Seeing Beauty and the Beast at The El Capitan Theatre!

A “Tale as old as time” has returned to theatres! Nearly twenty years ago, Walt Disney Pictures released one of their most beloved fairy tales to date, Beauty and The Beast. Breaking box office records and becoming the first animated film to be up for an Academy Award for Best Picture, Disney has gone on to create their smash Broadway adaptation and, now, a live action re-telling of the film has been released.

When The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood told Michael and me to “be their guest” (see what I did there?) for a showing of Beauty and the Beast, I could not wait to see what both Disney and the theatre had in store for a showing. As someone who can get quite anxious in movie theatres, I always have a great time at The El Capitan. They go beyond your usual day at the movies with a rousing pre-show with LA favorite, organist Rob Richards. For me, Richards has become  my favorite part of heading out to The El Capitan. Each visit, it is such a treat to hear all of your Disney favorites (Under the Sea, Be Our guest, A Whole New World…) brought to life by an ample organ. I can only imagine the shivers it gives the kids!

Following Rob, we were in for an additional surprise as their curtain has been adorned with thousands of sparkly Swarovski crystals, and they presented a remarkable show boasting projections of lights to capture the beauty that is on their curtain. Set against a Beauty and the Beast score, the music and lights will get you pumped to enjoy the film.

As the film starts, we no longer hear that spooky, deep gentleman’s voice. The introduction to our Beast (Dan Stevens) and his castle begins at a masquerade party he is giving (and narrated by a woman’s voice). When the now infamous beggar woman comes to the door, the Beast is infuriated she has crashed his ball, and, of course, kicks her out. While most audiences have always awaited the transformation scene at the end, this new spin on getting an insight to the Prince’s change into a Beast was a welcome change and certainly set the mood for his character.

For our opening number of Belle, we at last meet our heroine, played by Emma Watson. While some quirks and elements to the opening has changed, it basically stayed close to the original. With it being one of my favorites from a musical opening, that made me happy!

I appreciated the character development to this film that both the cartoon and musical lack somewhat. We are introduced to Gaston (Luke Evans) and Le Fou (Josh Gad), of course, in the opening sequence, and they added so many new layers to these beloved characters you love to hate. Especially Le Fou (more on that later).

Stevens was an extremely good choice for the Beast. When we first meet him, he is ferocious, cold and spares no mercy when Belle’s father (Kevin Kline) stumbles into the castle’s garden in hopes to pick Belle a rose. Something he has done on every voyage he takes (another new take. I thought it was an interesting tie in and connection to Belle and the Beast from the beginning). As the tale goes, Belle begs the monster to spare her father and take her prisoner instead. It is soon after we are better acquainted with some of our favorite Disney side kicks, Lumiere, Cogsworth, Babette and the Wardrobe.

One of my favorite Broadway stars, Audra McDonald, hilariously portrays the Wardrobe, and in her former human life, is married to the castle’s piano (Stanley Tucci). Ewan McGregor is an absolute natural at the flirtatious Lumiere. Having just seen McGregor in Trainspotting 2, it reminded me just how diverse and versatile he truly is. Ian McKellen’s Cogsworth is also on spot and he brings more laughs and smiles to the already lovable role.

As far as Evans’ Gaston goes, he is a really good version for a live action film. I have seen Beauty and the Beast live countless times and in those live performances, I have always enjoyed the booming baritone vocals to Gaston, which I felt Evans did not have. Until, the rousing “Kill the Beast” number. Evans redeemed himself to me and I loved how true to the original this song and dance number was. He gave so much cruelty to the role, and was not afraid to be downright sinister. The ultimate “Disney Villain”.

I feel I will be in the minority here, but, my least favorite performance? It was Emma Watson’s Belle. I just do not see her as our Disney heroine. I was hoping she may wow me with her voice, but, alas, I was not too impressed. Luckily for Watson, she was surrounded with such a terrific cast that in my opinion are born naturals at their roles, which assisted in her Belle and adding the support the film needed to make it “dazzle” over the top.

As far as some interesting character development, I appreciated Kevin Kline’s Papa was not as dautering as he is usually portrayed. Both Belle and Papa are inventors, and he appeared to have more legitimate inventions and not chalked off as a “joke”.

And, for Josh Gad’s Le fou, so many elements and layers were added to the infamous sidekick. Much like Gad explained earlier this year in an interview, that as Gaston’s friend, “He sometimes wants to be him, and other days wants to kiss him.” Le Fou clearly has feelings for his friend, and is torn as he is seeing Gaston first make a fool of himself as he attempts to woo Belle, then see his dear friend turn evil and does not know which side to stand on. As for this film “robbing the innocence” of children with the homosexual innuendo’s? Yes, there is a very innocent final scene for Le Fou. It is cute, it is innocent, it is nothing (but awesome). I thought it was a great subtle turn to a character we did not know too much about.

Beauty and the Beast is playing world-wide and is currently the #1 movie in the world. Have you seen it yet? Or, have you seen it a few times?! Special thanks to The El Capitan for having me! xo

Seeing Hayley Mills at One Starry Night.

One Star

Growing up, I lived in a very fun and artistic household. There was always records playing or a musical movie going on the VCR. My Grandma was the Queen of “Columbia House Video Club” and I feel fortunate that I was exposed to all of it. Among our faves, though, were the Disney movies. And, one that got HEAVY rotation in the living room, was the 1961 classic, The Parent Trap.

While there are countless films I adored, The Parent Trap, with Hayley Mills, Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith, has always stayed with me and continues to be a favorite of me and my Mom to this day. We have the DVD set, and even went to a retro screening of it last year at LACMA.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I interviewed One Starry Night co-founder, Juliana Hansen, and found out that Hayley Mills herself, along with fellow Disney royalty, Richard Sherman, would be joining forces to duet on the film’s theme song, Let’s Get Together, at The Pasadena Playhouse event! Mind you, Mills has NEVER performed this song outside of the film. This was seriously an event 50 years in the making, and I am so thrilled that I was able to go, with my Mom, to witness Disney history go down!

Courtesy: Getty Images

Hayley Mills and Richard Sherman. Courtesy: Getty Images

Having covered One Starry Night since its inaugural performance in 2014, each year has found this all-star charity soiree improving and finding new turns with each event, while never abandoning the reason that we have all joined together in Pasadena: To fight ALS and bring awareness to the ALS Association’s Golden West Chapter.

This year found One Starry Night awarding The Spotlight Award to the creative team behind Gleason, The Sundance award winning documentary chronicling NFL champ, Steve Gleason, and his heartbreaking battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease. All, while raising his newborn son with his wife.

One Starry Night’s Honorary Co-Chairs were Miley Cyrus, and her dear friend, Mari Winsor. While most recall Mari as the lady behind the “Winsor Pilates” empire, many of you may not know that she is fighting ALS herself. While Miley was unable to be in attendance, we were treated to a beautiful speech from Winsor, who will not quit until there is a cure for this devastating disease.

Kate Linder. Courtesy: Getty Images.

Kate Linder. Courtesy: Getty Images.

The One Starry Night Award went to long time Young and the Restless actress, Kate Linder. She has been an advocate for ALS and raising funds to get us closer to a cure, since 1982.

When the moment arrived for Hayley Mills to grace the stage, the crowd went wild. Giving a heart warmmg speech about ALS, and, urging us to focus on the “good guys” more than all the negativity that is in our world, she soon revealed that when she was cast as both Sharon and Susan, respectively, in The Parent Trap, she went to Richard Sherman scared to death to sing, since she is an actress. “Act as if you are a singer” the pianist advised, and, as we know, the rest is history.

Sherman shortly joined Mills on stage for an adorable duet of Let’s Get Together….they even got out their lyric sheet to ensure they were singing the lyrics right!

While I thought seeing Petula Clark perform Downtown, one of my favorite songs, at last year’s One Starry Night could not be outdone I think it is safe to say  that they did indeed out do themselves this year. While I pray for the day fundraisers like One Starry Night are no longer necessary (as we are certainly closer each day to a cure for ALS), I could not be more grateful for all who come together to make this event happen and bring more outreach to the cause. Bravo, One Starry Night! xo

Juliana Hansen Returns for 3rd annual One Starry Night in Pasadena.

One Star

When I was invited to attend One Starry Night: A Special Performance to Conquering ALS, I was not quite sure what to expect. A variety show at The Pasadena Playhouse? With all-star names? It was one of the first charity events I had covered, and I was thrilled for the chance to dress up, and return to Pasadena Playhouse with Michael, whom I had seen The Playhouse’s 12 Angry Men with, on our humble 3rd date, a few months prior.

Fast forward 3 years, and One Starry Night continues to be one of the best fundraisers put on yearly in Los Angeles, by The ALS Association’s Golden West chapter. Returning once again to The Pasadena Playhouse, One Starry Night, and its honorary Co-Chairs, Mari Winsor and Miley Cyrus, invite you to come on out to this star-studded evening of music, theatre, magic, comedy and award ceremonies.

This year, One Starry Night is proud to honor the hit documentary, Gleason. The 2016 Sundance Film Festival goes inside the life of former NFL star Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints defensive back who, in 2011 at the age of 34, was diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Weeks later, Gleason found out his wife, Michel, was expecting their first child. A video journal that began as a gift for his unborn son expands to chronicle Steve’s determination to live as fully as possible. The film highlights his mission that people with ALS can not only live but thrive after this diagnosis, along with many of the extraordinary successes achieved by the Gleason Initiative Foundation (“Team Gleason”), including the creation of the “Team Gleason House for Innovative Living” and the passage of “The Steve Gleason Act” which assures the availability of life-sustaining communication devices for people with ALS and other diseases. Distributed by Amazon Studios and Open Road Films, “GLEASON” has received glowing reviews both from audiences and news outlets including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Rolling Stone and Variety, to name a few.

I had the pleasure to chat with Co-Creator and Producer, as well as One Starry Night performer, Juliana Hansen, about her unstoppable, creative life, playing Mary Poppins and what she hopes attendees take away from this evening….

Juliana Hansen

Juliana Hansen

Mary: When did your journey in the performing arts begin? Do you come from a creative/artistic family?

 

Juliana: I’ve been in the entertainment industry since I was very young. I began modeling with one of the top agencies in San Francisco when I was 4 years old, I did my first musical when I was 5 years old, my first national commercial at age 7, and my first television starring role and voice over lead (The Land Before Time IV) by the time I was  9. I have always loved acting and singing. I grew up with music in the house, as my dad was a professional musician for over 30 years. My mom is very creative, too. She has done everything from wardrobe for films to makeup for shoots, to producing music videos! They were terrific about exposing me to great art at a young age and have always encouraged my pursuits in the industry.

You blew me away at last years One Starry Night with your Mary Poppins performance! What was the experience like playing such an iconic role?

 

Playing Mary Poppins was the dream coming true that I never even knew I had dreamed! When my agent called me with the audition, I laughed. I never thought I could fill Julie’s (Andrews) shoes, but I discovered so much about the character of Mary and myself throughout the process.
I did tons of research, because I wanted to incorporate to P.L. Travers’ version of Mary; the only one Julie Andrews had to go off of as well as give the audience reminiscent moment’s of Julie’s Mary – who we all grew up loving, while still making her my own. No small task. Top that off with the knowledge that Richard M. Sherman (my mentor and very dear friend) would be in the audience on opening night…. That’s was a lot of pressure! I wanted to do my absolute best, and also leave the audience with a huge gift and a lot of love. The run was too short, and I hope to revisit Mary several times over!

What has it been like working with Richard Sherman?

Working with Richard is one of the greatest gifts of my life thus far. And it is ALWAYS amazing… every single time. He is truly one of the top 5 kindest people I’ve ever known, and I’ve learned so much from him. He is a genius and a total pro, and I’m just so honored that he has made me his muse. I feel like a modern-day Julie, Annette (Funicello) and Hayley (Mills)- which is surreal, as these are ALL women I’ve admired and looked up to my whole life. I’m incredibly grateful that I can give Richard the gift of being reunited with Hayley Mills for our third Annual ONE STARRY NIGHT and help them to make Disney history by bringing them together to duet, for the very first time, on Let’s Get Together from the Parent Trap (a song Hayley has declined singing for nearly 50 years). 

Hansen as Mary Poppins

Hansen as Mary Poppins

Can you tell me a little about One Starry Night and how it was conceived? How did you get on board?

 

I created and Produced ONE STARRY NIGHT in 2013, with my friend Jonathan White.  After seeing my one woman show, Juliana Hansen- Live At The Federal (album available on Kritzerland records) wanting to produce my show in a larger venue, namely The Pasadena Playhouse. It was my idea to produce a much bigger show together one that would do good in the world and raise awareness in Hollywood for an under champions cause. We chose the ALS fight because we both had people dear to our hearts suffer from the disease, and we felt like, in the Entertainment community, ALS was such a little championed cause. This was before the ice bucket challenge. I’m a believer that once energy is put towards a purpose, the universe will find more ways to put more energy to that purpose and grow a vision. It was amazing to see the Ice Bucket challenge blow up as our show was taking shape. We wanted something that would bring glamour and class back to Hollywood, while in a unique way. ONE STARRY NIGHT is in the style of an old-time variety show (think Ed Sullivan) and features Tony award-winning Broadway performers, Emmy winning Television stars, Hollywood icons, comedians, production numbers, specialty acts and more all with a 15 piece orchestra comprised of Los Angeles’ finest musicians (these guys play the Oscars). It’s my hope and vision to grow it to eventually being annually televised on PBS to reach a much wider audience. 100% of the proceeds go to our partners at the ALS Association, Golden West Chapter. This year’s show is produced by Melissa Verdugo, Patty Ramsey, Patrick McMinn and myself, and we are confident it will be a very special evening.
What do you hope the audience takes away from One Starry Night?
It’s my hope that our audiences will be changed for having attended ONE STARRY NIGHT and that their hearts will be touched. I hope people will leave with more knowledge to share with their friends and family about the great need there is in the ALS community for more financial support for research and home care, and that people will generously give. I know everyone will enjoy a truly magical evening of entertainment, and I especially hope that our guests of honor, people currently living with this horrible disease will know we love them and are fighting alongside them. Hope and love if what it’s all about. 
(One Starry Night is this Monday at The Pasadena Playhouse in Pasadena, California. Tickets are available HERE)

We Are LA Festival with Lisa Loeb & Giveaway Through August 21st!

We are LA

There was always something so cool, nerd chic, about Lisa Loeb. The singer/guitarist who rose to fame with her song, “Stay (I Missed You)” on the Reality Bites soundtrack made her a radio and Mtv favorite. Stellar albums like Firecracker, successful Food Network series, Dweezil & Lisa, as well as several children’s ecords, Loeb certainly has stayed on the radar with her diverse ventures.

On September 17th, Lisa Loeb will be one of the stars gracing the stage at The We Are LA Festival, coming to The StubHub Center in Carson, California. Her co-headliners include Ozomatli, YouTube personality DJ Flula and the magician/comedian, Justin Willman, host of Cupcake Wars as well as family friendly interactive and educational activities, all day long!

“We want to create an environment where the Los Angeles community can enjoy a day of great music and get to know the incredible children’s charities that make a positive impact where we live, work and play,” said Charissa Gonzales, We Are LA Co-founder. “Those who come are familiar with the rock stars who will perform on stage, the goal is to get them to know about the rock stars working behind the scenes for at-risk and low-income children and families,” added Gonzales.

 

Lisa

Lisa Loeb.

All net proceeds will benefit the following local Los Angeles children’s charities: 826LA, Amer-I-Can, CASA of Los Angeles, Happy Trails for Kids, Junior Achievement of Southern California, Richstone Family Center and LA Galaxy Foundation.

“The LA Galaxy Foundation is honored to be included in the inaugural We Are LA Festival. A special thank you to the Lucido’s for their generous support to make this event possible; the concept of bringing together multiple non-profit groups to benefit and support the work each does in the community is a wonderful opportunity”, said Lauren Nowinski, Director, Community Relations of the LA Galaxy Foundation.

The daylong celebration begins at 11am and runs through 11 p.m. with family friendly daytime activities and an adult contemporary music lineup for the evening. Families will also be able to enjoy interactive activities, including a songwriting booth, guitar lessons, jam sessions and arts and crafts.

Ozomatli

Ozomatli

Receiving a tremendous out pour of philanthropic support, additional Festival musical acts will continue to be announced. You can visit wearela.org for more information and to purchase tickets…..

But, how would you like to WIN a pair of tickets?! I have a pair to give away, thanks to We Are LA! Please use the form below to enter by August 22nd. The festival will be on September 17th in Carson, California, so please make sure the location and day works for you! Open to USA residents over 18. Good luck! 😉 xo

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Troop Beverly Hills Gets The Rockwell Treatment in Los Feliz!

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The 1980’s were filled with some of the best cult films conceived. From The Never Ending Story to The Goonies, and E.T. or Ferris Bueller, I think we all have our 80’s favorites. One for me has always been 1989’s Troop Beverly Hills.

Troop Beverly Hills wasn’t a huge success at the time, but, fast forward some years and there are now many fans like myself out there who first fell in-love with the movie on Los Angeles’ KTLA Channel 5, or rented it from The Warehouse (Be kind, rewind!).

TBH

It is currently receiving the ultimate royal, cult status treatment as the un-authorized musical parody is being performed at Los Feliz’s Rockwell Table and Stage, through September 10th. I was so excited to see one of my favorite films done “Rockwell” style, along with my friend, Melanie. At Rockwell, you cannot get much more hipster meets flamboyant than their stage performances of some of our favorite films, told with countless tongue in cheek snarks and musical numbers that has the diners howling for more.

With the script nearly identical to the film, the talent team has managed to weave in several lines and remarks that we all know we are thinking as we watch Troop Beverly Hills. Right down to Hannah and Chica’s bi-curious feelings!

TBH1

One of the highlights to seeing a parody at Rockwell is the cross-dressing roles of beloved characters. We were in for a real treat seeing Christopher Youngsman as micro managing, power-hungry, Wilderness Girls leader, Velda (sharing the role with Rockwell favorite, Drew Droege, respectively). Youngsman had Betty Thomas’ Velda down pat, as did Kat Tokarz in the role of Annie, Velda’s reluctant side kick.

With an 80’s soundtrack of such faves like Material Girl and I Will Always Love You, Marla Mindelle as Phyllis (Shelley Long’s infamous role in the film), has the ideal powerhouse chops needed to sing such songs. She also has an un-canny resemblance to Long’s Phyllis, which made it even more fun to experience!

The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Troop Beverly Hills is currently playing in repertory at Rockwell Table and Stage. Reservations are recommended and do remember: This is an interactive show! 😉 Learn more here. xo

Weezer and Panic! At the Disco Rock Orange County.

Weez2

Growing up, I never understood the fuss about Weezer. I thought of them as most men probably think of Tori Amos; a cliché musician women name drop. I always thought guys trying to act cool, but not too cool, would mention their love of Weezer.

Fast forward? Michael is a fan, and guess who now accepts them as they are and actually enjoys, dare I say, like, Weezer? Yep, folks, me. I was so excited when Mike told me he was able to score us lawn seats to see the 1990’s band of “Buddy Holly” fame, along with fun co-headliner, Panic! At the Disco, this past Saturday night, at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre.

With the doors opening at 5:30, and the show beginning at 7pm, we headed down to Orange County early to get a good spot on the lawn. Right out the gate? We were informed our lawn chairs that said were alright to bring on the website, were NOT allowed inside for this gig. Not even a towel, or a blanket. Once the show began, we could understand this rule for the lawn as it would be very easy to trip down the long hill of a lawn, but, it would have been cool if their website rules aligned with the actual rules.

Greetings from the lawn!

Greetings from the lawn!

When Panic! At the Disco began, it was very clear to see (and hear) that this band has a dedicated following. Fans singing along, and holding on, to lead vocalist, Brandon Urie’s, every word. Urie has incredible stamina, and knows how to win an audience. His vocal range was all over the place, and when I cringed a bit at his announcement that the band were about to launch into Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, I was pleasantly proven wrong and can see why this band has re-made this classic their own on The Suicide Squad soundtrack. I loved experiencing a whole new generation listen and love Freddie Mercury’s legacy!

While Mike and I questioned if the crowds would die down after Panic! At the Disco, they certainly did not and only seemed to grow more intense as the arena awaited Weezer. I will admit I was surprised at the nearly 20 song set Panic! At the Disco delivered, followed by Weezer’s humble 16 song set….that began well after 10pm.

Weez1

Selling out stadiums for over 20 years, Weezer definitely gives all that you would expect in a rock show: Good energy, an enthused crowd and nearly every song performed a radio hit. From Hash Pipe to Beverly Hills, and an acoustic take on Island in the Sun and a cover of FUN’s We Are Young, Rivers Cuomo  and Weezer know how to give a great, PG rated concert. Ideal for the teeny boppers and their parents. As well as 90’s alt fans like Mike and myself.

While I would have enjoyed to see opener, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness (of “Cecilia and the Satellite” radio fame), I was unfortunately detained picking up my pre-ordered T-Shirt in the Sidestep line. Sidestep is a great idea that ahs potential. With this app, you order and pay for event merchandise and “quickly” pick up your order in a Sidestep line adjacent to the souvenir line….guys? People were laughing at us in our “pre-order” line. I got into line well before McMahhon hit the stage, and arrived back to my seat (well, lawn) as he was exiting. I also found the attendant to be very un-professional and anything but speedy once it was my turn.

Weezer and Panic! At the Disco are certainly a great live act, and it was fun to see different generations join together to see these bands. I had a fun time and check them out on their next tour stops in Korea! xo

 

Lunch at Vintage Enoteca with the Cast of Don’t Think Twice!

DDT

After seeing Don’t Think Twice, I had the pleasure to head  out to Vintage Enoteca on Sunset Boulevard to meet Mike Birbiglia (who not only write and directed, but, also stars in the film as Miles), Keegan-Michael Key and Kate Micucci and get their insights on their roles, and find out when they knew they had “made it”….

For Micucci, who makes up half of the awesome comedy/singing duo, Garfunkel and Oates, it was when she could buy her favorite sweet treat! “I love raspberries yet they’re expensive and I would always have to pick apples instead” she explained, “I remember the day I bought raspberries and  didn’t look at the price. I thought, oh my god I’ve made it! ” 

Having so many diverse, artistic projects, and even loving to sand sculpt, I asked her if there was a moment in her life that first sparked all of her talents. Micucci recalled growing up in a very financially poor family, in Pennsylvania, and that once a week her Mom would let her pick out one thing at the store, and it was always the arts and crafts store when little Kate took advantage of that one purchase.

DDT1

While I admit I was not too familiar with Key’s work, his interview left me so, so inspired. “It’s a movie about when you get to a certain point in your life (and think), when do you realize that some of the dreams you’ve set up for your life or the story you have set up for your life, and the way its going to go, and when it goes in a different direction: What does that mean? How are you going to navigate the rest of your existence?” He explained,  “We kinda get to that place where you think uh oh? It hasn’t happened yet, (but) It’s also defining what does success mean to you? If you’re happy and fulfilled is that enough to be happy, or is it not until you achieve X or Y.”

Both stars also admit that being able to do what you love and safely pay the rent is also huge…or, in Key’s case, as long as he had money for food and beer, he was good! “If money is important to you,  don’t be an actor” he advised. Good advice!

For Director/Writer?Star of the film,  Mike Birbiglia, success has evolved for him over the years. “I think in my 20’s”, he told us, “success meant this one thing like having a sitcom, or a movie career. Then,  in my 30’s I started to have this realization that success doesn’t have to be this one thing. It can be anywhere on the spectrum, and that was a pretty free-ing realization, having always been chasing a brass ring.”

After completing his first film, Sleepwalk with Me, Birbiglia sat down to begin work on Don’t Think Twice, entitling it “Instructions for Movie #2.” Once again, I was inspired and felt validated for some feelings I have had lately as I get older. One of his must’s for making his second film? “No ass holes on the crew or in the cast. I  realized how short my life is with my first movie and that I only want to work with people who are great. I check references a lot” he laughed.

Love this shot from Don't Think Twice's Facebook page. Selfie time with Keegan-Michael Key and Mike Birbiglia.

Love this shot from Don’t Think Twice’s Facebook page. Selfie time with Keegan-Michael Key and Mike Birbiglia.

While having a great sense of himself, Mike is also working on what he feels are some weaker points;  “Ask the person why they want to do this film, and don’t lead them to their answer.” he said, “A big flaw (of mine) is finishing people’s sentences.” Seems natural, given his strong background in improv comedy.

Another element of Don’t Think Twice that I loved were the shots of New York City. Birbiglia truly captures his characters ups and downs on their journeys while also capturing such vivid, stunning shots of Manhattan. He explained that while the big budget studio films have talent scouts and locations are very planned out, there is nothing like the joys of simply walking around the city with your Cinematographer to discover great film spots.

Having the opportunity to meet these fantastic individuals was so rewarding, and our luncheon was not too shabby, either. Vintage Enoteca is a very intimate, un-assuming wine bar in West Hollywood. I love their tag line: In Wine, We Trust. With small bites and some terrific wines and beers on hand, I was pleased to see that they also offer brunch and a generous happy hour. I will be back!

Don’t Think Twice is now playing in New York and Los Angeles, with more dates and locations on the way shortly. Bravo! xo

 

Beautiful: The Carol King Musical is a Must-See at The Pantages!

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While it is no secret how much I admire many of the female singer/songwriters that have filled concert halls through the years (Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, PJ Harvey….the list of talents are endless), one of them some may be surprised to know I have always enjoyed is Carol King.

Probably a good 10 or more years ago, I found myself with an old cassette of her 1971 masterpiece, Tapestry. During the era of Joni’s Blue, Janis Joplin’s Pearl or even Buffy Saint Marie’s She Used to Wanna be a Ballerina (which, oddly enough, features a cover of Smack Water Jack, co-written by King), along came Carol King. Then, better known as half of the powerhouse writing duo along with her Husband, Gerry Goffin.

Since 1960, these “kids” (Carol just 17 and Goffin 20 when they met) were churning out the hits for such notable names as The Drifters (Up on the Roof) and The Shirelles (Will You Still Love me Tomorrow?).

Carol King’s incredible journey from teen writing sensation, teenage Mom and Wife, to writing songs for herself when her marriage to Goffin crumbled, is currently being told in the remarkable Tony Award winning musical, Beautiful: The Carol King Musical. I am so lucky that I got to witness this spectacle at The Pantages Hollywood with one of my best blogging buddies, Melissa from Miz Meliz (and on her birthday eve, no less!).

Selfie sillies.

Selfie sillies.

Beautiful is the authorized story of Carol, her then-husband, Gerry Goffin, and their best friends/friendly rivals, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. While The Mann’s were also successful songwriters (You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling, He’s so Shy), there really was no way to compete with The Goffin’s. While King was a lyricist, I had no idea that some of their most beloved songs, like Will You Still Love me Tomorrow and (You Make me Feel..) Like a Natural Woman, were her husband’s words to her music. It brought to mind one of my favorite authors, Wally Lamb, who so hauntingly brought to life Dolores Price in his highly acclaimed book, She’s Come Undone.

While all the songs are in Beautiful, it’s the story that really inspired me. Carol King has always struck me as such a happy, humble, kind woman, yet, behind the fun and games of ruling the radio in the 60’s, she was dealing with a husband with a drifting eye and 2 young daughters by the time she was only 28 (She had their first, Louise, at just 17).

Abby Mueller, who plays our leading woman in the touring company, is certainly one for her peers to look up to. Mueller BECOMES King effortlessly. From the shy, ambitious girl we meet in Act 1, to a woman picking up the pieces of her divorce and getting the courage to move to LA and tell her own story in Act 2, Mueller not only sounds so much like Carol with that raspy, hearty voice, but also delivers the heart and soul to her songs.

CK

I also appreciated Mueller’s ability to be so brilliant, yet, not take all the spotlight. Her co-stars, Liam Tobin (Gerry), Becky Gulsvig (Cynthia) and Ben Frankhauser (Barry) shine on stage along with the rest of the cast, and are equally as marvelous as Mueller.

Some fun facts: Abby’s sister, Jessie, originated the role on Broadway and earned her first Tony Award for her portrayal, and, as Carol is changing her life towards the end of the night, she tells The Mann’s she is moving to California to record her first album….to “somewhere called Laurel Canyon” and, mentions that her girls want a cat. This made me giggle as I love the cover of Tapestry, with Carol’s 2 cats sitting with her 😉

Beautiful: The Carol King Musical, is currently on its North American tour (as well as on Broadway!) and at The Pantages Theatre in Hollywood through this Sunday, July 17th. I cannot recommend this musical enough, one everyone can certainly enjoy! Bravo, cast! xo

 

Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick Team up for DreamWork’s Trolls!

 

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Growing up, I was absolutely obsessed with Trolls. I think most 90s kids will tell you they had at-least a small collection of those “ugly but cute” dolls that were revamped with the colorful, crazy hair and a far cry from their humble Danish beginnings as a “Dam” doll in the 1960’s.

Now, get ready for another generation to fall in-love with Trolls! 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks Animation is proud to announce and unveil their first trailer for the highly anticipated feature film, TROLLS, arriving to theatres November 4th. Just in time for the holidays!

I was beyond thrilled when I was invited to head out to the DreamWorks Campus in LA to interview the Director of Trolls, Mike Mitchell, Co-Director Walt Dohrn, Producer Gina Shay (the creative team also responsible for Shrek!) and the stars of Trolls, Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick.

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Kendrick plays perky Troll, Poppy, to Timberlake’s grumpy boots, voice of reason, Branch. As you can see in this brand new trailer, they definitely are “opposites attract” when it comes to their friendship….

I have had the pleasure of speaking to celebrities before, yet, I found myself very nervous at the thought of speaking to Timberlake. In my opinion, he is the Elvis Presley or Michael Jackson of our generation. With a musical catalog spanning nearly 20 years, he has manged to make the leap over to film with flying colors.

Anna Kendrick has been on my radar since I first loved her in 2009’s Up in the Air. A “triple threat”, Kendrick has managed to get an Academy Award and Tony nomination under her belt all before she was 25 years old.

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I was intrigued to learn that Timberlake also serves at the Executive Music Producer for Trolls, and I was interested to ask him how the process of adding such beloved songs and great music to a film goes down; if you begin researching songs and have an idea of the story before the film is at all created, and such?? He was so gracious and offered me a quite lengthy response:

“This is my first time to do it on this level. I’ve never sort of been a music producer for a film.  Now, I came on a little after some of the songs were sought after and cleared, and I don’t  know if you know about the clearance process, but that can be, like, mind-numbing. So, I think that once these songs were cleared and I kind of came in, True Colors was definitely already picked out for this moment in the movie.

So, my job for that was hopefully to put our own spin on it, make it sound unique, make it sound like it belonged in the scene, much like a musical theater, musical theater almost.
So, then I wrote four original songs, one of them that you may or may not have heard, which is in the movie as well, and specifically written for the movie. I’ve never done anything like that as well.”

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Trolls is sure to be a ht this Fall. I cannot wait to report back with more exciting announcements as they come, and, in the meantime, follow along to the countdown for TROLLS here!  xo

(*Disclosure: I was invited to attend the Trolls press conference on behalf of this blog. All opinions are my own and it was a highlight of my blogging career to interview this phenomenal creative team!)

 

The Sound of Music Singalong at The Hollywood Bowl!

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So, for as long as I can remember, every year I say I am going to attend The Sound of Music sing along at The Hollywood Bowl. Then? Every Summer flies past me and I do not attend. Luckily, when I sighed last season and thought, “next year”, I was serious!  Last Friday was the event to be at and thanks to Jaime from Polka Dots on Parade, we made it happen!

Jaime, if you do not know her yet, is one of the absolute sweetest people. I have known her through the blogsphere for years yet, alas, had not met this warrior, who recently beat her stage 4 breast cancer. Needless to say, it was awesome to at last meet her in real life and get one of those powerful hugs I have heard she is famous for. Along with her beautiful friend, Leanne, off we went into the bowl.

The Sound of Music sing along is one of the most popular events The LA Phil puts on annually. It’s almost always a sell out, and the cosplay, outfits and love put into the hardcore fans attending, is beyond admirable. Before I even entered the venue, I had seen countless nuns, yodelers, play clothes made out of curtains, even a human champagne bottle. People go all out and its awesome.

Snapchatting at GreenEyedMary!

Snapchatting at GreenEyedMary!

At 6:30, they begin their pre-show costume parade. If you have ever dreamed of “performing” on the historic stage, this is your chance. Fans, young and old, line up for their moment to shine on stage with host, Melissa Peterman (Remember her on Reba?). Peterman was phenomenal in her ability to keep the energy high and treat each nun or “Gretel” she introduced as if it was her first time. Children will definitely remember this moment from their life and how special Peterman treated them!

The best part was when they announced the grand prize winner, a little Baroness that could not have been more than 3 or 4. She won her family a European cruise! 🙂

Girls night!

Girls night!

As the sun set and the film began, the crowd went wild. I have always been one to not necessarily get into all the hooting and hollering for a film. The cast is on a screen. It’s not theatre, why make a fuss? (Ok, I did make an exception when The Force Awakens began) yet, this was different. Being in The Hollywood Bowl and hearing a few thousand people cheer for Maria Von Trapp as she ran up that Austrian mountain to exclaim that the hills are alive, was quite an experience.

I also was impressed at how well I knew these songs! I felt like I was on Broadway from my second to last row seat (no, seriously, we were that high) as I sang such classics as “How do you Solve a Problem like Maria?” and “Do Re Mi”. I admit, I got teary eyed at My Favorite Things. This is one of my favorite songs, since I was a kid.

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Having not seen this film, in its entirety, in YEARS, I realized for the first time in my life just how precise, beautiful and brilliantly done The Sound of Music is. Of course, most already know this. The lush back drops of Salzburg, Julie Andrews’ portrayal as the innocent, rosy eyed Maria to Christopher Plummer’s stern ways as Captain Von Trapp. Everyone was truly remarkable in this film.

While this sing along is in the record books til next year, I hope it is a new tradition to attend with Jaime and Leanne! xo

Romeo and Juliet Kicks Off The Theatricum Botanicum Season.

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One of my favorite things to do, hands down, is attend theatre and concerts in an outdoor setting. One of the most mystical, magical venues I have had the pleasure of attending is, none other than Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum.

Bringing to mind my nights when I worked at The Festival Theatre in Solvang, The Botanicum boasts several acres of land knee-deep in Topanga Canyon. You truly expect a court jester to walk by with his banjo, or swear you saw a faerie run by you. It is the ultimate “Mary Land” and a best kept secret in LA.

I got to head out last weekend to see their season’s premiere play, William Shakespeare’s tragic love classic, Romeo and Juliet. While Shakespeare is undoubtedly the most beloved playwright in history, Romeo and Juliet is easily one of his best known. With countless adaptations, you’re never sure just how you will see this play unfold, and, for The Botanicum, they have placed their star-crossed lovers in The Middle East, modern-day. The outcome? A brilliantly penned story set in the often devastating times we’re living in as a society.

Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Judy Durkin Photo by Ian Fanders

Shaun Taylor-Corbett and Judy Durkin
Photo by Ian Fanders

It was my first time witnessing this play live. I am one of those Millennials, you could say, who best knows Romeo and Juliet from Cliff Notes and the modern twist it got in the 1996 film.

We’re introduced to our cast in East Jerusalem, a city beset by age-old prejudices, street violence and religious differences. The time has come for young beauty, Juliet (Judy Durkin) to marry, and her Father, who is Patriarch of House of Capulet, has chosen her a suitor. It is all fun and games until Juliet meets Romeo at her party. Romeo (Shaun Taylor-Corbett) just happens to be the son of the Patriarch of the House of Montague, meaning these love birds should be, in fact, enemies.

Just like her alter-ego, Durkin is also 16 years old, and Corbett looks to be early 20’s, at most. This young casting is pivotal to the play, and I am sure our duo is much like what Shakespeare had in mind when producing this story.

Karen Reed, Melora Marshall and Judy Durkin Photo by Miriam Geer

Karen Reed, Melora Marshall
and Judy Durkin
Photo by Miriam Geer

Both leads have that “love at first sight” innocence down. At times, perhaps even more than necessary. While their interpretations mean well, I thought there were moments when the “puppy love” was a little over played. It seemed rather forced, and I found myself not feeling as swept up in their love as I should have been.

Botanicum fave, Melora Marshall, is once again, a scene stealer in the production. Having first seen her in 2014’s Lear as The Fool, Marshall is gifted  in her ability to erase all recollections of what you have seen her in prior. As Juliet’s Nurse, she is the ultimate BFF and confidant to the love torn Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet will play in repertory at The Theatricum Botanicum through October 2nd. Word to the wise: Always bring a sweater! Even if it’s a hot day, those canyons get chilly. Visit them HERE and book your tickets! xo

Alice Through the Looking Glass Now in Theatres!

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While many were not a fan of Disney Pictures and Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, with several critics claiming that the film had no direction and lacked emotion, there definitely was no denying the visual imagery and classic Burton quirkness  to the attempt.

Fast forward 6 years, and, Disney obviously was not phased by the lack of strong reviews on their first Alice effort. This past Friday, Alice Through the Looking Glass hit theatres and once again, has already dealt with mixed reception.

I got to see Alice Through the Looking Glass last week at The El Capitan in Hollywood. I admit, I was also a bit skeptical since I felt the first installment could have been MUCH more epic as far as story telling. While the cast was full of talent, much of it was wasted on a mediocre effort. Part 2 surprisingly has a tight bond among the cast and I felt the sense of a reunion as we were re-aquainted with such beloved characters like Hatter, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and Absolem, our favorite caterpillar, voiced by the late, great Alan Rickman, in his final role.

Despite the stellar cast, Disney and Burton do still have a ways to go with conceiving a truly powerful adaptation with Alice in Wonderland.

Taking “loosely based” to new heights, Disney’s Through the Looking Glass finds Alice returning home to London after having spent three years at sea to China, in her Father’s foot steps. Miss Kingsleigh soon finds out that her ex-fiancé, Hamish Ascot, has taken over his father’s company and is plotting to have Alice sell him her father’s ship in exchange for her family home. In the midst of arguing with her Mother, Alice realizes that someone is watching her. It is no other than Absolem, who encourages the young lass to return down the looking-glass to Wonderland.

Taking one of her dramatic leaps down the spiral, Alice returns to Wonderland, just in time for tea. But, an old friend is missing. The White Queen and gang tell Alice that their beloved Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is not well. He is feeling extra, well, mad, as he is convinced his family is alive and searching for him and did NOT get killed by the infamous Jabberwocky.

 (P!nk’s awesome rendition of White Rabbit.)

Being the only one not from Wonderland, Alice is Hatter’s only hope for finding out what truly happened that fateful day when it  became known as “The Attack of the Jabberwocky” and Hatter’s parents were killed.

Along the way in the film, we’re introduced to new characters like Time (played by Sacha Baron Cohen) and get to travel back in time with Alice as she meets a young Hatter and gets to witness some very telling memories that lay between The Red and White Queen sisters.

Overall, the cast is, once again, quite stellar. While Mike enjoyed Cohen’s portrayal as Time, I could not stop quoting Borat in my mind. Perhaps since I finally saw the movie recently? I also found some of the side plots hard to swallow, and, well, corny. While we do learn of the spat that came between the sisters (The White Queen ate one of her Mother’s tarts after both girls were told not to and then says The Red Queen ate the treat and not her), much of the story, once again, falls a little flat.

Johnny Depp as Hatter. Photo: Courtesy of Disney

Johnny Depp as Hatter. Photo: Courtesy of Disney

Like in the 2010 film, the visuals are very strong and I also would recommend this movie to a wider audience than, say, The Jungle Book, which had many scary elements making it a film I wouldn’t recommend to those under the age of 10.

Have you seen Alice Through the Looking Glass? Are you planning to? I would love to hear your thoughts! xo

(Disclosure: I work often with Disney and saw this film on behalf of my blog. All opinions are my own.)