It’s a Wonderful Life RADIO THEATRE

A peculiar coincidence

X-CR IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE PRE-PUB 2019Capital Repertory Theatre in downtown Albany is presenting something called It’s a Wonderful Life: Live from WVL Radio Theatre from November 22 to December 22.

The description reads: “Meet George Bailey and all the residents of Bedford Falls as you’ve never seen—or heard— them before! Based on the classic Frank Capra film, this story comes to life as a live, 1940s radio broadcast. Five actors give voice to all the memorable Bedford Falls characters, accompanied by sound effects and music created live on stage.”

As part of my subscription to Proctor’s Theatre in Schenectady, I picked this show. But my wife wanted to go, and my daughter agreed to. We couldn’t get three seats together, so I sat with my daughter.

But the house was only half packed. On December 1, a winter storm was predicted. As we left church around 1 pm, there was a crew from The Weather Channel setting up at the entrance of Washington Park at State Street and Henry Johnson Boulevard. It seemed peculiar then since only a few flakes had fallen.

It was one of those peculiar coincidences. The premise of the play was that most of the cast of the radio theatre was snowed in while out of town. The sound effects guy decided that the show must go on, and recruited the station manager’s daughter, and two actors still in the area, to do all of the parts.

This included performing the commercials for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies, Pepsodent toothpaste and Chiquita bananas. Not only do I remember the ads, but I also have the clips on a CD.

Have you seen the movie?

One’s enjoyment, I suppose, depended partly on one’s knowledge of the source material. My daughter has never seen the film about how Angel Second Class Clarence attempts to earn his wings. My wife, who turned me onto the movie, had some difficulty keeping track of all the minor characters the four actors played. It worked rather well for me.

incidentally, my wife sat next to the mother of the young woman who played the station manager’s daughter. The mom flew in from Seattle. She and my wife had a lovely chat about the life of a traveling performer.

Then we drove home, very slowly. State Street hill was mighty treacherous to climb. A car was spinning its wheels by the state Capitol at Hawk and Washington. It is possible that a couple red lights were, um, ignored.

Nippertown: “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live From the WVL Radio Theatre” Brings Christmas to Capital Repertory Theatre.

Sigourney Weaver turns 70

Journeyer

Sigourney Weaver
by David Shankbone, from Wikipedia, 2008
Given the relatively few roles of hers that I’ve actually seen, I’ve nevertheless felt as though I’ve watched Sigourney Weaver in lots of films.

The first movie she was in, I’ve viewed several times, a non-speaking part as a date for Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) in Annie Hall (1977).

Then I went to see Alien (1979). OMG. She was fierce and strong and smart, and that was very appealing. No doubt that her character, Ripley, is one of the most significant female protagonists in all of cinema. I never watched any of the sequels – there were at least three – but I’m glad I saw the original. She did reprise Ripley briefly on the TV show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee in 2019.

In Ghostbusters (1984), Sigourney held her own as Dana in the mostly male film. I saw the sequel (1989) to this, but honestly, I’m not remembering it that much.

The performer played a real person, Dian Fossey, in Gorillas in the Mist (1988), a woman studying the primates and trying to stop their decimation. She was nominated for an Academy Award and won the Golden Globe for Best Actress for this role. She’s become a supporter of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and is now its honorary chairwoman.

Sigourney is the mean boss in Working Girl (1988). I know we’re supposed to root for the Melanie Griffith character over the conniving boss stealing her ideas, but Weaver, Oscar-nominated, was such a good villain! The Golden Globes picked as best supporting actress, meaning she won BOTH GG acting awards in the same year.

I loved Dave (1993), even though the Constitutional premise is absurd. Sigourney plays the First Lady, estranged from President Bill Mitchell (Kevin Kline). The White House staff use his doppelganger Dave (Kevin Kline) to cover up the fact that Mitchell had a stroke.

My, but The Ice Storm (1997) was depressingly good at portraying suburban ennui. She won the BAFTA Award – think British Oscars – for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Sigourney played The Warden in Holes (2003), and the voice of the ship’s computer in WALL-E (2008).

I wish I had seen the performer, trained at the Yale University School of Drama, on stage. She was a 1985 Tony nominee as Best Featured Actress In A Play in Hurlyburly.

On television, she’s hosted Saturday Night Live twice; I saw the 1986 episode but not the one in 2010. I’ve heard her speak fondly about her father, the late Sylvester L. Weaver Jr., better known as Pat. He virtually pioneered the very concepts of morning and late-night television programming in creating both the Today Show (1952) and Tonight! (1953).

Sigourney and Pat went to the Academy Awards together in 1987, when she was nominated for Best Actress for Aliens; she lost to Marlee Matlin in Children of a Lesser God.

Susan Alexandra “Sigourney” Weaver took her first name from a minor character in The Great Gatsby. My spellcheck does not like that first name, wanting to change it to Journeyer, which would also be appropriate.

She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in December 1999. Sigourney Weaver turns 70 today. Read this June 2019 interview in PARADE.

The Book of Mormon, more theater

Think the Tonys for the under-20 crowd

Book of MormonMy family goes to the theater quite often. Capital Rep in downtown Albany is a “287-seat professional regional theatre [which] operates under regulations dictated by Actors’ Equity Association.” It’ll be moving four blocks away later this year.

Proctors Theatre in downtown Schenectady is an old old vaudeville venue with about 2600 seats. I have an odd attachment to the place, because when the powers that be decided to renovate the building back in 1978, I worked there on the second floor for the Schenectady Arts Council for several months.

Besides being a reminder for ME of what I’ve seen, i’m hoping to drop some information for you, in case you come across these shows.

Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Cap Rep, December 23: “A sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set two years after the novel ends, MISS BENNET continues the story, only this time with bookish middle-sister Mary as its unlikely heroine.”

If it is a seasonal trifle, it is a very good one, with a lovely assortment of classical music pieces interspersed, played by the actors. There will be a half dozen productions in 2019 in the US and Canada, and it’s worth seeing if it comes to your area.

School of Rock, Proctors, February 10. I never saw the movie with Jack Black. The three of us liked the musical a lot, especially that narrative that you have to really LISTEN to your kids. It was on Broadway for about three years, and has been touring since September 2017, alas, ending in San Jose, CA this week.

High School Musical Theatre Awards, Proctors, May 11. Think the Tonys for the under-20 crowd. Our family had its rooting interests.

Sweet Charity from Albany High School got four nominations, getting one, for the orchestra. Beauty and the Beast from Catskill High School, and starring one of my nieces, got one nomination but did not win. Still, the other talent onstage was tremendous and the ceremony was very much worthwhile.

The Book of Mormon, Proctors, May 15. Back story: last time this show played in the area, in 2014, our daughter was sick in the hospital. Since my wife had stayed with our daughter the night before, I suggested that I should stay at the hospital so she could see the performance.

My wife went; she didn’t like it, finding it too coarse. This time, I went by myself, ON OUR ANNIVERSARY, no less. I thought it was quite funny and said a lot about stereotypes, religious imperialism, and the power of myth. The tour is continuing at least through August 2020.

Movie review- NTL: All About Eve (2019)

A remarkable blurring of the lines between cinema and theatre

All oabout EveMy wife suggested that we go see All About Eve at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. I had heard of the Bette Davis/Anne Baxter film from 1950, of course, but I had never seen it.

No, she meant the new National Theater Live version “performed in the Noël Coward theatre and is an adaptation from the well-known film.” It played twice at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, but we had missed it.

The production stars Gillian Anderson, best known from the television show The X-Files, as Margo Channing, an accomplished, but temperamental stage actress. Lily James (Downton Abbey, title role in 2015’s Cinderella) is Eve Harrington, a huge Margo fan with a “melancholy life story.”

Having read the description of the 1950 film, this story stays true to the source material, but the technology has made it much more than a filmed version of a play.

“Spending ages trying to get the rights, writer/director Ivo van Hove proves that it was worth the wait, with a remarkable blurring of the lines between cinema and theatre (all backed by PJ Harvey’s simmering score.)”

His search for the rights to “The Wisdom of Eve”, the short story by Mary Orr, from which writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz adapted the earlier screenplay, is described in the short piece prior to the action.

“Separating the stage layout into several sets, Hove attaches a large protector screen to the back of the set, and films (in real-time) private exchanges between characters in corridors, which are shown at the same time as with on-stage events (such as around a dining table) continue to unfold.”

This was an astonishingly effective technique. Sometimes, the main action was on the screen as the folks on the stage waited. One also got to see Margo, or Eve’s, full face, as they looked into the mirror.

The other actors were fine as well. I couldn’t help note that the 2019 version had a cast far more diverse than the origin film.

If All About Eve comes to a theater near you, I highly recommend that you go see it!

I find there is never “nothing to do”

“This is theater as teaching tool, artistic expression and catharsis”

HersOne of my pet peeves – nah, it’s stronger than that, more an irritation – happens when I hear folks from around the Capital District say, “There’s nothing to do around here.”

For instance, last weekend was chock full. On Friday, author L. Lloyd Stewart spoke at my church about his 2013 book The Mysterious Black Migration 1800-1820: The Van Vranken Family and Other Free Families of African Descent in Washington County, New York.

Now mostly rural, Washington County, not far from Albany, is not a place people around here think of as an African-American stronghold. But the growth of free blacks, and slaves – the institution didn’t end in the Empire State until 1827 – was huge.

Saturday night, the Albany High School Theatre Ensemble challenged “gender conformity and misogyny in its… production of a student-written played called HERS: An Explanation of Our Expectations.”

Times Union newspaper critic Steve Barnes wrote: “This is theater as teaching tool, artistic expression and catharsis, for the performers and their audience, and it is often deeply moving to experience.” It was so much so that our daughter went AGAIN on Sunday afternoon.

Instead, I went to Remembering a Life of Words, Art and Music, celebrating the life of Greg Haymes, a/k/a Sarge Blotto a/k/a Will Bill Hayes, et al.: musician, writer, artist and Nippertown founder. I saw a LOT of people I’ve known over the years, such as intellectual property lawyer Paul Rapp, a/k/a drummer F. Lee Harvey Blotto, and photographer/critic David Brickman.

Peter Lesser from The Egg, the venue where the event took place, started things off. Sara Ayers, true love of Greg. was wonderfully gracious. Then Paul Jossman (guitarist Bowtie Blotto) and Bill Polchinski (guitarist/songwriter Broadway Blotto) gave touching and funny tributes to their band mate.

Michael Eck (Ramblin Jug Stompers) was particularly emotional. Local musician Bryan Thomas spoke of Greg’s encouragement. Kirsten Ferguson discussed Greg’s light touch as Nippertown editor. The aforementioned Steve Barnes marveled how Greg could know EVERYTHING about what was happening in the local music scene.

Rosanne Raneri and Steven Clyde sang and played a Jefferson Airplane tune. Then there was proper New Orleans sendoff with The 2nd Line Driveby Jazz Band. A wonderful celebration.

We were so busy that weekend, we didn’t make it to the annual Greek Festival. Monday night, I had three choices of activities, including something promoting the census; I did none of the above.

This is not a complaint, but most of my weekends have been very busy all year. There’s NEVER “nothing to do.” I can tell as my email queue gets longer and my prepared blog post list gets shorter.