Tag Archives: West Side Story

July 17-20 Fun in (and out of) the Sun!

There are so many amazing events happening this weekend that my google calendar looks like a piece of psychedelic art! Sadly you can never do everything but here are my suggestions!

First off, don’t forget to check my previous post for great events taking place tonight!

Tomorrow night you’re going to have to make some tough choices; there are eight events I feel compelled to post.

First, Gemini and Scorpio are hosting a Nouvelle Époque Cabaret-Salon at The Players Club:

The legendary Players, boasting such luminary members as Mark Twain, Eugene O’Neill and Ernest Hemingway, is a members-only social club founded by the famed 19th century Shakespearean actor Edwin Booth. The Players’ landmarked home is a magnificent Victorian mansion with a wrought-iron balcony overlooking Gramercy Park.

JC Hopkins’ Biggish Band plays rollicking hard bop swing all night featuring guest vocalists tap-dancing sensation DeWitt Fleming Jr, velvet-voiced Jolie Holland, and Tony-nominated downtown icon Justin Bond, in addition to JC’s resident front-woman Queen Esther. The always-surprising Julie Atlas Muz (Miss Exotic World 2006), the jaw-droppingly stylish MsTickle, and hilariously naughty Trixie Little & Evil Hate Monkey perform feats of burlesque to live accompaniment by the band all night. In band breaks, 1920s tap sensation The Minsky Sisters amuse and titillate you.

The dress code calls for top hats and opera gloves… All this and I get to play dress-up? Sign me (and Cinderella) up!

For a slightly more actively artistic salon experience pick up a ticket to the exclusive Draw-a-Thon event happening in Michael Alan’s private studio. The drawing will actually be taking place on the roof of the studio in Williamsburg; the models will be posing as animals against the backdrop of the sun setting over Manhattan- sounds inspiring!

There are five great concerts Friday night, ranging from highbrow to hipster. The first, the Philharmonic Concert in Central Park, I’ve already mentioned. The Metropolitan Opera is performing their final outdoor recital in Crotona Park in the Bronx. This one should be much less crowded than the Summerstage shows so if you’re up for the trek I’m sure it will be worthwhile.

For a more contemporary outdoor concert experience check out Robert Cray and The Sweet Divines at the Prospect Park Bandshell. Check out these ladies:

If you want to stay indoors you can head over to Mercury Lounge to rock out with The Spinto Band. I wrote about them some time ago; I’ve had some of their songs in my subway playlists since then and I’ve definitely become quite fond of them.

spinto band

You also have another chance to see Black Taxi! I saw them perform at Pianos a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been meaning to post a full review of their amazing performance- I promise I’ll get that to you soon but for now let me just say I am certain their show at Le Poisson Rouge will be a blast!

Last but not least, I am very excited to announce that there will be a GIANT GAME OF CAPTURE THE FLAG taking place Friday night. Newmindspace has organized this carefully structured game in Williamsburg- play nice!

capture the flag

On Saturday pull yourself together (I know, Friday is going to be intense but you can do it!) and get out to Coney Island for the annual Siren Music Festival! This year performers include Monotonix, Micachu & The Shapes and Spank Rock (to name but a few). After the shows there’s a hot afterparty at The Music Hall of Williamsburg (where there will be even more shows!). Check out the awesome drawing that adorns the press releases:

siren music festival

If you missed out on François Truffaut’s New Wave masterpiece The 400 Blows last week you have another chance to see it on Saturday, this time as part of the ongoing French New Wave Essentials series at the Museum of Arts and Design.

On Sunday Dare Dukes is playing at the Rockwood Music Hall. Listening to him croon lovely urban folk songs should be an excellent way to wind down the weekend.

There are two exciting outdoor film screenings to consider attending Monday evening. Harold and Maude is showing in Bryant Park:

Teenager Bud Cort and sexagenarian Ruth Gordon both like to go to funerals of people they don’t know, and meet to embark on one of cinema’s great relationships. Audacious and heartbreaking, Hal Ashby’s superb black comedy also features a perfect soundtrack by Cat Stevens.

And downtown, on The Elevated Acre, you can see West Side Story.

Natalie Wood as Maria in West Side Story

Natalie Wood as Maria in West Side Story

Enjoy and stay tuned for additions!

Love & Racism- Two Musicals

I spent both of the last two evenings crying while actors sang love songs on stage. It was marvelous. Luckily on both occasions my companion(s) were tolerant of the waterworks and realized they were actually indicative of what a wonderful time I was having.

Monday night I saw the new revival of West Side Story, which is currently in previews at the Palace Theater. Arthur Laurents, at the age of 91, is doing a revival of his own show that goes in a totally new direction- the Puerto Rican characters speak and sing in Spanish. At first I found the scenes that were almost entirely in Spanish, like an argument between Anita and Bernardo, jarring and confusing. Subtitles were deemed a distraction so if you don’t speak Spanish you can only guess at exactly what’s being said. I didn’t begin to really appreciate how powerful the contrast between the languages could be until Anita and Maria sang A Boy Like That/I Have a Love. When Maria breaks into English the audience feels that she’s embracing Tony and the country he’s part of, but also that she’s painfully breaking from her own. The music is even more powerful, especially through the voices of these two truly phenomenal actresses- JOSEFINA SCAGLIONE and KAREN OLIVO.

Karen Olivo (Anita), George Akram (Bernardo) and company

Karen Olivo (Anita), George Akram (Bernardo) and company


Josefina Scaglione (Maria) and Matt Cavenaugh (Tony)

Josefina Scaglione (Maria) and Matt Cavenaugh (Tony)


The final scene after Tony has been killed, in which Maria threatens to kill herself and members of both gangs, feels raw and terrifying. She switches hysterically from English to Spanish and her pain and confusion is more clearly demonstrated through this mix of languages than it could possibly have been otherwise. I certainly recommend seeing this production, if possible see it before it officially opens.

As interesting and enjoyable as West Side Story was I will admit that it paled somewhat in comparison to South Pacific, which I saw last night at the Lincoln Center Theater. We arrived late (my fault; I mixed up the time) but were immediately swept away by the energy and talent of the performers. The theater is much smaller than the Palace and even from the balcony we had a fantastic view. Andrew Samonsky lives up to his character’s description (“You sexy Lieutenant!”). The relationship between him and Liat (Li Jun Li), though really the secondary romance of the musical, has more of a feeling of authenticity than I expected. These are two actors truly embodying their characters; they are both swept away by a love that seems to exist outside of reality. The feeling of bitterness and desire in the song ‘Happy Talk’ is amazing. I started crying then and kept on crying right through until the end of Act II.

Andrew Samonsky (Lt. Joseph Cable) and Li Jun Li (Liat)

Andrew Samonsky (Lt. Joseph Cable) and Li Jun Li (Liat)

Of course it was Kelli O’Hara (Nellie Forbush) and Paulo Szot (Emile de Becque) who made the show truly phenomenal. Since we missed the opening scene it took me some time to really feel the chemistry between them. My first impression of her was formed during ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,’ which she performed beautifully.

Kelli O'Hara (Nellie Forbush)

Kelli O'Hara (Nellie Forbush)

I can’t count how many times I’ve sung that song in the shower after a breakup; it is ingrained into my subconscious image of relationships. Her southern accent and his French accent were problematic for me at first; they felt inauthentic and distracted from the words being spoken. In song they appealed to me much more. When he sings ‘This Was Nearly Mine’ the irony is present to a degree that recalls Greek tragedy more than musical theater.

Paulo Szot (Emile de Becque) and Andrew Samonsky (Lt. Joseph Cable)

Paulo Szot (Emile de Becque) and Andrew Samonsky (Lt. Joseph Cable)

I was involved enough that I actually forgot there was a happy ending and was so swept away by it I was hysterical all the way through the curtain calls. If you have any positive associations with this musical see it now before this cast begin to leave the production.

Stay tuned for additions to this week’s roster of events and for my weekend post!


I just got home, having called it a night a bit early given my growing sleep deficit. Friday night was fantastic! K and I  had a reservation at Satsko but when we got there we discovered (through some surreptitious glancing around the streamers/curtains) that it was frighteningly empty. No decent place should be that empty on a Friday night so we wandered down to Spitzers instead. Of course we had to wait for 45 minutes but we munched on truffle mac and cheese and drank Tanqueray and tonic and all was well. K and I both have a real thing for truffles. I kind of want them on everything… they’re actually a good reason to sell your soul to corporate America- more money means more truffles (and shoes). After a vastly satisfying meal we walked down the street to The Slipper Room to enjoy the aforementioned Hot Box Burlesque. We were pleased to partake of acts featuring Bunny Love, Bambi, Peekaboo Pointe, Queen Laquifa and Tigger.  This was an excellent representation of burlesque. I was very pleased because K and I had three burlesque virgins with us. There was comedy, there were absurd costumes, there were dollar bills all over and there was a drag queen. Perhaps the most exciting performer ‘sang’ the national anthem with her thighs. Yes. She put the microphone between her thighs and scrunched them to play the national anthem.

Singing with her thighs

Singing with her thighs

It was  pretty incredible and I will admit to being jealous of this talent. In fact by the end of most burlesque shows I tend to  feel compelled to perform burlesque. It’s not that I would feel uncomfortable with the nudity, what holds me back is really my lack of dancing skills and comic timing. Sigh…

Friday night finished up with my first bar brawl. This must have been in the wee hours of Saturday morning, there had been a good deal of drinking, dancing and burlesque and some short dweeby looking guy pushed K and she pushed back and then he really pushed her hard, almost knocking her off her pretty little heels. Then I was trying to beat him up and his tall, comparatively sober, friend was holding me back and it all could have gotten quite ugly (trust you me I would have won) but luckily the sober friend dragged the dweeb outside and K and I were able to feel triumphant.

This morning I had to be up at an ungodly hour to meet my grandmother for brunch at Petite Abeille. It’s a marvelous little Belgian place near Union Sq. but I’ll admit brioche french toast was not quite what I wanted first thing this morning. My grandmother is a fantastic woman and a true New Yorker. We go to the opera and the ballet together and visit all the museums and do a great deal of shopping and brunching. She spoils me dreadfully. This morning she bought me lots of pretty things. She has stellar taste and I would be at a loss without her. We trooped up to Lincoln Center in time for our matinée at The New York City Ballet. This afternoon they did a program of three short ballets:

Stravinsky Violin Concerto

Stravinsky Violin Concerto/Choreography by Balanchine

Stravinsky Violin Concerto/Choreography by Balanchine

La Valse; my grandmother paticularly enjoyed this one because she’s been watching Philip Neal perform since the start of his career and she still thinks he’s “very handsome.”

La Valse/Ravel and Balanchine

La Valse/Ravel and Balanchine

And finally, West Side Story, which was interesting in this context because only some scenes were performed and the singing wasn’t always coming from the dancer playing the character, and the dancing is a bit different because the dancers are trained in ballet. On the whole it was not my favorite rendition of West Side Story but I did love their version of the dance where Tony and Maria meet. I was just bummed that they didn’t have the ‘I just met a girl named Maria’ song; I used to sing that in the shower all the time when I was about 12.

West Side Story/Bernstein and Robbins

West Side Story/Bernstein and Robbins

According to Playbill the revival of West Side Story will be opening on Broadway quite soon. Apparently the Puerto Rican characters will be speaking/singing in Spanish.

The production “will introduce the unprecedented element of selectively weaving Spanish throughout both the book and songs,” according to a July 16 announcement.

Laurents, who earned solid reviews (and a 2008 Tony nomination) for staging the current Broadway run of Gypsy, stated, “This show will be radically different from any other production of West Side Story ever done. The musical theatre and cultural conventions of 1957 made it next to impossible for the characters to have authenticity. Every member of both gangs was always a potential killer even then. Now they actually will be. Only Tony and Maria try to live in a different world…”

West Side Story has music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Laurents. The staging will retain the original choreography of late director Jerome Robbins, who conceived the project by using Romeo and Juliet as inspiration. As previously announced, the Robbins choreography will be restaged by Tony Award nominee Joey McKneely (The Boy from Oz, The Life).

I’m not sure how I feel about this innovation but I’m curious enough that I will probably try to find cheap tickets, or at the very least monitor the reviews. We really haven’t had much beyond revivals and Disney shows on Bway lately, which seems really unfortunate since I’m sure there are a lot of creative new projects that just aren’t getting funding. If ‘Cars’ becomes a Broadway musical I may have to set up a picket line.

Tonight I went with a few friends to see all the Oscar nominated short films at the IFC Center. First were the live action shorts:

  • Auf Der Strecke (On The Line): A bit disturbing, rather unsatisfactory ending, very little smiling.
  • Manon on the Asphalt: I am too much of a francophile to not have LOVED this. It’s tragic but so sensuous; I love the close-ups of her hair, the leaves above her, the dreamy way her thoughts travel amongst the people who are important to her. It’s a splendid death scene.
  • New Boy: There are Irish accents and a very charming teacher and a whole group of bright eyed children who learn to be friends with the new boy; I hope this one wins simply because it’s optimistic.
  • The Pig: This is sort of a comedy about two men who are in the hospital and a painting of a pig.
  • Spielzeugland (Toyland): I cried hysterically through most of this. It’s about the Holocaust. There are too many movies out right now about the Holocaust.

After a brief interlude, and the purchasing of popcorn, we sat through the animated shorts:

  • La Maison en Petits Cubes: We travel through the past by going further down in a house that has been built up over time as water levels have risen (environmental msg? not sure).
  • Lavatory/Love story: Too cute. Way too cute.
  • Oktopodi: Two octopuses are in love and rescue one another from various dangerous situations.
  • Presto: If you’ve seen WallE you’ve seen this one- magician vs. his rabbit.
  • This Way Up: Hard to describe, involves undertakers, clowns in hell and some other trippy trippy stuff.

There were definitely others that we saw today that weren’t actually nominated but I’ll admit that they’ve all blended a bit in my mind at this point. I have been told that all of the nominated shorts can be seen through iTunes and I highly recommend that you check them out at some point before the Oscars; it’s very fun to know what’s happening in those categories.

Tomorrow I am going to try to make myself get some work done but I will post about any particularly exciting events happening this week!