But Just For Me (Movie/Stage Thoughts: An American In Paris, London Cast, Dominion Theater)

AAIP_Playful_420x5881I am really loving this trend of Broadway productions being shown at movie theaters. Perhaps because I am no longer in New York City, and this gets me close to my beloved theaters. I saw a screening of ‘An American in Paris’ and quickly jumped to get a ticket. In this case, this is from the 2017 West End production which closed January 2018, with the same production team, and it even ‘imported’ the two principal actors: Robbie Fairchild and Leanne Cope (he from New York City Ballet, she from Royal Ballet Company)

I saw the Broadway production and fell in love with the show instantly.  I loved the direction and choreography of Christopher Wheedon, who seamlessly incorporated ballet into the show. Here the ballet is so prominent it is as if it was another character in the story. I thought Fairchild was so fantastic in the role and cannot imagine the show without him, so it’s great that the show is being ‘preserved’ like this with him on the role.

I cannot imagine the last time I had a smile on my face for a straight two hundred and fifty minutes. And my biggest takeaway from the production? That it is one of the most romantic shows I have seen in recent years. The show was beautifully shot – with closeups on intimate moments, and great aerial shots so we can fully appreciate the artistic fluidity of the dancing. And the Gershwin songs got to me, even if I have heard those  songs a million times. I kind of miss Max Von Essen and Brandon Uranowitz from the original Broadway cast, but David Seadon Young’s ‘But Not For Me’ is just as haunting.  The movie, and show, is a treat.

The Playful (Perfume Thoughts, Scherzo, Miller Harris)

o.54020I stayed at a friend’s mansion in San Francisco recently and, of course, while I was there, raided to use his perfume collection. He pointed me to his ‘new acquisitions,’ which were the bottles he recently got from his trip to Paris. I immediately gravitated towards Scherzo, from Miller Harris. I knew nothing about it, and upon first spritz, fell in love with it.  I did not even know what the word meant, and was fascinated by its meaning:  a vigorous, light, or playful composition, typically comprising a movement in a symphony or sonata.

But first, the perfume’s  very beautiful back story. Miller Harris, for inspiration, gave two perfumers, this quote from F Scott Fittzgerald’s ‘Tender Is The Night:’

When this died away on the summer air, she walked on, between kaleidoscope peonies massed in pink clouds, black and brown tulips and fragile mauve stemmed roses, transparent like sugar flowers in a confectioner’s window-until, as if the scherzo of colour could reach no further intensity, it broke off suddenly in mid-air…”

Scherzo is Mathieu Nardin’s interpretation, and he first impression is a bit literal, with the burst of sweet rose from the top notes. I don’t know if it is necessarily too-sweet as sugar flowers, but on my skin, the darkness quickly comes in, in the mixture of oud and patchouli that’s instantly heady and cashmere-like. It was perfect in the windy cold deceptively-sunny San Francisco weather, and it added a lot of mystery to our day’s adventures there. I wonder if, had the weather been a bit warmer, the sticky rose would have lasted more, and this makes me want to wear this again when the temperature is higher. But as it is, this is a great scent that has character. It is strong and massive, with great sillage and lasting power. I know this would be a great addition to my wardrobe, and now want to test ‘Tender,’ which is Bertrand Duchafour’s take on the same Fitzgerald quote.

 

Such Is Life (Movie Thoughts: Life Itself)

large_life_itselfYou would think that ‘Life Itself’ is a movie meant for me: current, dramatic, set in New York City, five hanky film. But I have got to agree with most critics who have panned it: this is just too much. This is directed by Dan Fogelman, who is the one who gives us NBC’s hit melodrama ‘This Is Us.’ And I also wonder why I haven’t really caught up with that. I remember watching a third of the first season, and never caught up on it. Maybe because nowadays my life is complicated enough, and the drama in the show just weighs me down.

But back to the film – Fogelman has assembled a group of great actors, and they are all game to the task. They do well with what I thought were undeveloped characters. This is the type of movie wherein things happen to people before we get to really know them, so we kind of don’t care as much. The crowd I saw it with started to laugh as these characters experience tragedy after tragedy. After a while, you become numb to the next death, and the big ‘reveal’ at the end could be seen by even Stevie Wonder. Someone said that if you were prone to being depressed you should not watch this film, but it had the opposite effect on me. Compares to these people, I realized my life isn’t too bad.

Dearly Detached (Music Thoughts: Love Is Here To Stay, Tony Bennett and Diana Krall)

202828615Every year, around my birthday, as if a gift, one of my favorite ‘divas’ always has a new album out the same week.  This year, it’s Diana Krall. That’s not necessarily the worst thing int he world, and her album, ‘Love Is Here To Stay,’ is a duets album with Tony Bennett, and they are singing an all-Gershwin program. I always wonder how Bennett, at 92, can still sing the way he does. Close your eyes and you could swear it’s still his mid-century crooning. In this album, they are backed by Bill Charlap, I mean, he’s no slouch.

Color me unimpressed, though. As a whole, i did not like the album at all. I did not like the mingling of Krall’s and Bennett’s voices. She seems timid, he seems to be bored. And you have to really pay attention to Charlap’s tricky piano playing – Bennett got his groove on with him on that Jerome Kern album from a couple of years ago. Here it felt like both were still trying to find their way with him. There are production photos and videos from the time this album was recorded, but I sense chilly chemistry between the two singers. I know the record has been garnering great reviews, so I feel like a contrarian here. Maybe I will listen more and change my mind, but right now, it’s an unfortunate thumbs down for me.

Call Me, Cumin (Perfume Thoughts: L’Autre, Diptyque)

51pn+WiQUPL._SY355_There was a time when I really hated cumin as a perfume note.  The sweaty, dirty aspect of the note really turned me off, because it always reminded me of body odor. Even as a spice, I avoided it. Whenever I see it listed on an entree, I always looked at it like a deal breaker for me not to order. Perfume wise, though, it always fascinated me, and I proudly have a lot of these sweaty, stinky scents in my wardrobe.

One of which is Diptyque’s L’Autre. I got this at the Diptyque Sample Sale in New York, and never really liked it. I never got rid of the bottle and very rarely (never) used it. So when I randonly opened it from my boxes from storage, I just went in, close my eyes, and sprayed. Yes, that cumin note is there, and I still think it smells like body odor, but I really warmed up to this. Paired with a bright citrus accord, I appreciated its ying and yang, framed by the freshness of the citrus ( I think its cardamom, based on the notes from Diptyque) It is very peppery, and the base has that dirty patchouli note, though this is a tidy patchouli, and on my skin not as soily. I am enjoying it, even with the hot-and-cold Los Angeles late summer weather (70s during the day, low 60s by night) I like the bloom of the perfume, with its earthiness, and dankness. And maybe as an added bonus – a friend of mine hates it with a passion. (Got to keep them on their toes)

Take Me To The World (Stage Thoughts: The World Goes Round, Reprise 2.0 at The Freud Playhouse, UCLA)

CORRECT+PHONE+-+NO+DISCOUNT+SOCIAL+MEDIA+CARDOne of the things I miss most about living in New York is theater. To say there is less theater in LA is an understatement. You have to dig deep to find something here,  and what you get can be not necessarily worth it (I refuse to see touring companies, and yes I admit I am a snob) But once in a while, you do get something worth your while, and I found that in the Reprise 2 series production of Kander & Ebb’s ‘The World Goes ‘Round’ at the Freud Playhouse at UCLA.  I remember the Off-Broadway production well, at the Westside Theater in Midtown West, before all the gentrification there took place. Look at who was involved at the original production – Scott Ellis directing, Susan Stroman doing choreography, and look at the cast: Robert Cuccioli, Karen Ziemba, Karen Mason among others. It was a memorable evening.

I am a realist, and did not expect this cast to be as memorable. And to be frank, they aren’t. Dawnn Lewis (from the television show ‘A Different World’) and Valeri Perri (she was in the 2nd National Tour of Evia in the 80s)  are both fine, and the latter gets the showcase-y songs (‘Isn’t It Better’ from Funny Lady, ‘Colored Lights’ from The Rink) The rest of the cast is dependable enough, if at times forgettable: Larry Cedar, Kelly Dorney, and Michael Starr. Okay so maybe Starr’s is a bit more hard to forget after he plays a naked ‘Arthur’ in ‘Arthur In the Afternoon’ (his muscles are fine)

All in all, not a bad night of theater, f we go by Los Angeles standards. I am mostly marveling at the songs, as it is always nice to have these songs sung live. Richard Israel’s production skews more cabaret than musical theater (A lady next to me asked her companion – ‘are they just gonna sing’) but I’ll take what I can get, and this isn’t too bad.

Sierra Brings The Creeps (Movie Thoughts: Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, Netflix)

large_sierra-burgess-posterI was excited to check out Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess Is A Loser’ because I am liking this new slate of Netflix rom-coms, and also, it has Noah Centineo who is really very easy on the eyes. But I found the film to be a misfire. First off, the film’s premise has a Cyrano meets Catfish plot, and it made me uncomfortable a lot of times. (As my friend said while watching it, ‘this film just stressed me out’)  Also, the film has a very unlikable lead character, and Shannon Purser, who stars as the title character, just isn’t appealing or charming enough. It is so bad that you find yourself rooting for her antagonists. A lot of the plot is just plain creepy, and if Sierra was my child, I would have slapped her four ways if she behaved like that. And i felt the character of Sierra got away with a lot of things without any kind of remorse for what she did. Even the cutie Centeneo (underused) couldn’t save the film. Try to see other things on your Netflix ‘My List’ before playing this one.