Some notable a capella performances to tickle your fancy...
By Pam Quinn (writer)
I love me some a capella.
They’re losing their audience, I get it. They had to pull out ALL the stops for the winter finale which, left a lot of audiences drowning in their tears and scratching at their heads after the drop of their jaws. My feelings for this show go in and out all the time. First season... great. 2nd Season... not so great. 3rd season has been giving me an epileptic seizure going back and forth from loving it to hating it to liking it to feeling absolutely nothing. Last week’s finale episode... I felt a little too much. I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and thought everything from the acting to the song choices to the singing of said song choices was done very well. Say what you want about Lea Michele, I hear she’s an absolutely horror show in real life, but the girl can sing. I know of all the comments regarding her over acting and her awkward singing faces... but... you can’t watch that above video and tell me she doesn’t sound amazing. Go on... tell me!
Now for those of you who have never watched Glee (which, judging by CrazyTown demographic, can’t be a large number) the scene changes are done by voice only, which I always thought was so clever. Introducing a capella to a television show soundtrack could really only work with a show like Glee and... it does. Now, going back to my earlier proclamation of loving me some a capella, I’d like to expand on that. I spent more time than I should have this week lookin’ at a capella groups online. Some were unbearable to watch and some were amazingly impressive. I also realized that my all time favorite a capella arrangement was no where to be found on the inter-web... so I had to create my own video in order to pay homage to it. Below are the top 5 a capella performances that I discovered upon my vocal YouTube travels. Following this list is my personal favorite.
5. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY - QUEEN
4. POKER FACE - LADY GAGA
The new musical series Smash films in some great NYC restaurants.
By Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (Composer-Lyricist)
So we’re now a few episodes into the new musical TV show Smash. There’s a lot that I could say about the show, being a composer/lyricist working in the world of theatre. We could talk about its inaccuracies, its high points, its flaws – and I may write a post dedicated to that when the series has aired more episodes, but thus far the following is true: one, I like the show, and two, there’s one aspect about it in particular that I thought was pretty cool.
It happened in the pilot. This outdoor shot appeared on the screen and I gasped:
“That’s the bodega on 56th and 2nd!” I thought, “I stop in there every day to buy a bottle of Smartwater on my way to the gym!” It wasn’t just an establishing shot that then jumped to a set on a soundstage afterwards either. They really did film at that very bodega.
Notice the green tile and granite lined façade of the building behind Dev. That’s the Art & Design High School on 2nd Ave. between 56th and 57th.
That’s when I remembered I was watching a show filmed and set in modern day New York, and I was going to see a plethora of familiar places over the course of the season. For me, none have been more familiar than the many restaurants the characters frequent for their meetings, work, and dates.
My parents are both huge foodies. As a result, I’ve dined in pretty much all of the restaurants we’ve seen thus far on Smash, and have recognized them on sight. So, I thought it would be fun to compile a Smash restaurant guide (episodes 1-3) with links to their websites. Just to be clear, these are not intended to be actual full-on restaurant reviews, just observations of venues I've attended that also happened to have appeared on the show. If they keep this up, maybe I’ll do another installment. Here are the restaurants we’ve seen thus far, in order of appearance:
1. Wolfgang’s Steakhouse (54th street location)
When Karen and Dev have dinner with her parents upon their New York visit, Karen takes them to the new location of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse on 54th street, in the space that used to house Jean Georges’ Asian-influenced restaurant Vong (and also happens to be next door to my apartment building). If you’ve never been to Wolfgang’s before, grab a boatload of blood-thinning medication and go. They serve steak the way it’s done in New York, porterhouses sized and sliced for two, three, or four. It’s sensational, but you might want to (to quote a cliché) keep your cardiologist on speed-dial.
2. Bond 45
The first time we get the pleasure of watching Eileen toss a manhattan in her ex-husband’s face it’s at Bond 45. A famous and delicious Italian steakhouse in Times Square. The antipasto here is worth raving about. I was also surprised to learn they have a location in National Harbor, MD, just outside of Washington DC, when I was there for a wedding this past November.
By Brett Ryback (Actor-Writer)
Michelle won a globe.
Viola won an actor.
Meryl won an oscar.
Three great performances, three wonderful woman. One rare event. I was just thrilled.
BRETT RYBACK wrote the music for Liberty Inn (Ovation Nominee, Best Music/Lyrics), the book music and lyrics for The Tavern Keeper’s Daughter, and the book for Darling. He also acts on stage and TV. www.btryback.wordpress.com
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I have long railed against societal oppression of short people. I have shined a light on altimyopia and it's dangers. I have spoken out against lying about one's height, and lifts, and phrases like "Vertically Challenged". But limb lengthening surgery?! That's a tall order... (And I don't take orders from tallies.)
MONKEY BUSINESS by Tony Asaro (Composer/librettist)
We live in a society where plastic surgery is commonplace. Celebrities, wealthy women, vain gay gym bunnies all treat it like it's a routine cleaning at the dentist. Hardly anyone bats an eye when family members or coworkers take that tell-tale “three week vacation to the Caribbean” and return with inflated horizontal lips, or eyes that don’t seem to ever close.
A few days ago on Yahoo!, I was alerted to a new trend in plastic surgery: Cosmetic Leg Lengthening.
Post-Oscar season is a time to let your brain rest and choose movies based on lust.
By Melissa Presti (Book Publisher)
I'm exhausted. Physically, emotionally, and twitterally. My body and brain need a vacation from overanalyzing the Hollywood elite. As is customary for the post-Oscars box office, a shit ton of movies that require little to no brain activity to comprehend and enjoy will come sailing into the theaters.
Which brings me back to this - a special Valentine's Day email I sent to my friends. I know I know, Valentine's Day was so 2 weeks ago but it's completely relevant to your movie decision making. God help you if you ever get stuck on an email thread I've begun. This is what my friends have to deal with.
Subject: Valentine's Day Pleasurez
oh hi. I forgot to tell you something... ZAC EFRON IS A MAN. Like a man's man. With ginormous-tatted--throw-you-over-his-shoulder-and-onto-the-bed arms.
Now, I don't care for Nicholas Sparks. Even though he gave me my first Ryan Gosling boner in The Notebook, he churns out more sappy love stories than a single soap opera episode. But he has this new little movie coming out about a soldier in Iraq who finds a photo of a beautiful woman and it says "stay safe" or something similarly unhelpful during a war, and he keeps it, doesn't die, and decides to find this woman to thank her because obviously it's easy to find someone based on their face and penmanship.
Stuff I like, and stuff I hope you might like too.
by Loren A. Roberts (guru of multi-hyphenate media)
By the time you read this, there will be so much online bickering about that Awards Show I can’t possibly write anything about it (except that I like this alternate-reality version of the Show much better...). And I have been working straight through the weekend and the past week as well, so now you’re going to have to put up with a stream-of-consciousness list of...wait for it...
STUFF I LIKE!
(in addition, there will be a new weekly bonus at the end of the post. So stick with me.)
This one is easy, and a no-brainer, and it goes without saying, but...then again, maybe it does need saying. Music is like a drug (well, actually, that’s scientifically true) — I can go without music for a while, but then I need it all the more when I come back to it. And music taps the scientific/mathematical part of my brain and the intuitive/spiritual side. I could write a whole book on why music is one of the things that glues my life together, but I won’t bore you. I think you probably already understand.
JULIE ANDREWS/BLAKE EDWARDS
Why Julie Andrews? Because she is not only a fantastic singer and actor, but she also has an amazing wit and was married to Blake Edwards from 1969 until he passed away in 2010. You think you know Julie Andrews? You don’t until you have seen Edwards’ Victor/Victoria. And my first exposure to great comedy was seeing Peter Sellars and Edwards spoof the spy genre with the Pink Panther movies. Don’t forget Breakfast at Tiffany’s...
So I kinda like my little alma mater. Barack Obama went there for a few years before transfering to some bigger school that could take him to the White House. Terry Gilliam ran the school humor magazine when he was there. Joanna Gleason (Into the Woods), Ben Affleck, and Rich Falkenrath (the first deputy director of Homeland Security, and my sophomore year roommate) all graduated from Oxy. But more than the famous people, I meet Oxy grads all over the place, and instantly I know something about them: they know how to communicate. They know how to learn. They know how to navigate multiple frames simultaneously, and make sense of the world. And they know how to enjoy, to savor, to drink in...life.
My wife has a cousin who (allegedly) lived for the entire first three years of her life eating only avocados. I don’t care if the story is true — I believe it to be true, because avocados are the perfect food. Not too sweet, not too hard to eat, not unhealthy...in fact, it is one of the healthiest fruits you can eat.
I love complementary opposites. What do I mean? I mean that there are too many people in the world who will look at everything around them in exactly one way for their entire life. I cannot. If I’m not learning, growing, questioning, re-examining, then I’m not alive. One of the things I like most about running my own business is that I get to call the shots, and that means I have been able to become a multidsciplinary artist/artisan: working with film, music, design, photography, writing, editing, and marketing. If I had to stop and focus on one thing, I might make more money, but I would lose the joy of seeing how things are interconnected.
Again, this one might seem like it would go without saying, but I love the people around me. I am totally wiped out from the past 92 hours of work, but I gotta say that my friends, my family, my clients, and even the people that I have only just met in the past few days while working — make me extremely happy. I have known that I am an extrovert for a long time, but I’m always rediscovering how incredibly wonderful it is to have such good friends. And to get to the point where I have friends that I have known and grown up with for twenty or thirty years, well, that’s so cool.
And now (you have been patient enough), we are introducing a new weekly segment:
ALBUMS YOU PROBABLY HAVE NEVER HEARD
I have eclectic musical tastes. Deal with it. You might find something in the recesses of my brain that you like.
This week, I would like to take you back to 1991. This little band named Crowded House had one U.S. chart-topping single back in 1987 (Don’t Dream It’s Over). They started making an album, and Capitol threw the songs back at them and said “start over...these songs suck.” Now, I can tell you that they probably didn’t suck. But the band went back to the drawing board. They called in a brother, who joked that the only way they would get his help was if he could join the band, so he joined the band. Then they made a masterpiece.
Lyrics on this album sound effortless, held aloft by some of the best pop melodies that I have ever heard:
We owe it all to Frank Sinatra
The song was playing as she walked into the room
After the long weekend
They were a lifetime together
Appearing in the eyes of children
In the clear blue mountain view
The colouring in the sky
And painting ladders to heaven
And she goes on
In her soft wind I will whisper
In her warm sun I will glisten
'Till we see her once again
In a world without end
– She Goes On
And then putting lyrics like “All I ask/Is to live each moment/Free from the last/Take the road forgotten” on top of a heartbreakingly-beautiful 6/8 waltz-y type of thing...gorgeous.
Neil and Tim Finn, along with the rest of the band, created some magic on this album. They had created beautiful stuff before and after, but this stands out as one of my favorite albums of all time.
Special mention goes to a powerhouse team of behind-the-scenes work: Mitchell Froom produced, Tchad Blake recorded, Bob Clearmountain mixed, and Bob Ludwig mastered. But the beauty is all there in the lyric and the melody. Go listen to it and tell me if you don’t agree...
LOREN A. ROBERTS produces films, videos and music, designs magazines and logos, plays and sings in a rock-and-roll tribute band, and is a student of what happens when science, the arts, technology, and culture collide. www.hearkencreative.com
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How a little French movie with no speaking relates to YOU.
By Eric Day (Composer, Bassist, Etc.)
My wife and I saw The Artist yesterday at the (adoreable) Paris Theatre in anticipation of it cleaning house at the Oscars. While I found it a bit exhausting, I was generally swept-up in the experience and definitely think it deserved the accolades it got last night. And not just because that (Best Actor-winning) French dude looks like Hank Azaria in Dodgeball.
I particularly loved the (Oscar-winning) music, and it got me thinking...how cool would it be to see this movie screened with a live orchestra!? Well it turns out I'm not the first person to think of that, so hopefully the tour will come through NYC! One google led to another, and I eventually came upon this awesome piece over at Smithsonian Magazine about the fight the American Federation of Musicians (of which I am a proud member) put up at the very turn in cinematic history depicted by this year's Best Picture, when live orchestras at movie theaters were made obsolete virtually overnight.
After the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927, all bets were off for live musicians who played in movie theaters. Thanks to synchronized sound, the use of live musicians was unnecessary — and perhaps a larger sin, old-fashioned. In 1930 the American Federation of Musicians formed a new organization called the Music Defense League and launched a scathing ad campaign to fight the advance of this terrible menace known as recorded sound.
Gena rediscovers the classics... By Gena Oppenheim (Writer)
Recently at brunch, a friend and I began talking about the 1980's golden age of kid-centric adventure movies: Labyrinth, Willow, The Princess Bride and the Citizen Kane of them all- The Goonies. The conversation brought back memories of being an eight year old and making treasure maps with my best friend Dena (we were known as “The ‘Enas”) of the only wilderness we knew-Washington Square Park…all while wearing Indiana Jones-esque khaki costumes. I was so excited when thought we found "magic crystals" under a mound of leaves. Our mothers quickly took them away for "safe keeping." (A few years ago my mom actually confessed that what we found were crack vials.)
“What was it about those movies that were so comforting?” my brunch-mate asked between bites of fake bacon and scrambled tofu. he answer's pretty simple. Look at the modern Goonie, Harry Potter, who solved life or death dilemmas without Siri or Google (okay he has a wand, but it was dragon hair, not batter, powered.) The 1980’s were a time when electronic noise was starting to get loud and louder. In these movies kids (usually identifiable misfits) found non-electronic escapes into worlds of adventure. Worlds where pirate gold could stop a family’s house from being foreclosed, and in my case, crack vials could indeed be glamorous gems.
So maybe the next time you're having an overwhelming day, take a deep breathe and channel your inner Goonie. Who knows? Maybe you'll discover that the smell emanating from your building's garbage room isn't garbage after all, but smoke bellowing from the chimineys a magical gnome village!
GENA OPPENHEIM Gena is a fourth generation New Yorker who teaches second-grade in Brooklyn. She is a graduate of Barnard College and received her MFA from NYU Tisch's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program. http://twitter.com/#!/genabeans