Monthly Archives: November 2018

We Swim, We Talk, We Go To War

We Swim We Talk We Go To War

Today I went with a friend to see a preview of the play We Swim, We Talk, We Go To War,  written by Mona Mansour. I knew Mona many years ago in San Diego Junior Theatre during our teen years. I knew she was a playwright, a good one, but this is the first time I’ve seen her work. What took me so long?! Please, if you’re in the Bay Area, support small theatre companies like Golden Thread, and see this play if you can.

I don’t want to spoil anything by sharing too much about the piece, which opens tomorrow night. The description on the Golden Thread website is just the right amount of info to know going in. The piece is timely, human, intelligent, and thoughtful. It’s a serious topic, but there’s some humor as well. Just like life. What more can we ask for from live theatre?

Thank you, Mona!

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The Kids Are Alright: Peggy’s Day Out

S01E4

William (Andy Walken) reading science fiction

The Secret of Quaytar by J. Eldon Gutierrez with William (Andy Walken) and Frank (Sawyer Barth)

William (Andy Walken) reads The Secret of Quaytar by J. Eldon Gutierrez to Frank (Sawyer Barth)

In the fourth episode of The Kids Are Alright, Eddie and his no-longer-secret girlfriend Wendi take center stage, as they cope with the fallout of a broken bottle of Detroit’s finest cold duck. Timmy gets roped into Pat’s odd idea of fun, and in a parallel story, mom Peggy tests Wendi’s loyalty with a trip to a fancy beauty salon. William has a captive audience reading his latest sci fi to Frank. All the boys (and dad Mike) had good moments in the episode, and even baby Andy gets a great reaction shot.

Best seventies reference: dad Mike turns on the TV during a report about the Watergate hearings. I well remember how much daytime television was preempted for those endless hearings. As a kid I couldn’t make understand any of it, so mostly I just resented not being able to watch regular TV. Fortunately a neighbor introduced me to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys that summer.

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The Kids Are Alright

I turned nine in 1972. The early seventies were a traumatic time for my family, so I’ve never been particularly nostalgic about those years. The fashions, decor, and hairstyles were mostly awful. Brown, orange, and avocado are still my least favorite colors. With some trepidation, I checked out the pilot to new ABC sitcom The Kids Are Alright. I’m happy to say, I really love this show and encourage everyone to check it out.

The Kids Are Alright is a 1965 song by The Who, as well as the 1979 documentary that followed. Set in the summer of 1972, the sitcom is about a working class Irish-Catholic family with 8 boys. Show creator Tim Doyle narrates, and the series is centered on middle boy Timmy Cleary (Jack Gore), a redhead with dreams of stardom. All the boys are distinct enough that, after only three episodes, I have a grasp of their personalities.

The oldest son is Lawrence (Sam Straley), a long-haired liberal soon-to-be ex-seminarian. Eddie (Caleb Foote) gets no respect at the second oldest, and he’s usually fighting Frank (Sawyer Barth), an eavesdropping tattletale. Joey (Christopher Paul Richards) is precocious, cunning, and probably amoral; an old soul in an adolescent body with raging hormones. Sweet, smart William (Andy Walken) is a bookworm and the kid I relate to the most. Little Pat (Santino Barnard), in glasses, is timid with a questionable grasp on reality. Baby Andy (Sawyer and Jax Laucius)…well, hopefully we’ll be with the Cleary family long enough for him to walk and talk.

Mary McCormack plays the mom to perfection. Peggy Cleary is tough, acerbic, and an expert at economizing. Dad Mike (Michael Cudlitz) works for a defense contractor and literally brings home the bacon; he’s in charge of the grocery shopping. He wants better things for his boys, even if that doesn’t include fresh vegetables.

The seventies references are fun for us older viewers. These include The Partridge Family, Sonny & Cher, Bob Hope TV specials, the Nixon administration, grape and lettuce boycotts, film developing, and Jiffy Pop. I won’t mind if the heavier stuff from that summer is left out, like the Munich Olympics massacre. So far, the older boys aren’t fretting about the draft versus college, and that’s fine with me.

William is usually reading a book, and he’s clearly a fan of science fiction. I enjoy checking out the titles.

Dune by Frank Herbert

High Vacuum by Charles Eric Maine

Anybody’s guess!

Are there enough people who remember the seventies to keep this show on the air? I have a friend in his 30s who says, “It’s SO GOOD.” I guess you don’t have to understand all the references. Besides, we have Google now. ABC has ordered more episodes, according to Tim Doyle on Twitter, so that’s encouraging. Hopefully The Kids Are Alright will be around long enough for the Bicentennial, dittos pants, satin jackets, clackers, pop rocks, pet rocks, Roots, A Chorus Line, and Star Wars. Oh, geez, even disco.

You can watch the first three episodes streaming online, and new episodes air on Tuesday nights at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.

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Ramin Karimloo & Seth Rudetsky at The Herbst

The Herbst: Ramin Karimloo with Seth Rudetsky

Last night I spent a terrific evening with theatre fans at the Herbst Theatre. It was my first time at this intimate venue in the War Memorial, located on Van Ness Avenue across from City Hall. I read reviews on Yelp that said the balcony was either steamy hot or downright chilly, so I dressed in layers. From my excellent seat in the second row center of the Dress Circle, everything was just right.

I arrived early and caught the last part of the ‘No One Is Above The Law’ protest in front of City Hall, just before protesters started a march to Mission Street. City Hall was all lit up in blue lights. Once I arrived in the lobby of the War Memorial, I had time to study the banners commemorating WWI. The Herbst opened at 7pm, so I spent the next half hour chatting with the folks sitting around me. I laughed with a woman in the first row who loves Phantom of the Opera but can’t stand Les Mis, because I’m the exact opposite. We were happy to agree to disagree. The nice fellow sitting on my left helped me during the concert with songs from shows I didn’t recognize. He also gave me his take on the local production of The Boy From Oz that I’m seeing next week.

I became obsessed with Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser back in 2010, when they appeared as Enjolras and Grantaire in the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert, which aired here on PBS. For many months after, my blog here was taken over by West End guest posts and Les Mis/Phantom screen caps. Ultimately, blogging about West End actors from afar proved more frustrating than entertaining. Fast forward eight years, and Ramin Karimloo finally came to San Francisco. I had to be there for his first ever performance in my city, and he didn’t disappoint.

Seth Rudetsky played host, interviewer, pianist, and sparring partner. Rudetsky and Karimloo sat in chairs and chatted about Karimloo’s life story and career. They’d get up to perform a song, then sit down again for more chat. There were plenty of laughs, especially at Rudetsky’s numerous attempts to get a Valjean/Javert duet going. The women in the audience sang the Sandy part to Summer Loving (Grease), while Karimloo and Rudetsky struggled (and argued) over the lyrics to Danny’s part. Karimloo’s “She went down in the sand” was wrong but awesome.

It was fun to hear Karimloo discuss his life and career, even though I was familiar with most of his bio already. Folks down in the orchestra were calling out comments during the interview, and we couldn’t hear much of what they said from the balcony. It was the only frustrating part of the evening. Rudetsky must have thought everyone could hear, because he kept asking those folks if they were wearing microphones. I was hoping for some mention of Karimloo’s friendship with Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons (Karimloo and Fraser’s bluegrass band), and Anastasia, but they didn’t come up. Karimloo discussed his bet with a teenage friend that he’d one day play the Phantom, his admiration for and friendship with Colm Wilkinson, meeting his wife during an audition for a cruise ship, his brief stint in Sunset Boulevard, and how he was cast in Love Never Dies. He also talked about his initial reluctance to play Valjean (Les Mis).

Here’s the set list, not in strict order, since I was too busy enjoying myself to take notes:

Moving Too Fast (The Last Five Years)

Summer Loving (Grease)

It All Fades Away (The Bridges of Madison County) with Ramin on guitar

Sunset Boulevard

Anthem (Chess)

The Pirate King (Pirates of Penzance)

Bring Him Home (Les Misérables)

Music of The Night (Phantom of the Opera)

Til I Hear You Sing (Love Never Dies)

Muddy Water (Big River)

Make Them Hear You (Ragtime)

Ol Man River (Show Boat) with Ramin on guitar

The Confrontation (Les Misérables) with Rudetsky singing Javert

After the concert, I went to the stage door, where a few folks with paid Meet & Greet tickets waited in line. I stayed further back and had a great time chatting to several fans. Eliza was at my Aaron Tveit concert in September, and Elena from Bath told us she was in the audience at the 25th anniversary Phantom at the Royal Albert Hall. Seth Rudetsky stopped to say hello to us. The last fellow in the Meet & Greet line showed us his photos with Karimloo, and we discovered a shared passion for Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis. I was still chatting with Eliza and Elena when Karimloo came out with several others, so we got to thank him for the show. We didn’t ask for photos and autographs; just seeing him up close was enough. When I came out of the building, Karimloo was taking photos of the blue City Hall. I told him to come back soon, then rushed off to catch my late night bus.

Okay, so now it’s time for Hadley Fraser. Come perform in San Francisco, please!

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