Thursday, February 26, 2009

American Idol Semi-Finalists (36) Group 2

Didn't get to vote last night so I'm watching the DVR of the show today on Thursday. Instead of seeing the show, I did get to see a wonderful concert at Club 322 in Sierra Madre. Love the work of the Jennifer Leitham Trio!

So here we go.

1. The 16yo girl Mississippi, Jasmine Murray, sang "Love Song". She sang it way too low. Her voice has such a nice quality but here it quivered throughout. Nerves? Disappointed because I've liked her earlier so far this season. Sounds like the judges are agreeing. I'll set her at a score of 55 to start the night.

2. Matt Giraud, the "dueling piano player", is next. Who comes up with these nicknames? Cold Play's "Viva La Vida" is his number. He's had a clear voice during the season so far, but he's got some odd vibrato tonight. And I'm he looks uncomfortable up there. I think the contestants should stay away from those low notes tonight I guess. Another one having problems down there. Score was 50. Preferred Jasmine to this one.

3. Jeanine Vailes from Washington DC is a bartender.Not sure about the hooker look or the really deep notes. Leave the notes to us basses! Pitchy. She was trying to work up a diva thing but it just wasn't good. I'm going to have to score her as a 45.

4 Nick Mitchell sang as Norman Gentle and I guess Jennifer Holliday... “And I Am Telling You” was never done in a bandana before I imagine. Well, how refreshing to not hear the song sung too low! I've never understood this comedy act and the screaching is rather distressing. Well at least he had a nice money note soaring before he truncated it. Is Paula sober tonight? She's actually comprehensible until she said "blah blah blah". Score was 4.

5. Allison Iraheta is a 17yo high school student from L.A (born next door in Glendale). She's doing Heart's “Alone”. Best so far and she's actually entertaining to watch. Nailed it. As Randy said, "she blew it out the box". Score is 75.

6. Kris Allen has that Archie look. He sang “Man In the Mirror”. He's singing it fine but not memorable. If one of the guys coming up sounds as good but impresses more, Kris will be out. Nice money note. Score was 65.

7. Now, in a babydoll dress and tattoos, we have Megan Joy Corkrey and “Put Your Records On”. She's got a nice sound, sort of bluesy. She'd sell at Starbucks. Some quivering that money note. Score is 60.

8. The welder is on. Matt Breitzke does a song “If You Could Only See”. Comes across as a karaoke song to me and seemed somewhat boring. Pretty on much pitch for the most part but not overly memorable. I guess they thought more of him because they keep saying it's song choice. Score was 55 to me.

9. Jesse Langseth does “Bette Davis Eyes”? That's a tough quirky song to do. Missing the high notes. No this isn't working for me. Score is 45, same as the bartender.

10. Kai Kalama is the hair and the guitar. He did “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” and hmmm not particularly memorable. Silky voice. He seems really gawky up there. Yikes one section was pitchy. Score 55.

11. Mishavonna Henson was apparently a singer last year, too. She did "Drops of Jupiter”. I can't stand that staccato stuff. Not really on pitch in some parts. Score was 48.

12. Oh I like the Rolling Stones. Adam Lambert is the Wicked guy doing "Satisfaction" with a super slow intro. Perfectly on pitch. Surprised he did the whole rock thing. Ooh he worked some of those notes. Didn't realize he did rock, since he's such a Broadway guy. Nice money note. Score 70.

So, my top list is Allison then Adam then Kris then Megan. Given the male / female thing it looks like:

Girls: Allison
Guys: Adam
Wildcard: Kris

And, one more comment : Still hate this format!

My Full Blog

Monday, February 23, 2009

Synthesis. Musicals in time for Lent

I'm only a cock-eyed optimist

Sorry to throw out lyrics from Dick and Oscar, but it certainly was a weekend that I can only describe as affirming. I didn't expressly select plays that somehow made me think of faith, but perhaps it was my subconscious at work. With Lent rapidly approaching, I had no idea that I was buying Broadway tickets that would certainly give me something to think about during this annual fast.

(And certainly I have a tendency to make comparisons where none ought ever be made, so forgive me if I make my contrast too oddly. Or gush. I am a theater queen I admit.)

I went to the Great White Way this weekend and saw "Billy Elliot", "Altar Boyz" and "In the Heights". Not as overwhelming as seeing 7 plays in 5 days with my nephews in London back in 2007, but still pretty intense.

It turns out that these three musicals will give me plenty to think about during this Lenten season. Now I had seen Billy Elliot during that 2007 trip, but had not seen the New York production. The other two plays were new to me, with "In the Heights" a particular concern, since I feared that it would be Rent-redux and far outside my musical tastes.

Thank heavens God intricates his love in the oddest of ways.

Let's go in sequence. I first saw Billy Elliot the movie in 2000 when it was released. I easily connected to the story because I lived in the UK during the 1980s miner strike. Maggie Thatcher was the most polarizing leader I had ever watched, well, until recent years.

This New York musical closely resembled the London offering. It inspired because, to me, it connected to us most strongly when it asserted that
a) God-given gifts must be nourished
b) we must be attentive to God's signs, even in the most unlikely of places
c) it is possible to rise above circumstances that even Job would think worse than his own

For Saturday's matinee, I saw Altar Boyz, which was an amusing satire on boys band. In this situation, we watched a Roman Catholic boy band work its Christian rock magic. It was a surprising delight. The music wasn't challenging, but it was a toe-tapping pleasure. With the talented dancing, you got a good show, good music and cute actors; hey off-Broadway knows how to sell seats.

Altar Boyz was amazingly respectful of religion. Atheists may have watched it as an entirely mocking work, but in no way at all did it actually ever insult faith. These characters sincerely believed and wanted, in their own way. to evangelicize. Matthew was a strong leader, Mark was a loving talent, Luke was the faulty everyman who tries and tries, Juan was a starry-eyed Lothario, and Abraham, well, he's the Jew who wrote great lyrics. How Broadway can you get?

I found the play encouraging because
a) it showed that God works the youth, even with fun-though-slightly-insipid boy-band music
b) I could relate to one of its story lines, that of the "closet Catholic"
c) we saw the bonding strength of Christian community and family.

Lastly on Saturday night, I saw "In the Heights". This was an amazing musical. Its tagline is "No pare, no pare, sigue, sigue", which roughly translates to "don't stop, go on, go on".

Now that's gotta be the most hopeful Broadway tagline I've ever seen.Perhaps that's because it started off-broadway. Or that it's very Mundial Latino. There has not, in my recollection, ever been as diverse a cast, save the United Nations scene in the 1960s campy Batman the Movie.

This play had a song called "Pacencia y Fe" (Patience and Faith). It heroicized family, courage in the face of adversity, community, faith, hope,... I don't know where to stop without this sounding like one of Father Ed's sermons. I was "Epiphing" for almost 3 hours straight.

And I cried. I cried because the sentimental book did not seem a weakness to me. No, it affirmed to me why I believe in the first place.

"In the Heights" asserted
a) bravery, quiet or otherwise, will arise BECAUSE we believe and hope
b) all people, great or small, still aspire and should aspire to the heavens
c) we cannot learn on our own, but depend on the dreams, mistakes and love of those who preceeded us

Perhaps I'm writing this as a part of my Lenten exercises. But I have to wonder what made this weekend so moving to me.

I think it's because I started with a play that said "Life sucks. Maybe if God gave you a gift, your family and community will stand behind you, and you can escape. And thank heavens, because every one will be out of work for hundreds of miles in the next two years."

I love Billy Elliot. But in context with this weekend, it's somehow profoundly inadequate. What Grace did God have for the miners? He gave them an example of love and community, so that their souls could rise about their circumstances. But their earthly toils were not only dangerous, but unneeded. Turn your attention to the miners' plight (which is easy given this country's current economic meltdown), and you realize this play works only when you focus on Billy himself.

Altar Boyz also emphasized a tight-knit family, in the form of a boy band. It wasn't deep by any means. Nevertheless, the sincerely loving faith was notable.

So was the desire to spread His word.And of all things, the closet-Catholic song closely resembled my own faith issues. I spurned the Roman Catholic church of my family because it did not welcome me. It loved me as a sinner, but could not countenance me living out the life that God had set for me.

So I went into the closet. Not as a gay young man. As a person of faith. I cry every time I think of this. I cry whenever I hear of others who were so hurt by their Christian communities that they find Christ and his message at fault. It was an amazing rebirth for me to discover that God did not plague me as a subset of Mankind unworthy of his Grace, God did not challenge me with an impossible test where the only way to succeed was through constant deception (self and otherwise). God made me in his image and challenged me to spread his word of unfailing love an Grace.

And those Altar Boyz, faulty and amusing to my generation as they are, well, they are sincere in their love of God. Who's to say that the classical and jazz Christian music I sing is better than theirs? They did magic on the soul! If the point is to touch, to nurture, to salve broken hearts, then good grief, the play made its point.

But the focus of Altar Boyz and Billy Elliot was very much about the ego. "In the Heights" was the last play I saw, and it filled the gaps that the other two plays left untouched.

It yells out "Ego schmego". It's not a bad thing to have, but a person's ego can only get them so far. You'll be a big shot in your world, though it's a world that only barely covers a subway map. But instead, by using your gifts, using God's gifts, using the love and strength of a family and a community, you'll be surprised at how much stronger, happier, and satisfying your life will be.

It's a point that far exceeds the first two plays. Perhaps because the author was the, in his words, "the only begotten son of a minister and a church organist". In terms of a satisfying arc of faith and hope, of what Lent teaches us as we approach Easter, it was pretty bitchin.

So, despite my naive, touristy and unsuspecting plans, I had a weekend of Epiphing in the Big Apple. May my Lenten fast and volunteerism at the homeless shelter add to my growth. And I pray that the Lord strengthen in me a little more of that toe-tapping, God-loving, can't-shake-my-faith cock-eyed optimism of life everlasting that all of us are Graced to deserve.

My Full Blog

Review - In the Heights

I've decided that I would start documenting the various plays and shows I watch, my thoughts, and so on, mostly because my memory fails me. So here we go!

What I saw: In the Heights (New York City)
When: Saturday February 21, 2009, 8pm

I was astonished. Admittedly, I had low expectations. I do love a good melody. My only exposure to "In the Heights" was not, egads, from the 2008 Tony awards. I way traveling that day and my DVR did not record the show correctly.

No, my only exposure was the Forbidden Broadway (Goes to Rehab) riff on the show this year. And it was all rap. So, predictably, I thought "Good heavens the Tonys have over-Rented and picked a totally rap 'musical' as its standard-bearer"... Thank goodness I was wrong.

I saw a gorgeous set. I gasped at the dancing. Was this indeed Broadway? It was amazing. Salsa, Marenge, and more! I had 3rd row seats and I belatedly think that everyone in the balconies and in rows 4 through 40 were watching my butt wiggle-waggle. I loved the music.

Now, the book as just "eh". It definitely good have been better. Maybe a good Sondheim injection. But oy, the lyrics and the insanely inversive, heck MALversive rhymes - - it was sheer magic! I loved it! When do you hear "business" and "hipsters" sung as though they actualy rhymed? Or "awning" and "morning"... And it worked!

Thank heavens I'm not a cynic. Cynicism is antithetical to my moral being. And this musical demanded that you stamp out cynicism because you felt GOOD afterwards. Bill Clinton couldn't wax sentimentally about his hometown of "Hope" like "In the Heights". This play, without ever saying hope, in English or in Spanish, practically screamed "hope hope hope" with every soaring note, with every shimmying hip, and with every aye aye aye.

So yes, it may be a bit sentimental about the plight of these good, hard-working people. But good heavens, you can't help but love these characters for trying.

For those who know how much I adore "Drowsy Chaperone", this play is not about a nod and a wink. It sincerely loves its characters and wants you to connect to them not because you feel like they do, but because you've struggled like they have.

I just wish I had a good Latin rhythm behind me my whole life. After watching "In the Heights", I can't help but feel that I could have survived my trials better if my toes were tapping to an infection tune.

Paciencia y Fe (Patience and Faith)!

My Full Blog

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Feb 17 - The Voting begins. Week 1 (36 group 1)

Love to vote on this show. Not a cynic like that vote for the worst site. I really think people should be given a chance to win it all. The mocking is mean to me.

So on to the show. Not sure how the voting format will be.

Oy this is tough.
They'll be picking one girl and one guy and the next highest vote getter from each night, for a total of 3 people. I don't like it because it means we hear some of these people only once.

My comments:

5701. Jackie Thon - "Little Less Conversation"
Nice sultry sound. Oh she's rocking it out. Works with her voice. She's entertaining, if someone awkward and oddly dressed. Sort of J Joplin. The notes were just ok but was really into it. So she's staked out the "rocker" genre and not the "diva" genre. Have to admit, seems more votable than last year's nurse. I'll start with giving her a score of 50.

5702. Ricky Braddy - Country guy "This Song for you"
Ooh nice and lovely sound. Surprising sexy sound. Only a couple of odd notes. Fell into a nice falsetto. Man he brings it out. Gorgeous tone. I'm surprised. I'll give him a score of 75.

5703. Alexis Grace - "Never Loved a Man".
Mommy with the pink hair. Sexy sultry look.Singing an Aretha song but with a soulful sound. She's doing well but not sure it's a sellable act. Her low sultry notes weren't as good as her hot sound voice. Fun to watch. Simon actually likes her (instead of dissing the everyone). Not as into her as Simon was unfortunately. I'm scoring her a 68.

5704. Brent Keith - "Hick Town"
Beefy 29yo country guy. Not exactly memorable. Good looking (dimples that don't quit) and should get some votes. Some odd notes but a touch of nervousness. Simon dissed him as singing a forgetable tune then Brent basically courts the country vote. Score is 45.

5705. Stevie Wright - "You Belong With Me"
The 17yo girl from the Barstow area. Not a good choice and her voice is too low for it. She's nervous maybe? She didn't sound this shaky and off-key before. Aww, sort of sad. Score of 30.

5706. Anoop Desai - "Angel of Mine"
The geeky guy with a teen voice. I really do like his voice. Not sure about this boyband sound, but he may get a bunch of teen votes this way. Don't really care for the vibrato but his money note was good and straight. Score of 70. Think Ricky Braddy beat him tonight, though I've liked Anoop more up until now.

5707. Casey Carlson - "Every Little Thing She Does"
Pretty girl. Not on key. Looking a little scary and like a lounge singer or a pole dancer. We need to stop it now because the song choice was out the window. Score 10.

5708. Michael Sarver - "Hard on the Ticker"
Crapkicker or roughneck or whatever they called him. He's a pre-season fave of mine. Oh dear. Not good. He's vamping it up. I don't care for the song but he sounded good by the end. He's really good with soulful numbers so it's a shame that he wanted to do this so rocker. I'm scoring him 65.

5709. Ann Marie Boskovich - "Feel Like a Natural Woman"
She's a waitress who had to go out and come back in. Third note wasn't good. She has a nice voice with a couple of nervous quivers. Nice moans. Ooh finally a good money note. Score 70. Not sure why they're so down on her. I liked her more than Alexis.

5710. Steven Fowler - "Rock With You"
He's the guy who has forgetten lyrics during the tryouts. Oh my. This isn't working for me. Off-key and not weirdly sung, as though shakiness masked as vibrato were acceptable. And a horrifying money note. Well, at least he did better than Casey. Score 15.

5711. Tatiana del Toro - "Saving All My Love"
Crazy Puerto Rican contestant. Smoky. Nice sound. Good high notes and a handle on the low notes. Some wiggly notes and shakiness but overall pretty good. Good money note. Score 69.

5712. Danny Gokey - "Hero"
The widower music teacher. Nice sound with so much soul. Could have had some more gravitas in the beginning. But he handles the lyrics nice and love the money notes. Good falsetto and close. He has got to move forward. Score 85.

Well this will be tough because I think three guys did best. Seems a shame that they cannot all go onward. The three women who topped their gender were all so close, but I think Ann Marie bested them. Tatiana was just this much shakier than Ann Marie. So, I'm ready to start voting for the following people


5712 (Danny w/ 85) ***
5702 (Ricky w/ 75) ***
5706 (Anoop w/ 70) ***
5709 (Ann Marie w/ 70) ***
5711 (Tatiana w/ 69)
5703 (Alexis w/ 68)
5708 (Michael w/ 65)
5701 (Jackie w/ 50)
5704 (Brent w/ 45)
5705 (Stevie w/ 30)
5710 (Stephen w/ 15)
5707 (Casey w/ 10)

My Full Blog

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Feb 11 American Idol Hollywood - Final Cut

Oooh, so exciting to me. This is the part I've been waiting for. I really love the voting part and I cannot wait to see who I get to judge. We start with 54 folks and will have 36 by the end of the evening.

First is Anoop Desai from NC. Awesome, he'll be in the contest!

Vaughn Smith is next. Wow, he goes forward! He was ripped last week, but he does have a good voice.

Oh no. Some sort of sing off between 17yo Cody Sheldon... And it didn't sound so hot, not like his audition. Oh this is sad. He's competing against someone he befriended. Alex Wagner-Trugman. Also nervous sounding but not as off as Cody. Oh they're sad that they're against each other. Hmmm. They're so cute leaning on each other.

Adam Lambert is next. Gee, lots of guys. Well, he's not a surprise - he had a good presence and consistent sound.

Taylor Vaifuna was someone I liked her earlier this season. Oh good, she'll get to go.

Now a series of women. Jasmine Murray (love that child), Ariana Asfar, Casey Carlson, Megan Carkley and Misha, and Stevie Wright go through. Joanne Pacitti got tugged along, but she'll be going.

Kendall goes through. She had a nice sound in PR.

Now Jenn Korbee sings off against Kristen McNamara (who was in that fight against the hair-stylist). They picked Kristen and Simon evidently was hoping for Jenn.

Mommy Alexis Grace has some oddly pink hair. She'll be going through.

Scott MacIntyre (blind guy) has such a nice voice.

Lil Rounds (mother of 3) is now up. She had a good voice earlier this year. She's in. This is so mean the way they tease these folks.

Going home: Felicia Barton, Ashley Hollister, Devon Baldwin.

Frankie Jordan is singing off against Jesse Langseth. Not good for Frankie - the first person to sing hasn't been winning... Yup, Jessie goes through.

More folks going home.

Allison Iraheta is 16yo. She'll go through.

Danny Gokey goes through. No surprise - he's good.

Buddy Jamar Rogers is next. Oh dear. He didn't get through. That's a surprise to me. He was good I thought during the auditions.

Going: Ricky Braddy, Matt Giraud, Ju'not Joyner, Jorge Nunez, Brent Keith. Stephen Fowler (wow, he forgot his words and everything yesterday).

Nick Mitchell (Norman Gentle) is going through? So weird. And Jamar doesn't? I guess they really want to leave it to America to decide what they want to hear.

Jackie Tohn has a scratchy voice and will go to the contest.

Tatiana Del Toro walks into the room and is immediately irritating. She's going. She's such a pain; it's a shame that her good voice will not be noticed by people who are more likely to notice her screaming.

Jackie Midkiff is going to have a sing-off against somewhat outrageous Nathaniel Marshall. Jackie's first. I bet he'll be off. Nice sound. Now Nathaniel. Slight edge to Nathaniel.

Jeanine, Kai, Anne Marie, and Kris will continue.

Welder and Oilman are now meeting up in a sing-off? Matt Breitzke goes first. Not good news for him. He sounds good though. Now Michael Sarver goes up. I do like his country voice. They're both going to compete. Nice. It's crazy to not include them.

That's 36.

So apparently, we'll see three groups of twelve. For each dozen, we'll get to vote three onwards. Three times three is 9. The judges will then do some sort of wild-card round where they get to vote more people through. Quite a change from the last couple years.

Wow. So they already know who will compete in the first group. Casey Carlson, Stephen Fowler, Jackie Tohn, Ricky Braddy, Anne Marie, Brent Keith, Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver, Stevie Wright, Danny Gokey, Tatiana del Toro and Anoop Desai are in the first group next week.

That's sort of tough. Just from everything up to now, who would I like to see go forward? Danny Gokey and Michael Sarver for sure.

Woohoo, love the voting part. Can't wait!

My Full Blog

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feb 10 American Idol in Hollywood

Not sure about this episode. Zipping right through, so this is just note keeping for my blog. Hope I get the names right.

Adam Lambert. The guy from Wicked.
Love him. Hope he goes foward. Singing Cher's "Believe". Changed it to a emo song. Not sure I liked it but it was perfectly in pitch.

Keyboardist Matt Giraud from Kalamazoo.
Has a nice bluesy voice with his geeky look. I liked it much.

Look at the hideous floor in the holding room.

Jamar Rogers is the bud of Danny.
It's sort of gimmicky but I really love his personality and his vocal control.

Danny Gockey, whose wife died.
Man I love his voice. It's a smoky controlled performance, though the falsetto slightly veared.

Anoop Desai from NC.
Ooh, he grooves pretty nice. Not so geeky any more.

Puerto Rico Nunez guy got no coverage.

Scott McIntyre the blind guy.
Hope he goes forward. Wow, what a great voice.

Kendall Beard from Austin.
Hey, she's doing Carrie's song. Sounded good.

Short sounds from Fallon gal.

Short sounds from the mom.

Blond-dyed girl whose partner was a mean hair-stylist.
Wow big mouth and a Joplin sound.

Mishavonna has returned
Not sure about that voice. Altos don't do so well.

Tatanya the pushy girl from PR.
She has a nice voice but her personality is annoying. Hmm started to screach.

Alexis Grace also sang Carrie. Barely any coverage.

Kenny Hoffpauer. Barely any coverage.

Jasmine Murray is the 16yo who sings like a dreamy grownup.

Queenie Nathanial played the guitar. Not much of a play. Sounded ok.

Joanna Pacitti - I don't recall.
Oh dear. Not good.

Casey Carlson (I don't recall) forgot his words too.

Not sure who the pianist Stephen Fowler is. Ooh, seriously forgot his words.

Not sure if it's Norman or Nick. Nope. Norman Mitchell performing.
He's singing Georgia. I just don't get why they like his drag so much.

Ann-Marie Boscovich sang a song others did in a purple song.
Just ok to me.

Ju'not Joyner sang a pretty ballad.
Doesn't have a star look to me but it could work.

Louisville Caylon was sad that Simon cut her off.

Leneshe Young was the homeless girl.
She has alot of good tude. Not sure how she sounded from the short clip.

Kai Kalarama was offkey from a tired voice.

Michael "roughneck" Sarver
What a gift he has.

India Morrison seems to be off-key.