Continuing their 2018 season of “Movers and Shakers” the Black Ensemble Theater has opened their latest, A New Attitude: In Tribute to Patti Labelle celebrating the career of the dynamic diva knows as Patti Labelle. It is no surprise to capture the life of this wonderful world famous icon, two actresses had to be cast. Dawn Bless plays the older Patti while Cherise Thomas captures her formative years from shy child to the Labelle lead singer crooning “Lady Marmalade.” While Thomas gets the luxury of wearing more of the outlandish costumes the disco diva was known for in the 1970’s, it is Dawn Bless who is really worth the price of admission. While not an exact twin of Labelle, her vocal cadence will send shivers down your spine like the actual lady herself. Bless’s rendition of “New Attitude” complete with a crown of gravity defying hairpieces and a red dress as vibrant as the lady herself, is the show stopping moment that’s quickly becoming a signature for all Black Ensemble Theater productions. Written and directed by Rueben D. Echoles, you don’t have to be a fan of the Grammy Award, BET Lifetime Achievement Award and NAACP Image Award recipient for Entertainer of the Year to find something here to love.
For those not in the know, this show chronicles Labelle’s rise from introverted youngster to pop and soul singing sensation. This dramatic soprano is known as much for her stellar vocal power and emotive delivery as she is for her sassy, outgoing and over the top personality. Beginning with her shy and reserved childhood, Labelle quickly flourished joining her church choir. “When I was singing on Sunday, everybody was Baptist” she quipped. Next headlining the vocal group The Bluebells, the rivalry with Diana Ross and the Supremes took center stage. Labelle had the voice, but Ross had the look. Good to know there is room in the entertainment lexicon for both enchanting Dreamgirls. As the Bluebells (Jessica Seals, Kylah Williams and Renelle Nicole join Cherise Thomas) career was taking off, a highlight opening for the legendary James Brown, The Supremes became global sensations, even going so far as to swipe Cindy Birdsong from The Bluebells to sing backup with Ms. Ross and The Supremes. It wouldn’t be until the 1970’s when the newly reformed Labelle would rocket to superstardom. Blending “Space Children of the Night” costumes with disco rhythms and sexually provocative lyrics, Patti and the women of Labelle became the first Black Group to ever play the Metropolitan Opera House due to the success of “Lady Marmalade.”
It is sad to report it would be next to impossible to pay tribute to any of the pioneers of soul music without also chronicling their battles against racism in the industry, and Patti faced it too. When touring the racially segregated south, the record company suggested the ladies “don’t mouth off to whites. Keep your head down and your mouths closed” except when singing. Once their voices blended in passionate harmony, the world united for the three to four minutes their songs lasted. After a career lull following the disbanding of LaBelle in the early 1980’s, Patti’s comeback came in no small part thanks to the help of Eddie Murphy who requested Patti be on the soundtrack of his new movie, Beverly Hills Cop. A new, younger generation discovering the “new dress, new hat, brand new ideas as a matter of fact” that was Labelle’s “New Attitude!” Adding to the mix, Bless’s sumptuous rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and the number one hit “On My Own” with Mark Yacullo substituting for blue-eyed soul singer Michael McDonald. Mimicking her trademark Patti moves, including kicking off her stilettos across the stage, shoulder shimmies, impressive and mystifying vocal runs and more sparkle, sequins and spandex then the last dozen shows BET has produced combined, I defy anyone to leave the theater with anything less than an ear to ear grin.
The creative team of A New Attitude: In Tribute to Patti Labelle included Bekki Lambrecht’s set design, Denise Karczewski’s lighting, David Samba on sound design and Rueben D. Echoles filling the roles of director, choreographer and costume designer, proving himself a pretty impressive “Mover and Shaker” as well. Musical director Robert Reddrick kept the Black Ensemble Orchestra on its toes, providing essential support during this jukebox musical tribute show. Also new to the neighborhood and just down the block, My Buddy’s is a recently opened Bar and Grill happy to serve the patrons exiting the Black Ensemble Theater. I highly recommend their French Martini, which I gladly sampled firsthand.
Today the 74 year icon is still going strong, appearing on a recent season of ABC’s popular reality series program Dancing with the Stars, still recording and touring, authoring many books and let’s not forget about her every popular line of desserts, Patti Pies. Along with the good, the show also showcases Patti’s struggles including ending her 32 year marriage as well as losing her sisters to diabetes. They are most likely looking down on the last remaining member of their family the fiercest of proud guardian angels. There was even a recreation of Labelle belting out the ABC’s from her viral appearance on Sesame Street, complete with a few puppets providing background support. It is no secret I adore Patti Labelle and I attended this show with sky high expectations. Dawn Bless knocked it out of the park for me with a tour de force, star making performance. From “Danny Boy” to “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, you will find a friend in Patti Labelle’s music as well as the Black Ensemble Theater’s powerful tribute to the legendary performer.
A New Attitude: In Tribute to Patti Labelle is now playing at the Black Ensemble Theater through June17, 2018
The Glorious Corner
STRIKE END LOOMS — (Via Showbiz 411/Roger Friedman) All the studio chiefs met Wedneday with the Writers Guild and will continue negotiating tomorrow, according to a WGA post.
The sudden seriousness of the studios is welcomed as the deadline looms for the 2023-24 TV season. If the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes aren’t resolved by early October, my sources say it will be impossible to put on a season.
Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Disney’s Bob Iger, Universal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav were present today for the negotiations, a sure sign that the studios are finally in panic mode.
There are no daytime or nighttime talk shows, no new material on TV, and actors can’t promote the fall and winter movies. The actors have already missed the Telluride, Venice, and Toronto Film Festivals. Now the New York Film Festival looms, as does the premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
The so-called Fall TV Season has been decimated; the Emmy’s pushed back and just general chaos everywhere. The severity of the strike -142 days in- has hurt almost-every-single below-the-line sector, from caterers to limo drivers to costume houses. It’s reported that it will take up to 10-12 weeks to fully resume everything. That means early-November and let’s not forget come Thanksgiving, the holiday season officially starts. Stay tuned.
LOVE, BURT AT THE CUTTING ROOM — Monday night at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room was the presentation of Love, Burt – celebrating the majesty and memory of Burt Bacharach’s music.
The show really moved me and reminded me of the reason I do what … the music!
The show was just sumptuous – with the assembled group -led by Mike Visceglia- honoring and doing proper justice to a host of Bacharach songs – everything from “Baby, It’s You” to “One Less Bell To Answer,” The Look Of Love” and “Alfie” were all dutifully done. Especially poignant was their rendition of “A House Is Not A Home.”
The fact of the matter is that when these songs were recorded, they were embedded into everyone’s consciousness. These versions were good, but the originals remain standout. You hear a lot about the Great American Songbook, but these songs are the “new” Great American Songbook. Just luscious.
They ended the show was one of my favorite-Bacharach songs, from the 1988 album Burt recorded with Elvis Costello, Painted From Memory. One of the album’s strongest cuts is “God Give Me Strength.” It was simply sensational. Spotted there were Benny Harrison and Maria Milito from Q1043.
The room was packed like never before; what a night!
SHORT TAKES — Micky Dolenz headlines the ACE Theatre Friday night in LA, and was a guest on KTLA Wednesday. Here’s a shot of him on-set with Sam Rubin who interviewed him with the KTLA-gang. Sam’s the second from left. Industry stalwarts at the ACE Theatre show include legendary-LA Times writer Randy Lewis; LA Magazine’sRoy Trakin and Goldmine’s Ken Sharp … Roger Friedman reported Wednesday that the pre-sales of Jann Wenner’s upcoming book Masters have been severely impacted by his New York Times interview. Take a read here: https://www.showbiz411.com/2023/09/20/jann-wenners-new-book-the-masters-drops-in-pre-sales-run-on-amazon-almost-off-the-top-2000-after-scandal-erupts And just last night his big presentation at NYC’s 92nd Y with Cameron Crowe was shuttered as well … SIGHTING: Alison Martino at NYC’s Algonquin Hotel …
When Apple TV’s The Morning Show debuted years ago (November 2019), created and run by Kerry Ehrin, it was a first-rate series certainly of The Sopranos-like and Mad Men-like caliber. Billy Crudup was astonishingly good as were Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. The second season was basically trash. Three episodes in on a third season -with a 4th already guaranteed- it’s kind of a mixed-bag. I did not care for the first two EPs, but the third was bordering on the edge of greatness – and Witherspoon wasn’t even in this one and there was no explanation why. Jon Hamm has joined the cast as sort of an Elon Musk-figure. To me, he’s still Don Draper, just with an updated wardrobe. Most of the production staff has been replaced and it seemed to me, they’re still finding their way. The trouble is, that with these 8 or so episode-runs, it gets really good at episode 6. Go figure …
Rupert Murdoch to retire per CNBC? More on this next column … Meg Ryan and David Duchovny in What Happens Later – looks cute and Ryan directed it – check out the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqTZqSglhZo … RIP Roger Whitaker
and Happy Bday David McCallum; Curtis Urbina; and Bill Murray!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Glenn Gretlund; Jodi Ritzen; Leonard Nimoy; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Scott Shannon; Zach Martin; Michelle Grant; Art Rutter; Maria Milito; Joe Lynch; Melinda Newman; Mandy Naylor; Kimberly Cornell; Sam Rudin; Jim Clash; Terry Jastrow; Randy Alexander; Bob Merlis; Andrew Sandoval; Art Rutter; and CHIP!
Beatles Brunch at City Winery Where Strawberry Fields Lives Forever
I was taken to City Winery by Eli Marcus for the Beatles Brunch with Strawberry Fields.
This show plays every Sunday with an unlimited brunch buffet that includes coffee, tea and juice, starting at noon. A bottomless brunch cocktail package is also available and children get in free. Here tourists mingle with New Yorkers, eating scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, dried out French toast, spicy potatoes with onions and peppers, perfectly done chicken, salad and fresh fruit. What is so nice, is that everyone seems happy to to be here, to see and hear the Fab Four.
The show starts off without fan fare. The lights dim and four men enter, not quite looking like the originals. Tony Garofalo (John Lennon), Billy J. Ray (Paul McCartney), Ira Siegel (George Harrison), and Michael Bellusci (Ringo Starr) and their costumes and wigs have seen better days. Then the music starts. You can watch one of our video’s here.
From the early hits like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “Ticket To Ride” “Eight Days A Week” and more the first act is nostalgia at it’s best. It was adorable to watch the audience, especially the young ones “Twist and Shout.”
After a break in came the Sergeant Pepper era, clothing and all. From that we got “Nowhere Man,” “My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “When I’m 64,” “Penny Lane” and songs that dig into your soul. They are done well and the Beatles live again. You can see our video here.
Then the later songs like “I Am The Walrus” and “Don’t Let Me Down” end a show that is almost two hour long of music, that is classic. I have to admit I wanted to hear “Blackbird” and “Norwegian Wood,” but what you get is a well rounded assortment of those songs that shaped several era’s.
Ira Siegel stands out with his guitar playing that is out of this world. I really loved all the songs he sang as well.
Michael Bellusci, gives Ringo a run for his money on the drums.
Tony Garofalo is the founder, creator and producer playing rhythm and lead guitar and singing lead vocals along with Alan LeBoeuf from the original Beatlemania playing bass guitar. Ray looks the most like the Beatle he is playing.
Strawberry Fields has been covering The Beatles for over three decades. They used to have a residency at B.B. Kings, but these days their home base is City Winery and it is definitely a great way to spend a Sunday. All four are consummate musicians and obviously have a love for what they do and that rubs off on their audience.
For a souvenir up a City Winery Strawberry Fields Rose Wine and have it signed by the cast. With its is its strawberry pink color, you get a combination of kiwi, watermelon and the taste of strawberry that lingers.
City Winery is right next to Little Island, Chelsea Market, The Highline, the Meatpacking district, Chelsea, and West Village. Everything is nearby to make a perfect outing for the whole day and this is one brunch where you definitely get your money’s worth. Click HERE for tickets
The Glorious Corner
WENNER TAKES A DOWN —Jann Wenner always speaks his mind and this week he may have overstepped just a bit. In an interview that ran in the New York Times about his new book called Masters, he quite openly said that there were no black or R&B artists in it, because they were not able to articulate properly. I know, I felt the same way reading that. Minutes later, he was let go by the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he helped start with Ahmet Ertegun way back in 1983.
His Like A Rolling Stone autobiography book was quite an indulgent read last year, but Wenner has in the last several years suffered several health set backs and it was pointed out that he may not be in his right mind. Still, he should have spoken way more carefully. I’ve known Wenner for decades and trust me, he feels he’s way entitled, and that said, you can rest assured that there were dozens and dozens of people (and former employees) waiting to take him down.
The sad fact is that most of the accusations are true. That said, let’s face it Rolling Stone magazine in it’s heyday was a miraculous outlet for so much music and terrific journalism – from Ben Fong-Torres to Hunter Thompson and Jann himself .. it was distinguished. Now, he may have killed it all.
Rolling Stine magazine Monday posted this – essentially disowning his from the magazine: “Jann Wenner’s recent statements to the New York Times do not represent the values and practices of today’s Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner has not been directly involved in our operations since 2019. Our purpose, especially since his departure, has been to tell stories that reflect the diversity of voices and experiences that shape our world. At Rolling Stone’s core is the understanding that music above all can bring us together, not divide us.”
Here’s the report from Deadline: https://deadline.com/2023/09/jann-wenner-removed-rock-and-roll-hall-fame-foundation-board-1235548690/comment-page-1/#comment-3858649
DREW’S BLUES — Boy, what did Drew Barrymore ever do to deserve the treatment she’s been through with the media. Sure, her ideas to bring back her daily-chat fest was a good one, for the right reasons, but everyone from Rosie O;’Donnell to the trade papers have bounced on her like madmen. I never met her, don’t hate her, but really … let’s get back to something real, like these Russell Brand-accusations!
SHORT TAKES — We finally caught David Bryne and Fatboy Slim’s Here Lies Love and absolutely loved it. I remember it well when it premiered at the Public Theater way back when and knew they were trying to get it to Broadway. Honestly, I never thought twice about the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos story, but the play was riveting then and it remains now. They’ve outfitted NYC’s magnificent Broadway Theater with disco-balls galore and club-lighting and the immersive experience is terrific. Here’s a great re-cap of the play’s evolution from Theatre Guide: https://www.newyorktheatreguide.com/theatre-news/news/how-the-music-of-here-lies-love-evolved-on-the-way-to-broadway …
Micky Dolenz appeared on Sunday’s Breakfast With The Beatles with Chris Carter (on KLOS) and talked about his new Dolenz Sings R.E.M. on Glenn Gretlund’s 7a Records. He also talked about his time with The Beatles and John Lennon. Carter also played a mash-up of Monkees and Beatle-songs which was done in England and it was superb. Here’s a shot from the event at LA’s Hard Rock Cafe on Highland and Hollywood Blvd. … SIGHTING: PR-pasha David Salidor and Benny Harrison at Monday’s Cutting Room tribute to Burt Bacharach … RIP Sammy Ash …
I’ve been thinking the best way to describe Jimmy Buffet and I saw this headline in LA Magazine: leisure evangelist– and it fits perfectly …
Happy Bday Donnie Kehr and Richard Branciforte.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Dan Mapp; Brad Auerbach; James Clash: Robbie Robertson; Carol Ruth Weber; Randy Alexander; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Andrew Gans; Kathy Brown; Roger Clark; Chris Boneau; Tricia Daniels; Dan Zelinski; Benny Harrison; Steve Walter; Gil Friesen; Donna Dolenz; Dan Mapp; Brad Auerbach; James Clash; and ZIGGY!
The Glorious Corner
STRIKE UPDATE— (Via TV Line) “9-1-1, what’s your TV emergency?” The dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes need to be resolved by the end of this month if scripted primetime fare such as 9-1-1: Lone Star and The Cleaning Lady are to return with new episodes in the 2023-24 TV season, says Fox entertainment president Michael Thorn.
When last we tuned in, 29 days ago, the WGA had countered the AMPTP’s latest offer; no next meeting has been scheduled. Things are proceeding even slower on the SAG-AFTRA front. Sources tell TVLine that it will take scripted shows roughly eight weeks to get back into production once the strikes are resolved.
“You’re going get to a point in the fall, in the late fall, where it’s going to be very hard to launch [scripted shows] within the traditional TV viewing season,” Thorn told our sister site Deadline.
If the strikes are resolved later than October 1, that’s where difficult scheduling decisions will have to be made.
“If that means the [delayed scripted] show could work and succeed in the summer [of 2024], great,” Thorn said. Or, “If it’s better to wait for the fall and use football and sports” to promote/launch scripted seasons, “we’ll do that.
“You could use October 1 as the date” by which the writer and actor strikes need to be settled,” Thorn added. “Every show is different but sometimes when you’re staring at a May launch date, you always wonder, ‘Is that the best time?’” to premiere a season/series
Fox’s fall TV slate features one full night of scripted animated fare (on Sundays), while the rest of the week is rife with multiple Gordon Ramsay cooking competitions, new seasons of Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test, Name That Tune and The Masked Singer, 9-1-1: Lone Star reruns, the new, David Spade-hosted Snake Oil game show, and, of course, Friday Night SmackDown.
But whenever the magical day comes for live-action scripted fare to return to our screens, “we’re going to return those shows with vigor,” Thorn avowed. “We really pride ourselves on ‘less is more’ and we were fortunate to be able to really put our money where our mouth is in that regard. When we return, Animal Control is going to get the full backing of this far-reaching platform [as will] John Wells’ new show, Rescue: Hi-Surf, when we launch it.”
Several columns back we posited that the strike might just be settled by Labor Day .. and we were lambasted with emails from a scattering of actors, writers and below-the-line talent that it would not be. They were right. As Gordon Gekko said, greed is good. Is it? Let’s all make nice and good back to work.
SHORT TAKES — As you may know the Toronto Film Festival has been going on and the two films that have received the most buzz are the Paul-Simon/Alex Gibey doc,
In Restless Dreams and Knox Goes Away starring Michael Keaton, who also directs, with Al Pacino, can’t wait to see both. Bravo! …The latest episode of Hulu’s Only Murders In The Building was just OK. So far, this third season has totally underwhelmed us. We said a few columns back it was most likely due to the fact that Martin hasn’t written any of the episodes so far. Why? I have no idea. Matthew Broderick played himself, but with a little more anxiety than usual, but the real highlight of this episode was a video-phone call between Martin Short and Mel Brooks. Irresistibly funny … Hard to believe that it’s the 25th anniversary of MTV’s ground-breaking TRL Live (Total Request Live).
Carson Daly did a nice remembrance on Thursday’s Today Show, even citing John Norris and Kurt Loder, who were key correspondents. They taped many of the shows at NYC’s long-gone Palladium (now an NYU dorm), but many, many memories come to mind; Hall & Oates rehearsing in their dressing room
and running into Debbie Gibson is one. Daly pointed out -and rightly so- TRL was a fan-driven show, where viewers had to request what to hear. These days I guess it’s just a download. Much missed for sure …
Funny watching Carrie Underwood this morning; as she she reminded me so much of Shania Twain. from the music, to her visuals. As always, her “Before He Cheats” is tremendous and a big crowd pleaser … It’s a funny world for sure.
When RL Stine’s Goosebumpsfirst debuted in 1992, it was heralded as refreshingly new, both for the kid-demo and its brilliance. There were a few attempts at a series (even with Stine introducing them) and even a movie in 2015 that did just so-so. Now, with Netflix’s Stranger Things having hit a home run, Disney+ is starting a series, with Justin Long, that appears to veer dangerously close to Stranger Things. Also, oddly enough, Stine does not appear to be involved with it. He says: “I wish I knew something about it. I’m not in the loop. It looked to me like they weren’t going to do an anthology show. They were going to do something different that was some kind of continuing story. That’s what it appeared. But I have no information about it.” It begins on October 31. Have a look at the trailer:
Great Bernie Taupin interview on NY Live with Sara Gore. They’re friends, so the interview as sensational. Check it out:
NAMES IN THE NEWS —Andrew Sandoval; Jacqueline Boyd; Alison Martino; Robert Funaro; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Roy Trakin; Daryl Estrea; Glenn Gretlund; Jane Blunkell; Roger Friedman; Felix Cavaliere; Dan Mapp; Jim Kerr; Sam Rubin; Liz White; Grace Mendoza; Roy Trakin; and ZIGGY!
Monkee-Micky Dolenz Sings REM On New Release
Monkee-Micky Dolenz is an American entertainer, best known for his role as the lead vocalist and drummer in the 1960’s series The Monkees. As a recording group, The Monkees sold more than 65 million albums worldwide and outsold the Beatles and the Rolling Stones during 1967.
The EP features fresh and completely new arrangements of some of R.E.M.’s most memorable and catchy songs. As Dolenz says: “Once again, this EP reaffirms my long-held conviction that a solid recording always begins with solid material. You don’t get much more solid than R.E.M. What a joy to sing these classics and honor a team of outstanding writers.”
7A Records’ CEO Glenn Gretlund adds: “R.E.M. and Micky Dolenz are a match made in heaven and I’m delighted with how the recordings have turned out. Micky’s voice sounds better than ever and Christian Nesmith has done a wonderful job in reimagining the arrangements.” The EP is released on 180g Yellow Vinyl, CD and all Digital platforms on November 14th.”
This release follows up the critically acclaimed Dolenz Sings Nesmith (March 2021) album.
The EP release directly coincides with the publication of Micky Dolenz’s latest book: I’m Told I Had A Good Time – The Micky Dolenz Archives, Volume One. Comprised of more than 1,200 rare and unpublished images from Micky’s private collection, this 500-page book includes photos and memorabilia spanning 1945-1978, including hundreds of images Micky shot himself of the other Monkees (Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith) as well as Jimi Hendrix, Harry Nilsson, Otis Redding, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Alice Cooper and many more.
The book (available in three distinct editions) can be preordered now from Beatlandbooks.com.
A digital single from the EP, “Shiny Happy People,” is released today and available now on all major Digital Platforms.
R.E.M. Reactions to the EP:
“These songs are ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE. Micky Dolenz covering R.E.M. Monkees style; I have died and gone to heaven. This is really something. ‘Shiny Happy People’ sounds INCREDIBLE (never thought you or I would hear me say that!!!). Give it a spin. It’s wild. And produced by Christian Nesmith (son of Michael Nesmith), I am finally complete”. Michael Stipe
“That voice—one of the main voices of my musical awakening—singing our songs… it is beyond awesome. Let’s help make this as huge as we possibly can. I am beyond thrilled.” Mike Mills
“I’ve been listening to Micky’s singing since I was nine years old. It’s unreal to hear that very voice adding new depth to songs we’ve written ourselves, and inhabiting them so completely.” Peter Buc
“I am blown away! Micky and Christian just take these tracks to unexpected places”. Scott McCaughey
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