Tag Archives: patti lupone

Tex and the City: Books for a Cause

Today on Tex and the City: A good cause reinforces Jon Paul’s love of hard covers over e-books.  Guest stars: Daisy Martinez, Patti LuPone (sort of).

Last night, in the midst of a passionate Upper West Side crowd, Patti LuPone was staring at me with an eager, come hither grin.  As I approached, a cutish guy caught my eye, “You’re the first one to show interest all night.”  He was one of the volunteer’s at the Goddard Riverside Community Center 24th Annual New York Book Fair.  And unlike celebrity chef Daisy Martinez who was signing books in-person across the room, Patti had sent a facsimile of herself courtesy of the cover of her book, Patti LuPone: A MemoirWhat must have the contentious discussions been like to come up with that clever title?  Still, after a product plug on Glee from the impossibly precious Blaine, I couldn’t resist taking a peek inside.  After all, it was for a good cause.

Every year the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Goddard Center hosts this fundraising fair featuring 50% off some of the latest and most buzzed about books donated by various publishing companies.  And I can see why they participate every year.  The Goddard Center is an outstanding organization with 27 programs in 21 sites on the Upper West Side and in West Harlem focusing on children, youth and families; homeless people; older adults; and advocacy and tenant assistance.  Thanks to the Whole Foods Market Upper West Side sponsorship of the event, Chef scored me a pass to the gala preview where I shopped for best sellers without breaking the bank.

For Chef, I elbowed my way through the Cooking section picking up Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home and Bouchon at way under market value, while cautioning other buyers that his French Laundry cookbook was really only for the extremely seriously trained culinary professionals.  For myself, I grabbed Mark Bittman’s latest The Food Matters Cook Book.  In the Hot Titles section, I nearly tackled someone to pick up a hard cover cop of Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, even though I just ordered it on Kindle.  I’m still having trouble getting my head around reading “important” novels in electronic form.  I have the same issues about wanting to have real copies of “quirky” books, which is why I probably nabbed John Waters’ Role ModelsSuper Freakonomics, on the other hand, is a book I would happily read electronically, but not economist-turned-Chef, so I caved for him.  We even picked a Christmas present for our nieces, a sweet children’s book Me, Frida about Frida Kahlo finding herself and following her dream when she moved to San Francisco with Diego.  The book jacket says the book “encourages young readers to believe in themselves so they can make their own dreams soar.”  Hmm, maybe I’ll hang onto it.

Back at the Entertainment section, I was just putting down Patti’s book, not too impressed with the over-the-top self-congratulatory opening.  Then the Goddard Center Broadway Babies took the “stage” and belted out “Give My Regards to Broadway.”  It was a Glee-come-true, and I decided that Patti should come home with me.

On the subway lugging home all the heavy purchases, I couldn’t thinking about Kindle—hoping e-book craze never puts this cause out-of-business.

Grab your own Patti or Frida at the Goddard Riverside Community Center 24th Annual New York Book Fair, 593 Columbus Avenue @ 88th Street

Saturday, November 20, 2010, 10am to 6pm
Sunday, November 21, 2010, 11am-5pm

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Tex and the City: Pass the Valium

Today on Tex and the City: Jon Paul needs a valium to recover from the mess of Broadway’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.

At times on Saturday night, I felt like the ladies of Broadway’s Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown were warming up for the New York Marathon.  What with all the choreographed pacing back and forth and up and down the non-stop moving set.  Unfortunately, no amount of movement could breathe authentic energy into this show.  It’s like their coach, er director Bartlett Sher, was too worried about distracting gadgets like colorful projections and flying set pieces, and lost site of the fundamentals like character development and interaction.  Granted, it’s never easy to adapt a beloved classic, but I was on the edge of my seat wondering what in the world Pedro Almodóvar thought of the mess this production had made of his lovably funny and tender film.  Like the women on stage, I needed a valium to stay calm—and get by.

The problem starts from the opening scene setting number “Madrid” which is supposed to paint a picture of an exciting capital city in 1987 undergoing rapid changes after a decade of democracy.  Much of the audience is probably unfamiliar with the history and pulse of Madrid—and this number certainly doesn’t rectify that.  The city conjured up here feels dull and lifeless.  It’s not like it’s impossible to create an electrifying opening number about an unfamiliar Latino ‘hood—think the first pulsating moments of In the Heights.

What happens next is a weird back-to-back montage of musical numbers with almost no character interaction.  One of the things that made the movie so heart warming was the relationships—good and bad—amongst the women.  We get none of that here.  Which is tragic since the talent assembled here is near legendary Broadway proportions.

Sherie Rene Scott in one, fleeting captivating moment

Sherie Rene Scott, who normally dazzles, seems like she’s in an entirely different production from the rest.  As Pepa, the centerpiece, she plays the whole thing straight, and sad, yet not pathetic enough for us to think she’s funny or even interesting.  Patti LuPone—I mean, hello, if there’s anyone that could nail the crazy diva of Lucia it would be this icon—but she’s not given anything to work with in either the book or the score.  Both of her big numbers have no real ending so the audience couldn’t even applaud.  What?!

Laura Benanti dazzles

The only bright spot—and she shone, thank god—is adorable Laura Benanti.  She lit up the stage and overcame all the overplayed set pieces around her when she pranced about.  I turned to Chef and uttered, “Thank god she’s here.”  Her turn as Candela, the model who has fallen for a terrorist, is the only one that comes close to nailing the comic nature of the original film role, and yet made it all her own.  Her big number “Model Behavior” brought down the house—I think we were all relieved that at least someone was worth watching.  When she left the stage, I nearly had a breakdown.

For the most part, this is a musical that relies on a mixed bag of special effects tricks to keep us from noticing the lack of character development or story.  Not to say that some of the tricks don’t work.  Some of them are splendid.  When Pepa and her recently ex-lover Ivan (played by an oddly smarmy not sexy Brian Stokes Mitchell) dub a love song into a re-enacted movie projected onscreen, it’s truly stunning and heartbreaking.  And then my heart breaks that the trick never shows up again—it’s the only time that an effect merged with character and storytelling device.  Nope, once a trick is finished—we move swiftly onto the next one.  Like a real onstage burning bed (an iconic image from the movie) which made everyone around me nervous that it was a mistake.  Not to mention that it completely upstaged poor Sheri Rene Scott having to sing some unforgettable song next to it.  Unforgettable, except that’s the one song that kept being reprised.  And it’s not nearly interesting enough for that.

I could go on and on about a million other quibbles.  How the taxi—another centerpiece from the movie—comes off as campy and sad.  How many throw away one-liners are included at the expense of real character development.  How the accents seem to come and go at will and are all over the map—some seem Cuban while others seem Argentine.  The only consistency is when anyone says “gazpacho” with a slight lisp.  It’s the one thing delivered over and over again with just the right blend of humor and zest.

Believe me, I wanted so much to love and embrace this show.  It had so much talent going for it, which made it even more nerve wracking to watch it go so wrong.  Someone pass me a little blue pill.

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Tex and the City: Romantic Fall

Today on Tex and the City: JP picks his favorite Fall happenings, while Chef prepares for a Nor’easter.

in a colorful fall scarf. photo by Jamie Beck

By the time of our ninth date, it was fairly obvious that Chef and I had radically different approaches to seasonal transitions.  We met in late summer, and so by mid-September Chef was already breaking out hat, gloves, and down jackets for a stroll around Central Park to see the changing leaves.

“Aren’t you a little over dressed for a romantic walk?” I asked, wearing a light sweater and cute new scarf.

“Romantic?  There’s nothing romantic about this weather.  You never know when a snowstorm might hit.”

“I take it you’re not a fan of fall, then.  That’s too bad, it’s my favorite season.”

“If you ask me, fall is just a harbinger of impending doom.  Six months of Nor’easters and no sun.”

So dramatic.  That’s my boy.  Not that I lack a flare for the dramatic.  I suppose my love of Fall is rooted in too many Woody Allen movies as a kid—they were like love letters to the Big Apple.  And then When Harry Met Sally came along I was mesmerized by  the image of Meg Ryan walking through Central Park while the golden leaves fell around her.

When I first moved to Alphabet City, I was overwhelmed by the energy with which New Yorkers attack the Fall season.  It’s as if right after Labor Day, summering finally ends, and they are allowed to unleash every bit of pent up ambition in a flurry of activity that concludes before Thanksgiving.  I always feel like if I don’t pay attention, and plan, then I’m going to miss something important—especially theatre offerings.  I’ve learned to really sit down and study both New York and Time Out magazines’ Fall Previews, and then triangulate it with the New York Times Arts & Leisure Fall guide.

For those of you traveling to NYC this romantic fall, or those of you living here that need a little help, here’s what’s on my radar screen that Tex and the City will most likely be writing about this Fall.

That is, when I’m not strolling the city with Chef—I’ll be the one with the colorful scarf, he’ll be Nanook of the North.

My ticket tip: register with www.theatermania.com and have access to discount codes for purchasing tickets; otherwise go to www.telecharge.com

Mrs. Warren’s Profession.  Cherry Jones—one of the most powerful actresses of our time—stars as a brothel-owner in this George Bernard Shaw play about mother-daughter dynamics.  The daughter will be played by Sally Hawkins, making her Broadway debut.  www.roundabouttheatre.org

La Bete.  Patsy from AbFab on Broadway in a revival of a famous flop?  Count me in!  Joanna Lumley stars with David Hyde Pierce and Mark Rylance (Tony award Boeing Boeing), directed by God of Carnage’s Matthew Warchus.  www.labetetheplay.com

Without You.  Anthony Rapp writes the book and lyrics based upon his book Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and the Musical Rent.  Hey, Alphabet City as a musical?  I’m considering it.  So it’s a must to check out this show part of the New York Musical Theater Festival that gave us hits like Next to Normal and my inspiring fave [title of show]www.nymf.org

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.  Tickets already purchased, thank you very much, for this musical adaptation of the Almodovar movie.  Come on, starring Patti Lupone, Laura Benanti, Sheri Rene Scott and Brian Stokes Mitchell?!  There’s no decision here.  www.lct.org

Driving Miss Daisy.  Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones.  Enough said.  www.daisyonbroadway.com

The Pee-Wee Herman Show.  Paul Reubens is back and as goofy as ever.  And thank God, because he still influences my everyday dialogue.  “Why don’t you marry it?”  www.pewee.com/broadway

Elling.  Although my love for this actor can’t get me to watch him in True Blood, Denis O’Hare will make me run screaming to the theater to see him paired with Brendan Fraser.  They’re two men released from a mental institution living together.  Add in the quirky fabulous Jennifer Coolidge, and I’m not sure how this can go wrong.  www.ellingonbroadway.com

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.  Say what you will, but I live with a guy obsessed with super heroes.  And I’m obsessed with director Julie Taymor.  Let’s hope the most expensive production in Broadway history is either spectacularly terrific or outrageously tragic.  I’d hate for them to have spent a fortune to crank out this year’s mediocrity (sorry, Addams Family).  www.spidermanonbroadway.com

Other Desert Cities.  A new work by writer Jon Robin Baitz—whom I used to read magazine articles about while in Texas and fantasize I would have his life one day.  Story is about a novelist who returns home after six years and announces she’s working on a memoir about a controversial time in the family’s history.  Hmm, sound familiar?  www.lct.org

Out of Town Tryouts—Leap of Faith.  It often takes one for me to travel to LA.  But in case we need to escape an freak early snowfall, I’d consider a trip to Hollywood in October to see this musical.  Stars one of my Broadway boyfriends Raúl Esparza and eye-brow-licious Brooke Shields.  Based on the Steve Martin movie.  www.centertheatregroup.org

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