns out ok. He's got some weird Elvis meets the Werewolf look tonight. I don't get the arrangement but it's an energetic performance. He certainly knows how to screech in tune. That's a heck of a money note. Score 85.

    9. Kris Allen - Ain't No Sunshine
    This is a perfect song for Kris. His voice sounds slick and sensual. He looks even more natural on that piano than even on the guitar. Ooh I like the groan, more than Adam's because it's such a sincere and sweet sound. And he's sort of the anti-Adam. He goes for the opposite money notes that Adam would. Wow, I love it. Score 90.

    I'm surprised here. I am increasingly enjoying Kris's performances. He's really getting better each week, which in my book is a hallmark of a successful American Idol run. But Adam and Allison are still up there with him in my top 3.

    5709 Kris Allen - 90
    5708 Adam Lambert - 85
    5704 Allison Iraheta - 80
    5703 Danny Gokey - 70
    5705 Scott McIntyre - 65
    5707 Lil Rounds - 60
    5706 Matt Giraud - 55
    5701 Anoop Desai - 50
    5702 Megan Joy - 10

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