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Finding Neverland is the story about how James Matthew Barrie (Billy Harrigan Tighe) wrote the story of Peter Pan by befriending a widow, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Lael Van Keuren) and her four boys. One of the boys is named Peter, and the death of his father had damaged his sense of childlike wonder.

Barrie too had gotten all grown up, married to a high society-minded woman, having fancy dinners with snooty people such as Mrs. du Maurier (Broadway working actress Karen Murphy), and in need of writing another successful piece for a theater impresario, Charles Frohman (John Davidson – yes, THAT John Davidson) and his troupe.

(I’ll admit I love the stunt casting in these touring shows that my wife and I see at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. I didn’t recognize Davidson straight off – his hair is much whiter than when I watched his TV show decades ago – but he was a solid performer, as was Adrienne Barbeau from Maude in Pippin a few seasons back.)

Barrie discovers he needs to find his own sense of adventure. And – no spoiler here – he finds it, with Frohman the inspiration for Captain Hook. Indeed, the Frohman character BECOMES Hook, taunting/inspiring the writer. Note that we’re not looking for historical accuarcy here.

The production features music and lyrics by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, based on the book by James Graham. It was all quite serviceable to the plot, with a few pretty good songs. But I will admit that I got a bit misty-eyed at the end of the penultimate scene. It was one of the best payoffs I’ve experienced in seeing theater. If it’s touring in your area, I recommend it.

We did see the movie, also based on the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee. back in 2004 or 2005, with Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, and Julie Christie. I remembered enjoying it, but this iteration, I believe, had a more of an emotional wallop.

Finding Neverland, the musical, ran on Broadway for 565 performances in 2015 and 2016, with Matthew Morrison, the teacher from the TV show Glee, as Barrie; Kelsey Grammer, who starred as Frasier on TV, as Frohman; and Carolee Carmello as Mrs. du Maurier. Morrison and Carmello were nominated for Tonys but did not win.

Having no New York State team to root for in the World Series, it was easy to support the Houston Astros. The baseball team started off as the Houston Colt .45’s in 1962, the same year the New York Mets also joined the National League.

The current name, reflecting the city’s role as the control center of the U.S. space program, was adopted in 1965, when they moved into the Astrodome, the world’s first domed sports stadium. They now play their home games in what is now Minute Maid Park in 2000.

But while the Miracle Mets won the World Series in 1969 and 1986, and lost the Series three other times, the Astros had only gotten to the Series once before, losing to the Chicago White Sox in four straight games in 2005.

After that, the team got pretty bad, losing over 100 games out of 162 in 2011, 2012, and 2013, the latter the year they moved from the National League Central division to the America League West.

I had another reason for supporting the Houston Astros. Major League Baseball teams have minor league “farm” teams at various level. The short-season single A farm club for the Astros is the Tri-City Valley Cats, who play in nearby Troy, NY.

Five of the former Valley Cats played for Houston in 2017, and one, Enrique Hernandez has been with their Series opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, since 2015. One guy who played in Troy was Houston right fielder George Springer, the 2017 World Series Most Valuable Player.

Coolest of all, the Astros flew a teacher of English as a Second Language, a colleague and friend of my wife’s, from Albany to Houston to attend Games 3 and 4 of the World Series. She had tutored many of the Valley Cats players who came from other countries.

I didn’t ask her specifically who she worked with, but I wonder if one of her students had been second baseman Jose Altuve, who was born in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, played in Troy in 2009, and was named the American League MVP for the 2017 regular season.

The Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 4 games to 3.

Lady Bird is a charming, believable, well-acted story about a deeply opinionated teenage girl named Christine McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) who butts heads with her hard-working, deeply opinionated mom, Marion (Laurie Metcalf).

I related to the triad that takes place among mother-daughter-father Larry (Tracy Letts) where the dad tries to facilitate domestic tranquility at a time that he’s lost his job in 2002 Sacramento and is unsure of his own prospects.

My wife, daughter and I all enjoyed seeing it at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in December 2017. Ronan was the star of Brooklyn, the very first movie I saw at the Spectrum after it had become a Landmark Theatre, and she is equally good here. Metcalf, who I still associate with the TV show Roseanne, has a loving ferociousness.

Letts, who was also in The Lovers this year, was fine, as were supporting characters such as Lady Bird’s friend Julie (Beanie Feldtein) and first potential boyfriend Danny (Lucas Hedges, the teen from Manchester by the Sea).

The movie shows kids in Catholic school without overly bashing it, and that does not happen that much.

Here’s the problem with the movie Lady Bird: not much, really. Maybe the title, which makes me think of Lyndon Baines Johnson and his wife, who was a perfectly nice First Lady who wanted to beautify America.

OK, the problem with Lady Bird has been, as Ken Levine put it, “praised to the heavens. Ten years ago it would just be considered a cute little movie.” True enough, with a 99% positive reviews in Rotten Tomatoes, and 82% among the general public.

Part of it is that it features the work of Greta Gerwig, who “reveals herself to be a bold new cinematic voice with her directorial debut.” Yikes.

My fear is that the very good movie will disappoint – “What’s the hype about? – rather than being appreciated for the very fine, small film that it is.

My good friend Anne, who I’ve known at least since Gerald Ford was President, asks: Why hasn’t the current regime been charged with using public office for private gain? (Sorry, kinda rhetorical).

It’s a reasonable question, given a recent ruling in which a judge dismissed suits claiming Trump violated the emoluments clause.

“The plaintiffs argued that because Trump properties rent out hotel rooms and meeting spaces to other governments, the president was violating a constitutional provision that bans the acceptance of foreign emoluments, or gifts from foreign powers.

“But Judge George B. Daniels of the Southern District of New York ruled that the plaintiffs, led by the government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), lacked standing to bring such a case, saying it was up to Congress to prevent the president from accepting emoluments.”

To the first point, it wasn’t merely that the Trump organization was renting out space, it was with the (wink, wink) impression that those countries would receive favored status in dealing with the United States.

Precisely how much benefit IS the regime leader receiving from these deals? Who knows since he doesn’t release his tax returns. That, of course, is why most of us believe the dreadful tax bill that was recently passed and signed will favor him economically. We don’t even need to read the tea leaves.

To the second point, about standing, Judge Daniels wants THIS Congress to hold him accountable? I’m hoping that lawsuits still out there by “a group of congressional Democrats and another filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District” will have more success.

Unfortunately, engaging in class warfare and participating in the wholesale looting of America is apparently not an impeachable offense as long as two branches of government agree to it.

Yes, I think it’s obvious that the emoluments clause has been violated, and repeatedly. But I’m not king.

One of my work colleagues had this Elvis Presley video which I couldn’t identify, though it looked as though it was from one of his movies, none of which I’ve ever seen. Yet the tune was irritatingly familiar. Dustbury identified the video as No More from the soundtrack to Blue Hawaii.

That made sense, he noted, because it came out right after Elvis had an enormous hit with It’s Now or Never, an English rewrite of O Sole Mio, the “globally known Neapolitan song written in 1898.” Its lyrics were written by Giovanni Capurro and the music was composed by Eduardo di Capua. Aaron Schroeder, Wally Gold, and di Capua are credited on It’s Now or Never.

Here are a few examples of when Elvis borrowed from classical music; compare and contrast.

Don Robertson, credited as the co-composer of No More with Hal Blair, said he based it on the Italian tune La Paloma. But in fact Sebastián Yradier was a Spanish Basque composer who wrote this habanera around 1860 after a visit to Cuba. It is, “together with Yesterday by The Beatles,… one of the most recorded songs in the history of music.”

From this list of Elvis songs, I checked who was cited for writing Love Me Tender, since it was based on what I thought was an old folk tune, Aura Lee. It’s credited to Elvis Presley; Vera Matson (pseudonym of Ken Darby, uncredited – what’s THAT all about?); and George R. Poulton (1828–1867), who was “a musician and composer, best known for composing the tune to Aura Lea.” (I’ve seen it spelled both ways.)

Of course, Aura Lee has often been rewritten. When we were kids, the lyrics were:
If you must take medicine
Take it orally
That’s because the other way
Is more painfully

Listen to
No More – Elvis Presley here (the video I saw, unlabeled) or here
La Paloma – Plácido Domingo here
La Paloma – Julio Iglesias here

Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley here
Aura Lee – A Cappella Trudbol here
Aura Lee- Jim Reeves here
Aura Lee – 97th Regimental String Band here

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