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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Louise Penny’s New #13 Gamache ~ “Glass Houses”

I wonder what’s going to happen to Louise Penny’s latest novel, hot off the presses, “Glass Houses”? It’s her 13th in a row Inspector Gamache novel. And USUALLY she hits it out of the ball park every time, but this time…Well, she’s a crime/mystery writer the world has fallen in love with, even though she’s an Anglo-Canadian writing about our beloved Montreal and the province of Quebec, where she lives.

“Glass Houses” was written very fast. It seems like the last one “A Great Reckoning” only came out last week, but actually it was last year. But still, a new book, EVERY year! I mean, that’s an incredible achievement by any definition and she’s been called “the new Agatha Christie”, which is also an incredible accolade. (She’s won Agatha Award six times!) And she sells! She tends to debut at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

And it’s really difficult to write about her Chief Inspector Gamache books, because you don’t want to spoil anything. But I will say this. This is my least favorite novel of hers, so far. And I’ve read them all!

Don’t worry die-hard Gamache fans he’s very much front and center here, and Penny has created a great character in him, her lead detective. He’s retired now and living in Three Pines, the wonderful, mythical Quebec township town she’s created. It’s not real, but it’s setting is continuously beguiling and I really want to eat at the Bistro of Gabri and Olivier, right now!

Food is mentioned often, but not as much in “Glass Houses” but the Bistro Gamache fans NEED to know is where most of the action, and the eating, mais oui, happens. And Kudos to Penny for putting two very original gay Bistro/B&B owners front and center in her books. Gamache has a gaggle of sorts. What’s the French word for “Posse”? Maybe it’s posse, too, and they are all on hand, and there’s so many of them now that the ensemble tends to push the new characters almost out of the book completely.

It must sound divine to Penny fans, but — this time…
“Glass Houses” I found confusing. There. I said it. You need to know that it switches back and forth in time and seasons and locales. It’s hard to follow, until you realize that the trial that takes up half the book, is set in Montreal in the summer. Just WHAT and WHO is on trial for WHAT is also confusing. It’s made clear at the end but by then my patience with Gamache & co. was more than a little frazzled.

Then her masterpiece Ruth Zardo the crazy, foul-mouthed Octogenarian poet whose pet duck Rosa comes on. And then Gamache’s PERFECT wife Reine-Marie starts exerting her charm, and they all dine at the beautiful, homey bistro and you realize that Louise Penny is really above criticism at this point.

Especially, considering she wrote this big 400 page tome as her beloved husband, Michael, in real life, was dying.

Which kind of exemplifies the dark, threatening figure that keeps appearing on the Village Green one cold, rainy November day…Wait! How did we get to be in November? I thought it was July! Well, “Glass Houses” keeps switching back and forth, yes, confusingly.

Penny really returns to form(she really is an exquisite writer) in of all places the Author’s Note, which is at the end of the entire book. She writes feelingly about her husband’s death and ends with the lovely thought “The final thanks is to you, my friend. For your company.The world is brighter for your presence.
All shall be well.”

“Natasha, Pierre” Wins Most Drama Desks – 4! Laura Linney AND Cynthia Nixon Both Win!Bette Midler & Andy Karl score, too!

Drama Desk Awards 2917The 62nd Drama Desk Awards are now in the history books, and are they perhaps predicting the Tony winners?

Natasha, Pierre 20Natasha, Pierre Broadway Set“Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812” won all four awards, the most it was eligible for, the most it could win. Since it opened several years ago at the Ars Nova theater Off Off Broadway, it’s not nominated for the ten awards it’s up for ON Broadway. But the Acting Categories it IS predicting, I think are Best Actress and Featured Actress in a Play both of which went to Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon for “Little Foxes.”  Laura gave a beautiful speech. If TONY winners saw it…She was a very popular win.lITTLE FOXES 14Laura Linney OCC 1

I guess the headline was that Bette Midler didn’t show to accept HER award for “Hello, Dolly!”Hello Dolly 11But Gavin Creel did. He claimed to be “unfunny” and that director Jerry Zaks made him “funny.”Michael Urie Tux

Certainly funny AND charming was host Michael Urie who really aced this tricky show. He even jumped up high to give towering presenter the legendary Tommy Tune a kiss! Tune shockingly quipped “the last person to kiss me at one of these things was Leonard Bernstein.”…Pause for huge laugh…”He gave me tongue,” Pause for another huge laugh. “And I LIKED IT!” Applause.

It was one of the slickest evenings in the Drama Desks chequered and long and distinguished history. It was certainly a very high point. And I am proud beyond words to be part of this organization. It enables me to see all these wonderful shows and to write about them and to bring them to you on my blog and my TV show. I’ve been a member for over twenty years, or more. But who’s counting? It’s work I love to do.

True story. I voted for most of tonight’s winners. Showing you one’s vote DOES count. I prefigured nearly every award in the design categories, and Andy Karl winning for Best Actor for “Groundhog Day.” He quipped “This is the biggest pity award I’ve ever gotten.” Referring to the fact, and he referenced it by tripping on his way up to the stage, but then making like it was a joke and he was fine. But seriously, he did tear his ACL right before the show opened and to this day, he wears a massive knee brace, which as he is in his underwear almost constantly, (11 times, but who’s counting?) in the course of the show. Andy Karl on mike

It IS “Groundhog Day” after all.

“Hello, Dolly!” in addition to winning for Midler and Creel also won Best Revival of a Musical and the Canadian musical “Come From Away,” as I predicted it might, won three awards including Best Musical. And also Best Supporting Actress for Jenn Collela.

Danny DeVito won for Best Featured Actor in a Play for “The Price.”

Here’s the list of shows by number of winners who reached more than two.

Wins by Production:

 

CD of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet…”A Masterpiece Recording of a Masterpiece Musical!

The soon-to-be-released 2-disc CD of the Original Broadway Cast of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” is a masterpiece of recording of a masterpiece musical. I’m sorry, I just can’t stop the superlatives when talking about “Natasha, Pierre..” or as some call it “The Great Comet.” But whatever you call it, I predict it’s going to land like a bomb in the middle of TONY awards season. It’s due out May 19 and it will be flying off the shelves, like, well, like the great comet that it memorializes forever in this dazzling pop-opera spectacle that I’ve seen FOUR times and I can’t wait to see again!

Natasha, Pierre 22And yes, the magnificent lyric baritone of the legendary Josh Groban pierces through the massive ensemble and breaks your heart, with a vocal range we have barely heard him use before, especially thrilling in the darker, almost guttural, lower tones. Groban is turning into a consummate actor-singer right before our very eyes, and he has been selling out Broadway with this fiery, very avant-garde opera that challenge him at every step he takes and every note he sings and he meets the challenges magnificently..

And yes, I could see him singing at the Met one of these years. His voice just grows in depth and resonance in this incredible recording, as his performance as Pierre Bezukov has grown, too, since I first saw it. “Poor, bewildered Pierre, a warm-hearted Russian of the old school” sings the full-throated chorus, masterfully orchestrated by composer Dave Malloy. He was nominated for TWO Tonys, for his score and his orchestrations of it.

Natasha, Pierre 20Groban has two stunning solo numbers “Dust and Ashes” which ends his Act One and the title song, which ends the show. He is also singing throughout the entire score, with that pure, moving voice that is sometimes here almost a rock rasp. “What? What? WHAT?” he wails as his cousin Maria Demitryevka (the frightening Grace McLean) tells him some very alarming news indeed regarding his unrequited love, beautiful, young Natasha.

His Pierre is angry, frustrated, and almost always reading or drunk. He is married to “a bad wife”, the slinky, sensual Amber Grey as Helene.

amber-grey

She continues with this sensational role of “the slut”, wailing like a blues singer, belting out “Charmante,” wearing green furs and sequins, and sounding for all the world like a Russian Billy Holliday. As she helps seduce innocent Natasha, a better-than-ever Denee Benton, for her dissolute brother Anatole.Denee Benton 1

He is played to the hilt and beyond by Lucas Steele, who has also been with the show through all the years of its’ many peregrinations as has Amber Grey, McLean and many others. He actually has a larger role than Groban!Josh and Lucas

“Natasha, Pierre…” has had a grueling five year journey From the tiny Ars Nova theater Off-Off Broadway to the festive circus tent in the meat-packing district, where I first saw it. where they served dinner! They also went to Boston to the ART theater there. All the while under the stupendously inventive guidance of  director Rachel Chavkin. who is herself nominated for a Tony, too.

“Natasha, Pierre…” has now been nominated for TWELVE Tony Awards and I hope it wins all of them. Groban, Benton and Steele have all been nominated in their categories, but only Lucas Steele of the actors has won an award for the evil Anatole so far. He scored a prestigious Lucille Lortel Award.Lucas Steele 1Lucas Steele Lucille Lortel Award 1

In his category, Best Featured Actor in a Musical, he’s up against Broadway veteran Gavin Creel, who is a riot in “Hello, Dolly!” Both shows are mega-hits, but Steele’s Anatole is so dastardly, and also so devilishly handsome and sexy AND he plays the violin, having a wild solo as he fiddles away, preparing his plans to abduct the underage Natasha. He’s married already, and it’s a crime that he’s about to perpetrate. Yes, even in 1812 Moscow, he would be considered a criminal. and yes, this is all out of a tiny sliver of the 1000+plus-paged novel “War and Peace” from which this epic is adapted by the uber-talented Malloy.

This sliver is so epic…you can only imagine what the rest of Tolstoy’s classic novel is like. Believe it or not, I read it in the 8th grade. The other kids in the Bronx Catholic boys school I was doomed to,  made fun of me carrying his huge tome around with me for a year.

“Are you really reading all that?”

Yes, I was and I did, and I’m so glad now that I can say that I felt every inch a genuine Russian after reading it and especially seeing “Natasha, Pierre” FOUR times! And now this extraordinarily beautiful, tuneful, masterfully recorded treasure of a CD is coming soon! May 19! Remember that date!

I saw “NPATGCOE,” as the Internet might abbreviate, this last time, seated RIGHT ON THE STAGE! Every time you see it sitting in a different place in the wildly re-devised Imperial theatre,  it’s like seeing a different play! When you’re sitting on the stage itself, you feel like you are IN the play! The stage actually vibrates with the bass notes of the synthesizer that sometimes Josh Groban himself is playing in the pit of the orchestra. Which is stage center and completely unhidden.Natasha, Pierre Marquis

In fact, from his first entrance in front of a blinding blaze of  white lights, he is playing the accordion himself, and he rarely if ever leaves the stage.  Bespectacled Pierre is Tolstoy’s alter-ego. He is one of the first, modern anti-heroes. He is thoroughly depressive, a big Russian,
beaten-up bear of a character. And yes, he’s the hero of “War and Peace.”  Groban to his everlasting credit has totally immersed himself to the point of unrecognizability in his heroic, vanity free performance. He is wearing a fat suit. He now lumbers and growls and shuffles his considerable weight as a middle-aged man would. His long, thin fingers shake with what may be delirium tremens as in a man who drinks Way too much. His young brow is now furrowed, without any make-up.

You can hear this bear of a character that he is so perfectly portraying growling through the CD like a wounded animal. But like the maestro he is, Pierre’s voice, his howl of pain, is always also modulated and very, very beautiful.  And moving.Natasha, Pierre Broadway SetYou must hurry and buy it. I predict it will be a best seller, the first Broadway recording and the best maybe ever. It could go platinum in five minutes. And go see Groban live and onstage before he leaves the show forever in July. He’s entitled. He’s been packing them in on Broadway, for nearly a year, revitalizing it and don’t even get me started on Mimi Lien’s transformative set and the wild, magnificent lighting of Bradley King! Both also nominated for Tonys. I hope they all win!

I also have to add that there seems to be a thousand-voiced choir, an epic number of voices that call themselves “The Great Comet Singers” who are pictured in the CD program and contribute to the amazing sound and rhythm of “Balaga” and “The Abduction.” They are also credited as “Shakers.” Because the audience was all given egg-shaped shakers to increase the beat of the delirious troika ride to end all troika rides in Act Two. Yes, “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet” of 1812 will abduct you, too. Your heart, I mean. You’ll never think of musicals the same way again.

Lucas Steele & Denee Benton 1
#Natasha, Pierre, # The Great Comet of 1812, #Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 # Josh Groban, #Lucas Steele, #Tony Awards, #Denee Benton, #Russia, #War and Peace

CASEY AFFLECK WINS BEST ACTOR!!! Emma Stone, Best Actress and then OMG!

casey-affleck-backstage-at-oscarscasey-on-boat-2CASEY AFFLECK WINS BEST ACTOR FOR “MANCHESTER BY THE SEA”!!!! YES!!! YES!!! YES!!!

He looked completely shocked. Dumbfounded. And inarticulate as always. He didn’t make a very good speech. Oh Well…The Best Man won. Denzel did not look happy…

And now, we’re on to Best Actress, with Leonardo DiCaprio presenting. EMMA STONE!!!! Another standing O!!! I predicted her, too. Only got Mahershala wrong.

Emma gives a touching, very good speech. Emotional. You just love her. Wish Casey could have given a speech like he made at the Independent Spirit Awards yesterday. Oh well…he won. And certainly deserved it. And so did she. That moment when she switches from talking to singing at the beginning of the Big Song at the end of the movie just reduced me to tears. So simple, so moving….”So here’s to the fools who dream. Crazy as they may seem.”

emma-stone-smiling“La La Land” wins Best Picture! Oh no! Now they are saying it was a mistake and that “Moon light” won Best Picture! COLOSSAL FUCK UP BY WARREN BEATTY! How humiliating! But “Moonlight” has just won Best Picture! All is confusion up there. It was “Moonlight” a tiny little gay film.

WHO WOULDA THUNK IT?!?! Sasha Stone, that’s who! Bravo Sasha! You rule! OMG!

Kimmel “It’s all my fault. I knew I would screw this up. I’ll never be back.”

I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!?!? They finally let a gay film win Best Picture. 12 Years after “Brokeback Mountain” lost….I’m in shock! The world is moving on….and very good that it has, too….

Justin Timberlake Starts the Oscars Off with a Great Number & a Standing O! Mahershala Wins!

justin-timberlake-1Justin Timberlake starts off the Oscars just right with a rompin’, stompin’ raise-the-roof  with his own Oscar nominated song And it was great! From “Trolls.” He got a standing, dancing ovation! Great start! Then of course, Jimmy Kimmel  comes on and gets as he puts it, “Oh great, a sitting ovation”….

He then makes the audience give Meryl Streep a standing O.

And now, Best Supporting Actor! And here comes the lovely Alicia Vikander. She’s got a VERY deep tan.  Trying to look as un-Swedish as possible.

Mahershala Ali wins! I was wrong about Dev Patel…Another standing ovation…

A nice moving speech. His wife just had a baby and firstly he thanks his teachers, whom I know/knew the late Zelda Fischhandler and Ron Van Lieu from NYU Grad Acting. They were the first ones he thanked which was very classy of him. I saw him in many plays there and he was always as good as he was in mahershala-ali“Moonlight.” Lots of warmth in the room for “Moonlight” as Sasha Stone predicted at http://www.awardsdaily.com. And I didn’t…

His part in “Moonlight” was very small, but truly supporting. But he didn’t mention that he was a Muslim, which I wish he would’ve done.

 

 

 

DGA Noms. “Lion” Surprisingly In. Scorsese Out. Lonergan, Jenkins,Chazelle In, too.

lion-1lion-2One wonders how much influence Harvey Weinstein has over the DGA. Answer, probably a lot, because once more this awards morning yields a Weinstein Co. surprise in the form of a much-prized DGA nomination for his company’s only entry into the Oscar race this year, “The Lion.”

This probably assures Nicole Kidman(pictured above) and Dev Patel assured nominations in the Supporting Actor categories, and likely a Best Picture nod, too.

You see the five directors named by the all-powerful DGA will also most likely end up in the Oscar race as well as having their pictures assured a nom, too.manchester-by-the-sea-7

The other directors named were Kenneth Longergan for “Manchester by the Sea”, Barry Jenkins “Moonlight”, French Canadian Denis Villeneuve for “Arrival” and the man of the hour Damien Chazelle for “La La Land.” Unknown Garth Davis directed “The Lion.” All are first nominees of this, one of Hollywood’s highest honors.

Many thought Martin Scorsese for “The Silence” and Mel Gibson “Hacksaw Ridge” would score for Old Times Sake, if not for the quality of their current films, not no, they were both bumped by all these first-timers. Oscar isn’t nostalgic any more.

Producers Guild Announces Their Nominations

manchester-by-the-sea-8The Producers Guild has just announced its’ all-important ten nominations. They are listed below alphabetically. And it’s interesting to note that “Silence,” “Nocturnal Animals” and “Jackie” are completely left out. But a super-hero film like “Deadpool” is left IN.

The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures:

 

  • Arrival

Producers: Dan Levine, Shawn Levy, Aaron Ryder, David Linde

 

  • Deadpool

Producers: Simon Kinberg, Ryan Reynolds, Lauren Shuler Donner

 

  • Fences

Producers: Scott Rudin, Denzel Washington, Todd Black

 

  • Hacksaw Ridge

Producers: Bill Mechanic, David Permut

 

  • Hell or High Water

Producers: Carla Hacken, Julie Yorn

 

  • Hidden Figures

Producers: Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin & Jenno Topping, Pharrell Williams, Theodore Melfi

 

  • La La Land

Producers: Fred Berger, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt

 

  • Lion

Producers: Emile Sherman & Iain Canning, Angie Fielder

 

  • Manchester By the Sea

Producers: Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Lauren Beck, Kevin Walsh

 

  • Moonlight

Producers: Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner & Jeremy Kleiner

 

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