nohway

Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page

DAZZLING NEW STAR: LEE ANN LARKIN

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 at 3:01 am


Bradley Dean and Lee Ann Larkin, two major reasons to resee A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC

In her second Broadway appearance in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, the fearlessly gifted Lee Ann Larkin takes the role of lusty servant girl, Petra, and totally makes it her own, just as she did in her Great White Way debut, GYPSY, with the character of June. That June-Petra one-two punch reminded me of Larkin’s co-star NIGHT MUSIC Angela Lansbury (since succeeded by Elaine Stritch), who also began her film career in eye-catching supporting roles, playing a Cockney maid in “Gaslight” at 18 and then the tragic Sibyl Vane in “Picture of Dorian Gray,” both of which garnered Oscar nominations

read my GAY CITY NEWS interview with her

here

As for the rest of A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, the most hotly anticipated show of the summer, although it opened last December due to Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch replacing Catherine Zeta Jones and Angela Lansbury in the roles of Desiree and Madame Armfeldt, respectively. Its celestial tunefulness, witty lyrics and elegantly romantic period setting make it my personal favorite Stephen Sondheim show and I was especially looking forward to seeing Peters, who I felt was the perfect age and type for her juicy diva role.


The production is definitely worth a revisit but, surprisingly, not because of its starry replacements. The seriously scaled down – some say cheap – Trevor Nunn production is now, of course, thankfully less of a disappointing shock than it was the first time around and Nunn’s vulgarizing directorial touches seem to have become – also thankfully – softened with time and his physical absence. The triumphant aplomb Larkin has by now acquired in her role is matched by certain of her co-actors, especially Erin Davie, who has improved markedly as the cynical, unloved Countess Malcolm, and makes quite a delicious, high comedy meal of the role. Bradley Dean who played her husband at the performance I caught was much better than Aaron Lazar, for whom he understudies, with a sweaty boorishness that captures all the comic lack of humor of this macho buffoon of a character. I even enjoyed the much maligned Ramona Mallory as silly, virginal Anne Egerman – she has also gained in confidence and has something of the near-irresistible, endearing ineptitude of Ruby Keeler in those 1930s Busby Berkeley musicals, which happens to really work for her ditheringly clueless role. The always terrific Stephen R. Buntrock – who absolutely should be a Broadway headliner; what a Curley he was in OKLAHOMA! – took over the role of the valet who seduces Petra and invested it with sexy strength, literally so when he delightfully swept Larkin up into his arms at the curtain call. (How I yearn to see him take over some time in the role of Frederik Egerman, the true protagonist of the show, which he also understudies.) Hunter Ryan Herdlicka (too shrilly callow) and the lieder quartet unfortunately remain as vocally challenged as they were last winter – no change there, unfortunately.

Stritch by now is such a critics’ darling that she has actually received raves for her self-indulgent rampage. I saw the original road tour in Los Angeles in the 1970s, with the priceless Jean Simmons as Desiree, and Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, impossibly cast as Madame Armfeldt, whose legendary beauty and sexiness brought kings to their knees. A suspension of belief was necessary to any enjoyment of her performance, which was possible, as she filled it with so much nostalgic warmth. Such suspension is impossible with Stritch, who plays it as she does everything now: loud, bossy, contemporary urban and shamelessly audience pandering. (She now does what her lowest, camp-loving fans expect her to do, much as Tallulah Bankhead was once said to have done as Blanche DuBois.) At my performance, she went up on practically her very first line, dropping her Solitaire cards and ad-libbing, throwing you completely out of any filigreed fin-de-siecle mood. Lines which should have been delivered with a witheringly funny, mandarin imperiousness were merely barked out in a way that was as predictable as the obnoxious pointing gesture she employed at every exit, like a traffic cop gracelessly telling her valet in which direction to push her wheelchair. Her rendition of the song “Liaisons” was an utter debacle, the musical line was stretched to a hideous eternity and her insertion of an unbelievably “woo”-whoop at the line “he deeded me a duchy” disgustingly self-indulgent, no other word. She’s additionally not helped by an awful coiffure which looks like the hairdresser merely brushed a bunch of white locks over her trademark Greek fisherman’s cap. Who – royalty aside – in their right mind would EVER have been seduced by this butch, leather-lunged harpy? Well, maybe a Greek fisherman, who’d been at sea for a decade and wanted that hat back.


Alexander Hanson, taking his bow

As for Peters, there’s no denying that her “Send in the Clowns” was the most perfect interpretation of the song since Judy Collins’, the delicate timbre of her voice, with its distinctive break and sweetness being perfectly suited to it. If only the rest of her performance were as fine-grained and elegantly heartbreaking. “Suburban” is the word that springs to mind about her acting here, which has a heavy-handed, sitcom obviousness, reminiscent of her more appropriately gauged sketch work on the old Carol Burnett TV shows, to it in scenes which call for a seductively gossamer touch. Desiree, a born actress, is nothing if not self-conscious, ever aware of her behavorial effects, but Peters drove her points home so hard, you recoiled from her. Catherine Zeta Jones, was, of course, no match musically for her, but her sheer gorgeousness and womanly assurance actually made her superior Desiree, believe it or not. As a result, even the brilliant Alexander Hanson, so shamelessly overlooked for any awards this past season, was forced to push during his scenes with her, which were slightly drained of the deft Cary Grant charm, of which he is otherwise is a past master. When Peters made her waltzing entrance to an enthusiastic audience ovation, her aristocratically erect posture and the pure joy at having her back in the theater in a really suitable role prepared me for an evening of total delight, which made all that followed all the more disappointing. As a renowned past Sondheim interpreter, did she not receive any direction and was merely left to her own misguided devices? A good, tough and tasteful director I’m sure could have sat on her and drawn an exquisite performance which easily could have matched the illumination of her (still unforgettable) “Send in the Clowns.”

Emergency Paging: Arthur Laurents.

COPYRIGHT: davidnoh2010

Advertisements

I’M A JUDGE!

In Uncategorized on August 30, 2010 at 2:49 am

LATE NOTICE I KNOW, but tomorrow night, Monday, August 30, at 7 PM at the Metropolitan Room (34 W. 22 Street), I will be judging the third annual Metrostar Talent Challenge, along with K.T. Sullivan and Donald Smith. It’s the Grand Finale of the Challenge and the Big Winner will be announced. Come join us!

http://www.metropolitanroom.com/calendar/view/1394/148.html

here’s last year’s winner, Liz Lark Brown

GAG SNOOZE AVOID

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2010 at 6:56 am

Oops, I meant EAT PRAY LOVE, but those words describe the utterly obnoxious yet enervating effect of this film.

I managed to avoid the book, but if it bears even the slightest resemblance to its overlong film adaptation, I was completely right to do so.

Its protagonist, Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts), is a journalist suffering from, as we are constantly reminded, a “broken heart,” and seeking to cure herself. Well, from everything we see, this devastating wound was purely self-inflicted. Liz ups and leaves a husband (Billy Crudup in the most thankless role of 2010), who adores her and the perfect apartment she designed every inch of, and we are supposed to weep for her. You see, hubby just ain’t happening for her anymore, and their incompatibility, i.e., his refusal to grow up, is causing her serious, serious pain.

Poor baby.

She then takes up with a hot young stud of an actor (James Franco), but soon realizes that she is too good for the likes of him, as well.

Liz’s horrendous problem is she’s never been alone. There are always these MEN around her! God, don’t spinsters realize how lucky they truly are?

What to do? What to do?

Vacation! (cue The Go-Gos). And not just any single exotic pit stop for her. No way: baby is taking herself to Italy (for the food), then India (for the spirituality) and, finally, gorgeous Bali (because, you know, India…)

In Rome, we see Liz stuff herself on pasta and pizza and courageously deciding to let her figure go to utter hell, thereby requiring the emergency purchase of fat girl jeans. This, of course, has to be taken on faith, as Roberts, for all her jawing about excess poundage, remains as willowy as ever. (The ever-so slightly bulky sweaters the costume designer puts her in are like the horn-rimmed spectacles on Grace Kelly that were supposed to turn her into instant plain Jane in her undeservedly Oscar-winning THE COUNTRY GIRL.)

EAT PRAY LOVE totally lost credibility for me early on with a Thanksgiving dinner scene in Rome when Liz proposes that everyone at the table state what they are thankful for. Two of the more prominently featured supporting players get to voice their bliss, at which point Liz grabs center stage and starts spouting her personal gratefulness, ending with a final toast that only has you thinking, “What about the rest of the guests sitting there?” And then, unfortunately, yet inevitably, “Selfish bitch.”

Those two words kept recurring in my mind as the film progressed, and this kind of glib oversight on the part of writer/director Ryan Murphy bespeaks not only a carelessness bordering on callousness, but an unseemly kind of star arse-licking and patronizing of the audience who supposedly only care about the above the title characters.

Having eaten her way through Rome, with nary a visit to a museum or ancient church, our Ugly Perky American jets to India, which is presented as a filthy, noisome chaos, and we are meant to thank God for the tranquil Ashram she finds there (which is about all of the country we get to see). There, she meets one of the many gurus she will suck wisdom from and, incidentally, the only white one, a Texas good ole geezer (Richard Jenkins), who promptly dubs her “Groceries” after
watching her gluttony at mealtime (not aware of the tape worm she has swallowed to keep that 24-inch waist). This nickname soon becomes as tiresome as the character himself, full of bogus Southern wisdom and what is meant to be down-home charm.

In a rare escape from the ashram, Liz attends the wedding of an uncertain young girl she has befriended and comes off as something of a drag, not participating in the dancing festivities, like that one recalcitrant guest = albeit exquisitely sari-ed – who shows up at every wedding. She manages to pull focus from her little friend when she wanders off, causing the bride to leave her reception and follow her for a quiet moment in which Liz gets to be her guru and counsel her about marriage (being such an obvious expert at it).

Liz also meditates a lot, only making you realize how enervatingly uncinematic this activity is onscreen. For all the enlightenment she receives, “Get me the fuck outta here!” seems to be foremost on her mind. It certainly is on ours, and, with relief, we hie off to Bali.

There, tropical beauty abounds, and, with it, the hint of sensual, sexy delights. But our girl just ain’t interested, even when a devastating young blonde hunk gets naked and beseeches her to join him for a moonlight swim. Roberts bares those huge trademark pearly choppers and snickers at him, “You’re SO NAKED!” and “You’re cute, but I gotta go!” and the sexual tease of this only reminded me somehow of 60-year-old Joan Crawford in I SAW WHAT YOU DID, putting off the advances of lustfully deranged John Ireland with a coquettish, finger-waving “Later…!”

Actually, Liz remains man-less in Bali for about 45 minutes, because up pops Javier Bardem as an emigre local who is, of course, instantly besotted by her when they meet cute (cue yawn) when he runs her bicycle-riding fanny off the road in his jeep. His character is fond of making pathetic-sounding mixed tapes for his loved ones and cries floods of tears after a reunion with his son. These male waterworks are witnessed by Liz, who is duly impressed, but I found this gambit employed far more wittily in Woody Allen’s HUSBANDS AND WIVES, when all Judy Davis had to do, after Mia Farrow told her about Liam Neeson’s character’s vulnerability, was peer intently at him and mutter “He weeps?”

That weeping scene was rather excruciating, if the truth be known, and I felt embarassed for Bardem having to perform it. It also struck me as strange that both he and Franco, two of the most attractive actors around today, both come off as rather weedy and juiceless, as if La Roberts’ mega-star wattage had sucked the very life out of them. (Again, Crawford used to do that too, back in the day, leaving the meat-picked cadavers of Robert Montgomery and Franchot Tone in her wake.)

In Bali, all Liz has to do is turn a corner and up pops another little brown-skinned guru, either male or female, to obsequiously serve her spiritual needs. One, an “adorably” grotesque, painfully obvious non-actor, she actually refers to as Yoda, which seems not that racistly far-off from those movie days when whites affectionately called their black servants things like “Shine.”

And OMG, this Bardem character also wants to sail into the sunset with her! Can’t this girl ever get a break? Why does everyone HAVE to fall in love with her? She cries and cries, and you’re not sure if it’s over her husband, whom she feels guilty about dumping, or James Franco, ditto, or Bardem, to whom she very well may do the same.

And, yes, we are supposed to care.

What to do? What to do?

Answer: Leave the movie theater, because, of course, after driving poor Javier crazy with teasing and indecision, all too forseeably, Selfish Bitch will naturally walk onto that sailboat, making every secretary and shopgirl of 1932 smile through her tears at such a bee-yoo-di-full ending.

Serious Point: if Roberts was truly gorgeous and sexy, you could believe at least some of this and maybe let yourself get swept up in it. For years, that smile, mane of hair and bodacious body indeed seemed invincible. However, time has marched on, and she has obviously made that sub-Faustian trade for body over face. There’s nary a hint of a muffin top on her eternally lithe body, despite all that supposed EAT (again, a sad little wish-fulfillment and insult to real women with real appetites and bodies), but those drawn cheekbones, prominent ears and huge features hanging off the absolute minimum of facial acreage now resemble a fruit bat.

Some of the old magic irrepressibly glimmers through occasionally, but mostly, Robert Richardson’s cinematography is not kind to her in the various lights of three countries. Michael Dennison seems to have outdone himself in providing her with a drab “real woman” wardrobe, as if to say “This ain’t no Sex and the City; we’re the SERIOUS chick flick.” Maybe so, but for real fun, glamour and, yes, romance, I’ll still take the much-maligned Carrie Bradshaw sequel to the belabored whining of Liz Gilbert any day.

Remember when Roberts and Meg Ryan were the big rivals for official America’s Sweetheart? Well, with too much collagen (among other things, like wacko movie choices), Ryan has fallen off the chart, while Sandra Bullock, despite so many odiferous films, has risen to the challenge. Roberts makes me think of a former holder of the title, Ginger Rogers, who, after she grew up from her original beloved, sassy American Everygirl image, never recaptured its excitement, despite forays into high sophistication and bitchy roles. Roberts is too uniquely special and limited – always somehow girlishly the same – in her way to bridge into real character roles, making me think that EAT PRAY LOVE, this ridiculous Oprah-endorsed vanity project of an epic of a chick flick, in which she displays every trick in her now oh-so familiar threadbare bag, would be a fitting swan song for her to get out while the getting’s still semi-good.

COPYRIGHT: nohway2010

PAT CLEVELAND: GREATEST MODEL EVER

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 at 8:27 am

At a party for the release of the new film about the legendary, late restaurant FLORENT: QUEEN OF THE MEAT MARKET, I ran into eternal model nova, Pat Cleveland, timelessly gorgeous, as bubbly as ever, wearing a skimpy Stephen Burrows cocktail dress that on anyone else, besides her, at her age, would have been unthinkable. Check out our encounter in GAY CITY NEWS here


Pat, me and a friend

Cleveland’s Scandinavian/Black looks, which could be compared to everything from a Modigliani

to an idealized Josephine Baker

(as well as 1930s supermodel, the Javanese Toto Koopman, a favorite of Hoyningen-Huene),


photo by Hoyningen-Huene


portrait by Joseph Oppenheimer

would have been enough to make her a modeling star, but it was her incomparable body language on the runway which gave her mythic status. Where Iman rocked a commandingly sexy, statuesque stateliness, Cleveland was always dazzlingly kinetic, a full-on chameleonic actress on the catwalk, working amusing Pierrot moves in an Issey Miyake oversized draped jumpsuit, pirouetting like a mad top to show off Halston’s swirling balloon skirt, giving you Jazz Age showboating in YSL’s smoking, or being the most demure lady who lunches in Chanel bespoke.

I never tired of looking at her, whether in print – photographed or drawn so exquisitely by the late, great illustrator Antonio Lopez – or in person. Indeed, the 1970s-80s for me were marked by the thrill of seeing her in person at random moments, like Garbo-sightings in New York once were for those particular, devout beauty-worshippers. I recall seeing her striding along Central Park South one sunny afternoon, clad in peach, lacy lingerie, all the better to keep cool; skipping out of an Aretha Franklin concert at Carnegie Hall, fluttering a fan with the excitement of what she’d just seen, in the company of the late designer Willi Smith and his model sister, Toukie; her charming two-night cabaret performance at the Mudd Club, on the stage of which her Adele Rootstien mannequin kept her company; all those breathtaking dance floor appearances at 54, gyrating in a gorgeous Valentino pink chiffon blouse and skintight black leather pants in her own personal spotlight or twirling in Halston’s balloon skirt with her then-lover, model Sterling St. Jacques, to the Village People’s MACHO MAN, of all things. She even strayed from her 54 roost to come downtown to the Paradise Garage one night and I recall her squeals of delight watching Walt Disney’s SLEEPING BEAUTY in the screening room at that literal multi-cultural utopia. And then there were quieter moments, like when she and I both toiled for a minute for that pioneering crazy old disco dinosaur, Trude Heller, and we shared a quiet chat in a shabby little dressing room where she had gone to escape the club’s hubbub, a Maximilian sable coat draped over her shoulders.

At a recent Museum of the City of New York panel appearance, she was both eloquent and amusing, especially when this mistress of model movement demonstrated that galumphing horse-y prance of a walk that is now so de rigeur for every fourteen-year-old nonetity on the catwalk these days.

check out this seminal EBONY magazine article by Andre Leon Talley about Pat and her fellow black model sisters here

Feast your eyes:


photographed by Stephen Meisel for ITALIAN VOGUE 2008


with Halston at Studio 54


with Grace Jones – in their early modeling days, they’d do impromptu entertainments together, like singing Three Degrees’ classic disco song, “Dirty Ole Man”


photographed by Andy Warhol 1980


with daughter Anna


in Zac Posen on 5th Avenue


with former husband Martin Snaric and his sister, Patricia


with model Sterling St. Jacques, a frequent dance partner in the 1970s


with St. Jacques at Halston’s house, photo by Bob Colacello

at Moschino show, working Mickey Mouse and Olive Oyl 1993


Adele Rootstein created a mannequin in her image


at Chanel show


wearing the designer she always faithfully cites as her all-time favorite, Stephen Burrows


on the left, Pat’s model daughter Anna; on the right, Pat in her Halston 1970s heyday


with her BFF, designer Stephen Burrows, and her husband, ex-model Paul Von Ravenstein


COPYRIGHT: davidnoh2009

TILDA SWINTON: BRAINY FASHION MUSE

In Uncategorized on August 4, 2010 at 6:29 am

Yes, “Brainy” and “Fashion” are not really two words that often go together, but they are nicely married in the person of La Swinton, who can wrap literature with the best of them while rocking the latest Phoebe Philo. Read my interview with her in GAY CITY NEWS

http://www.gaycitynews.com/articles/2010/08/03/gay_city_news/arts/doc4c478d3ef13ee511348651.txt

OTHER GREAT SWINTON STYLINGS:


her penultimate fashion moment: the Viktor & Rolf 2003 show, which featured an army of Tilda lookalikes marching down the runway as she spoke her own words: “Follow your own path.”


at the Cannes Film Festival for MICHAEL CLAYTON


in Sandra Backlund knit


at 2008 Oscars, a winner for MICHAEL CLAYTON, in Lanvin


in Rodarte, 2008


at AFI luncheon 2008


at BAFTA Awards, 2008


at Venice Film Festival, 2008


with Justin Bond


leaving David Letterman Show, 2008


at Heathrow airport


at Berlin Film Festival


in Yohji Yamamoto, 2008


proof that no one is perfect, fashion-wise (well, maybe Audrey Hepburn and Claudette Colbert): Tilda in Christian LaCroix 2009


wearing Raf Simons in the film I AM LOVE

For FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL, I also recently interviewed her utterly besotted director Luca Guadagnino, who directed Swinton in the lushly romantic I AM LOVE, which featured an exclusive wardrobe for her designed by Raf Simons, his first movie costuming job.

read it here:
http://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/content_display/news-and-features/features/movies/e3i66e6b9942a0b821f724a0c3feb736a3e