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Dynamic Sci-Fi Director Gareth Edwards Envisions an Artificial Intelligence-infused World Decades From Now in His Latest Film — “The Creator”

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Employing actors with global reputations and locations all over the world, master sci-fi film director Gareth James Edwards has now put out “The Creator.” The film considers the effects of the Artificial Intelligence revolution in technology some 40 years from now. It stands the “Terminator” premise on its head and drives a whole re-think on the supposed “menace” of AI.

As if it’s a metaphor for the Vietnam war as much as anything else, future America and its allies are in a conflict between the human race and the forces of artificial intelligence which have taken root in many South East and Far-East Asian countries. While AI-enhanced androids have merged with the general human population there, the USA has prohibited them and is committed to destroying Asia and its robotic allies.

Entering the mix is Joshua (John David Washington), a hardened ex-special forces agent grieving the disappearance of his wife Maya (Gemma Chan), one of the leaders of the Asian-AI community and resistance. After having been undercover among the AI community — where he met and wed Maya, Joshua had reluctantly been removed from the area. He had then been recruited to return and hunt down the Creator, the elusive advanced AI designer/programmer who has developed a mysterious weapon with the power to end the war and destroy Nomad, the American super weapon — a computer-enhanced airborne battle ship. Ironically, it depends on sophisticated computer technology to fight its anti-AI war. Joshua and his team of elite operatives venture into enemy territory, invading the heart of AI-occupied territory to find and destroy Nirmata — an AI in the form of a young child.

Born on June 1, 1975 in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, the young Edwards admired movies such as the original 1977 classic “Star Wars” and went on to pursue a film career. The Welshman even cites George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as his biggest influences. He got his start in special visual effects, working on shows that aired on networks such as PBS, BBC and the Discovery Channel. In 2008, he entered the Sci-Fi-London 48-hour film challenge, where a movie had to be created from start-to-finish in just two days (which he won). Then he wrote and directed “Monsters”, his first full-length feature, which was shot in only three weeks. Edwards personally created the film’s special effects by using off-the-shelf equipment. Aside from its two main actors (real-life couple Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able), the crew consisted of just five people. The $500,000 thriller received a riotous reception and was released to great success.

The impact of “Monsters” resulted in Edwards becoming an alt-sci-fi movie-making star. With offers from major studios, Warner Bros. tapped him to direct an English-language reboot of the 1954 Japanese classic “Gojira.” His ”Godzilla” re-visioning garnered mixed reviews but did tremendous box office. Following its success, producer Kathleen Kennedy had Edwards helm ”Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” — a “Star Wars” spin-off — for Lucasfilm Limited. The film boasted a cast including Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Mad Mikkelsen and James Earl Jones among others.

Such an ensemble anchors this film as well. And while its story (co-written by Chris Weitz) doesn’t offer much of an innovative leap in a sci-fi narrative, it does have a spectacular view of an AI-infused future. The following Q&A is drawn from an appearance Gareth Edwards made shortly before the film’s release this week.

T2C: This is your fourth feature — and your fourth science fiction production as well. What is it about this genre that you just keep coming back to it?

Gareth Edwards: Are there other genres…? I heard about this, films without robots in them and stuff. I think the best science fiction is a blend of genres. With my first film, I saw it as a love story meets science fiction. My second film, “Godzilla,” was like a disaster movie meets science fiction. “Star Wars” is probably a war movie meets science fiction.

T2C: That’s a really good point because science fiction is at its best when it holds a mirror up to us. That definitely happens here. How did this come about? When and where did the inspiration hit you for “The Creator?”

Gareth Edwards: It was 7:32 p.m. on a Tuesday. There were numerous things that happened. I guess the most obvious one was after we had just finished “Rogue One.” My girlfriend — her family lives in Iowa — and I drove across America to go visit. As we were driving through the Midwest, there’s all sorts of farmlands with tall grass. I was just looking out the window. I had my headphones on and wasn’t trying to think of an idea for a film, but I was getting a little bit inspired. I just saw this factory in the middle of the tall grass and I remember it having a Japanese logo on it and I was thinking, “I wonder what they are making there? Then I just started thinking —because that’s the way I am — my tendencies, it was like, “Probably robots, right? Then I was thinking, “Ok, imagine you were a robot built in a factory. Then for the first time, you step outside into the field and look around and see the sky. I was like, “I wonder what that would be like. It felt like a really good moment in a movie, but I didn’t know what that movie was and I threw it away. Suddenly he tapped me on the shoulder and went, “Oh, it could be this,” and these ideas started coming. By the time we pulled up to the house, I had the whole movie mapped out in my head, which never happens normally. I was like, “That’s a good sign. Maybe this might be my next thing.”

T2C: It’s an original concept that you’re working with, how did you get New Regency on board as a producer?

Gareth Edwards: I need to shout out to New Regency as you probably noticed in cinema recently, there’s very few original films being made. That’s because everyone’s gotten very gun shy with the franchises and IPs getting regurgitated a bit. Hats off to Yuri and Michael from New Regency for having the balls to take a big swing and do something like this. Some of my closest friends are concept artists and that’s probably because I know I need them to make my next film, so I asked all my friends… “Could you do some artwork for this idea I’ve got, I’ll pay you” and I started building up a library of imagery. Basically, I had about 50 images when I went into it. I kept it very secret because I didn’t want to put any pressure on it. I just went to New Regency and laid out all the artwork and talked them through the idea beat by beat — which I hate doing. I hate being a car salesman. I just wanted to hit play on the movie. That’s my favorite thing to do. Trying to sell it and speak with a microphone, it’s not my fun thing. You look at all that imagery and it was incredibly ambitious. The natural reaction was, “This is a $300 million film. We’d love to do it, but we can’t really do it.” I was like, “We’re going to do it very differently. We’ll film it with this very small crew and essentially reverse engineer the whole movie.” In theory, what you normally do is have all this design work and you have to build sets in a studio against a green screen — and it’ll cost a fortune. We were like, “We will shoot the movie in real locations in real parts of the world that look closest to what these images are. Then afterwards, when the film’s fully edited, we’ll get the production designer, James Klein, and other concept artists to paint over those frames and put the sci-fi on top.” Everyone was like, “It sounds great.” But basically we had to really prove it to them.

T2C: How many locations did you shoot?

Gareth Edwards: On some of the other films I’ve done, I’m so lucky when I get away from the studio and go to a proper location a handful of times. On this one, we went to like 80 locations. We didn’t really use any green screen. There was occasionally a little bit here and there, but very little. If you do the math, and keep the crew small enough, the theory was that the cost of building a set — which is typically 200 grand apparently — you can fly everyone anywhere in the world for that kind of money. It was like, “Let’s keep the crew small and let’s go to these amazing locations.” We went to Nepal, the Himalayas, to active volcanoes in Indonesia, temples in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Tokyo for mega city stuff. Then we did a bit in Pinewood [Studios in London] using their stage and screen — everyone knows it from “The Mandalorian” — but the kind of special non green screen led screen environment.

T2C: Your antagonist in this feature is artificial intelligence — AI — but could your timing be any better?

Gareth Edwards: The trick with AI is to get time in that sweet spot window where it’s before the Robo-apocalypse and not after — which I think is in November or maybe December. I think we got really lucky. The joke is would be that when you write a film, especially a science fiction film, you avoid putting a date on it. I didn’t want to write a date for the movie because even Kubrick got it wrong. I was like, “Don’t write a date and then at some point, you have to. I did some math and picked 2070. Now I feel like an idiot because I should have gone for 2023. Everything that’s unfolded in the last few months or year is kind of scarily weird, especially when we’re showing it now. When we first pitched the movie to the studio, this idea of war with AI, everyone wanted to know the back story. Well, hang on. Why would we be at war with AI? It’s like, they’ve been banned because it kind of went wrong. But why would you ban AI? “It’s going to be great and blah, blah, blah.” It was all these sort of ideas that you have to set up, that maybe humanity would reject this thing and not be cool about it. The way it’s played out, like the set up of our movie, is pretty much as it’s been for the last few months.

T2C: Set it up for us as the first scene begins?

Gareth Edwards: To understand what’s going on, I would say, essentially, something terrible happened in America and AI got banned — it’s completely banned in the West. But in Asia, there was no such problem so the world is divided in two camps. They carried on developing it until it was near human-like. So there’s this war going on over there — to wipe out AI [in Asia]. The person everybody’s after is called Nirmata — Public enemy #1 — which is basically a Nepalese word for the creator. From the Western perspective, this is the Osama bin Laden of our story. But from the Asian and AI perspective, this is like God.

T2C: When it came to prep and research, consulting with scientists and technological advisors, were you able to really dive into that?

Gareth Edwards: That’s all I did for like, years. It was a bit like researching jet packs because I started writing this, I guess it was like in 2018, and it did feel back then like this was 30 years away. But when we were filming, we were in the middle of the jungle and driving to places when I got a text on my phone. There was that whole whistleblower account from one of the big tech companies thinking that AI had become self-aware. It really wasn’t on my radar back then in terms of being a reality, it was just something that [raised the question of] whether it’s a good or bad thing. In one way, humanity might get wiped out, but on the other hand, I get to make my dream film. So everyone wins.

T2C: What were some of the tools, some of the new innovations, when it came to cutting-edge technology, that you were able to take advantage of that didn’t exist when “Rogue One” came out in 2016.

Gareth Edwards: Camera and film making technology has come a long way in the last few years. I needed the actors and me to have total freedom on set. Something we did on this film that was really important was that I wanted it to feel as realistic as possible. We would always be able to shoot in 360 degrees but the problem working against you when you try to do that in a film is [that] you have lights like we have here. The second you want to move the camera, you suddenly see the lights and you spend 20 minutes moving them. It takes forever to shoot a scene. The way we worked there was with really sensitive camera equipment in terms of how we could use the lights. They’re very lightweight. We’re all familiar with how lights have become. We thought we could set it up — you have a boom operator holding a pole with the microphone on. Why can’t you have a person holding a pole with a light on it? We had a best-boy type running around holding the light by hand. If the actor suddenly got up and did something — went over here and suddenly there was a better shot — I could move and suddenly the lighting could really be readjusted. What would normally take like 10 minutes to change was taking four seconds. We would do 25-minute takes where we’d play out the scene three or four times. It just gave everything this atmosphere, this sort of naturalism and realism that I really wanted to get where it wasn’t so prescribed. Like you’re not putting marks on the ground and saying stand there. It wasn’t that kind of movie.

T2C: What about the casting process, particularly with leads John David Washington, Gemma Chan and Ken Watanabe.

Gareth Edwards: With John David, we were casting the film during the pandemic. It was really hard to meet anybody but fortunately he lived in L A and I just heard through his agent that he’d meet me any time I wanted to go for a meal. So I went to meet him and he walked in — it’s the pandemic. He’s got his mask on, a Star Wars mask, like with the Star Wars logo on it. I initially thought, “He’s doing this because of “Rogue One.” He sat down and admitted that he’s a massive Star Wars fan and he’s like, “I’ve been wearing this mask every single day for like a year or whatever. It’s been for the whole pandemic. I thought about not wearing it to this meeting, but then it felt false, so I thought it’d be like a good ice breaker.” We hit it off straight away. I’d worked with Ken [Watanabe] before — he’s the only actor I’ve worked with twice. I don’t know if that says something about me. I always want to do something new and so for the longest time, I didn’t think about Ken for this role. The second he turned up on set, I felt like such an idiot, obviously it was supposed to be Ken from the beginning. Every time we held the camera up and Ken’s in the shot, it felt like this strange hybrid — it’s meeting Star Wars or something, which was exactly what we were going for. He gave us goosebumps. There’s something about that guy. He’s just got this face that, I think, is the reason he’s so successful internationally; it’s not really about what he says.

T2C: He can convey so much with just his looks; he’s so good. How did you find the right Alphie? What was that casting process?

Gareth Edwards: We basically did an open casting call around the world and I think we got hundreds of videos. Thankfully, I didn’t have to watch all of them. They sent me like the top 70 or something and then we met. I went to meet, I forget, about about 10 kids. The first one was Madeleine who plays Alfie. She came in, and did this scene. We were all nearly in tears at the end. I thought to myself “This is weird and phenomenal. Maybe the mum was just brilliant at prepping her to get really upset just before she came in. There was some little trick going on. So we chatted a bit and we did some other scenes and then right at the end — I was a bit cruel — I was like, “Could we just try one more thing?” I just wanted to see if it was repeatable. “Can we do another scene?” I explained a different scene and we just improvised it and she was even more heartbreaking. I don’t know what we would have done if we hadn’t found the right kid. We got really lucky. I’m glad I live in the universe where that happened because the movie lives or dies [with her]. I hate movies about little kids because they can be so annoying and that was my biggest fear — are we going to do one of these really annoying kid movies? It was the biggest relief because she’s beyond her years. She was really something.

T2C: How was it working with John David Washington and vice versa?

Gareth Edwards: She’s quite “method.” I can tell she does “method” a lot because we only knew each other during the filmmaking process. But it’s like she kept everybody at arm’s reach. I was allowed in a little bit. But she and John David were inseparable. He became a brother or father figure. I’m not sure which. What’s amazing is that I thought I was going to have to trigger it. So when we deal with sex and all the scenes, I need this to be like a documentary so we can pull this performance out of this, this girl without kind of like her having to act and she could act her pants off, you know what I mean? She was amazing at it. it was a director’s dream, you could just tell her what Alfie was thinking and this amazing performance came out. I’d look at the other actors and[think] be why can’t you be like this — what’s your problem?

T2C: Talk about filming those combat scenes and how did they differ from the ones in “Rogue One?”

Gareth Edwards: Obviously we went to the Maldives and that wasn’t bad. We went to shoot real exterior locations. Everything in this movie is the closest thing we could do to be what the artwork suggested it should be. I glimpsed it a little bit when we were in Thailand. We needed to find a really technologically advanced factory. We looked everywhere. There were car manufacturing plants that were nervous about us filming but eventually we found a particle accelerator and it’s one of the most advanced, probably in the whole of Thailand. We were like, “Please, please, please, could you let us film.” It looked amazing. It had that whole circular thing going on. We went to visit and they were like, “There’s no way you’re going to be allowed to film here.” They asked what do you want to do? Why are there people with guns shooting and explosions? This is like a multi-multimillion dollar facility with all these leading cutting-edge scientists. Then, at the very last minute, someone was like, “What filmmaker is doing this?” They were like, “It’s this guy from the States or whatever. He lives over there, but he’s English. And they go, “What films has he done?” They went, “He did this Star Wars film called “Rogue One.” And then, they were like, “Can we be in it?” We were like, “Sure, whatever. Everybody was in those scenes, with everyone running around. They’re nuclear physicists — they really are — and they were amazing.

T2C: You did a lot of location work. Isn’t that right?

Gareth Edwards: We went into real locations. We wanted it to feel like we were making a student film to some extent. But it got to the point where like that beach scene where Gemma’s running and there’s all that crossfire. It was the beginning of when the pandemic restrictions were lifted and Thailand was opening up to tourists. They’re like, “You can film on this beach but you can’t close it. so it’s like, “How are we going to do that scene where there’s tourists there. I don’t know what happens normally in Thailand at night on these beaches. But with the stuff that’s in the movie and the trailer, we didn’t close the beach. If you look carefully in the background, you can see cars and tourists, but one person came over and went,”What are you doing.” It was just the four of us with a camera running around so it didn’t look like this big massive movie. The goal hopefully was that it all ends up on the screen. We tried to be very efficient about it.

T2C: So further along in the film, what do we see?

Gareth Edwards: Further on the journey, we have Joshua and now Alfie. The best way to say it is that Joshua has infiltrated the AI village and with the insurgents and guerrillas. Basically they’ve abducted the child. As this is happening, it seems that the Americans have also arrived. Essentially these rockets ascend into the air and they smoke out the whole village and then it all unfolds from there.

T2C: What would you list as your cinematic influences for “The Creator?” What movies should we see as companion pieces to “The Creator”?

Gareth Edwards: Since my first film, I put up posters in the edit suite of movies that had inspired the film I was doing. There’s some really obvious ones you’d probably predict. But there’s a film called “Baraka.” The cinematographer from that film went on and directed another film called “Samsara,” which is one of the greatest movies ever made. “Lone Wolf and Cub” is a Japanese manga series. There’s a whole bunch of films called “Sword of Vengeance.” The really obvious ones are “Apocalypse Now” and “Blade Runner.” In terms of this film’s dynamic, maybe there’s a little bit of “Rain Man” [in it]. It’s a journey of someone normal and someone who’s a little bit special. And there’s Paper Moon, with its sort of dynamics.

T2C: What was your inspiration behind the robot designs? And talk about working with your costume designer for the entire film.

Gareth Edwards: A lot of the costumes were done by the WETA Workshop in New Zealand. Peter Jackson and ILM [Industrial Light and Magic] did all the visual effects — or a lot of them — plus some by the vendors around the world. We tried to summarize the design and aesthetic of the movie as a bit retro futuristic. Imagine if Apple Mac hadn’t won the tech war and Sony Walkman had. everything has this sort of ’90s/‘80s kind of Walkman/Nintendo thing. We looked at all the product designs from that era and riffed off little pieces and tried to put them into the robots. The tricky thing with designing robot heads was to pull from sources. We did a whole pass at one point where we took insect heads and then tried to make it as if that insect had been made by Sony — like the praying mantis — and changed it into product design. Then we took products and tried to turn them into organic looking heads. We took things like film projectors, vacuum cleaners — things like that — and then just messed around. I just kept experimenting; it was like evolution in real life, like DNA getting merged and trying to create something better than the previous thing.

T2C: Being a big science fiction director, who are some of the directors and writers that you looked up to and get inspiration from.

Gareth Edwards: There’s the obvious people — Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott. It’s the high benchmark of essentially what we were trying to do. I’m not saying we got anywhere close to achieving it, but the goal of the movie was to try and go back to that style and type of film that we grew up loving, like the film was shot on 1970s anamorphic lenses and things like this. Actually, I hate writing. It’s like doing homework. The worst thing in the world is having to write a screenplay. The only way I can bring myself to do it is to lock myself in somewhere nice. I’m not allowed to leave until I’ve finished. I’ll stay there for like a month or something. I went to Thailand, to the exact place where the beach ended. I didn’t realize I was getting inspired for the movie. I just picked this nice resort and it was like a recurring theme like in the Maldives and now this beach resort in town. Whilst I was there, a filmmaker friend who was in Vietnam said, “Come over and we’ll just do a little trip.” I went there and you can’t just go around that country and not think of all the imagery from films like “Apocalypse Now.” Now I can, but I was writing this science fiction film. So everything I was looking at in my mind was like robots, spaceships and things. You’d see Buddhist monks going to temples and I’d picture a robot buddhist monk. I just spent the whole time going, “Oh my God, what is this movie?” This feels like there was something so appealing about it, this mix of “Blade Runner” meets “Apocalypse Now.”

T2C: What was the biggest challenge filming this?

Gareth Edwards: I wouldn’t say it was a particular thing; it was more just the duration of it. We started filming in January 2022 and we finished in June. We were there for six months and it was like nonstop 40 degree heat, people were dying every day. it was a dream looking back at it, to get to do that. But there was a point where you wanted to collapse and you felt like, “He’s only done seven days of filming and there’s still all that is still left.: The first cut of this movie was five hours long and we had so much great, cool material but everything that’s in this film is all the best stuff. The editing process was basically like a game of Jenga where we would pull things out and see if we missed it or it fell apart. We had it packed by the end through the editors, but we finally got it down to two hours. It’s like the old adage “less is more” most of the time.

T2C: What are the highest and best values of humanity that you hope this movie ultimately illustrates?

Gareth Edwards: I hope some sort of empathy for others [is there]. That’s a strong value which is very important. When this film began, I obviously didn’t know AI was going to do what it ended up doing this last year. AI was really in the fairy tale of this story. We want to get rid of people who are different from us. All kinds of fascinating things start to happen while you write that script. You start to think, “Are they real? How would you know and what if you didn’t like what they were doing? Can you turn them off? What if they didn’t want to be turned off?” This sort of stuff started to play out which became as strong as the premise and that’s what I’m most proud of.

T2C: Two words for you: Hans Zimmer.

Gareth Edwards: Everyone’s iPhone tells you the last 25 most played tracks or something like that. I looked at [mine] out of curiosity and I think 14 were Hans Zimmer tracks. I was like, “I don’t know how we get composer Han Zimmer, but we have to try.” Joe Walker, editor of “Rogue One,” assembled the film. He had worked with Hans a lot and was like, “I’ll talk to him.” We ended up in this strange situation where I had to call Hans whilst in the middle of nowhere; we were going to meet the head of the military in Thailand to get permission to film the Black Hawks for one of those sequences. It was this massive deal meeting that took months and months to organize. It happened to be the same moment that Hans was available to do a Zoom. We had to pull off the road. It was like a hotel in the middle of nowhere and they had wifi. I go in there and get Hans and the worst thing in the world is that they said you’ve got to leave in 30 minutes. You can’t stay because the whole military is waiting for us over here. I was looking at this clock and Hans started telling his anecdotes about “The Dark Knight” and Terrence Malick. All my life I’ve wanted to talk to him about these films and I have to go,” I’m really sorry, Hans, I have to leave now.” It was so against every bone in my body to come away from that.

T2C: Talk about working with Oscar-winning cinematographer Greig Fraser.

Gareth Edwards: I obviously worked with Greig on “Rogue One.” Greig had to make this work as well. We were totally on the same page and Greig’s very rebellious. and despite how it might look because he’s, you know, doing his big movies. But we’re both during that, like the build up to this film, I got to go around one of these virtual reality studios where they had this poster on the wall as to how you make a movie. it was every part of the process and I was just looking at it going, “What a strange thing to have. Why are they doing it? Why have they got this poster?” The guy who ran the thing came up to me and went, “Oh, I see you looking at the poster — that’s 100 years old.” When I looked at it, I realized the typography was like 100 years old. We haven’t changed how films are made in 100 years. We still do it the same way. With all these new digital tools and technology, there are other ways to make films. People like Greig and I really want to do things differently because that’s how you make a different type of movie. The process is as important as the screenplay to some extent.

T2C: Let’s talk about the opportunity and power of science fiction to drive social commentary and reflection.

Gareth Edwards: I like science fiction because there’s a chance to sneak ideas under the radar. My favorite TV show growing up was “The Twilight Zone” which was in the ’50s and ’60s. Rod Serling, who wrote a lot of those shows, had said the reason he did science fiction was because he could get out from under the radar of the censors and say things you’re not normally allowed to say out loud. If you start to type and work out a film, and you go, “I want to make a film about this. It’s got to have this social commentary to it” — it will be a rubbish film. If you get attracted to an idea, there’s something primal about it that pulls you in. There’s something that needs to be said about this subject matter but about halfway through making or writing a film is when you start to realize what that thing is. It’s like a child who tells you what they want to be when they grow up. You learn what it is and then you try to help it along. Science fiction does it the best because we all go through our lives with certain beliefs and they never really get tested. You do everything you’re supposed to do but science fiction says, what if the world had this different thing about it. Would your little idea still work and you hit against the wall? The thing you used to think was true starts to be false. And you begin to question things. I love that kind of storytelling. I hope our film does a little bit of that.

[For fans of this film or any genre film, go to Big Apple Comic Con‘s Christmas Con, taking place in the New Yorker Hotel this December 16th, 2023, www.BigAppleCC.com. There are many opportunities to steep yourself in sci-fi and other graphic story collectibles. Get posters and other collateral available from “The Creator” and many others as your stocking stuffers.]

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Betty Buckley Has Created, Wrote and Narrated The Mayfly, An Animated Short Film

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The Mayfly, Betty Buckley’s animated short film.

Tony Award-winning, stage and screen icon Betty Buckley has created, wrote and narrated The Mayfly, an animated short film that will have its world debut at the prestigious American Documentary and Animation Film Festival in Palm Springs, Calif. on March 24, 2024. Tickets are available to the public HERE 

Animated traditionally in 2D, The Mayfly is the story of Megalyn Mayfly, who goes against all expectations and dedicates her short life to music and dance. Her quest takes her from Central Park West to the Upper East Side’s Carlyle Hotel where she dances her final opus at the elegant Cafe Carlyle.

Inspired by a real event witnessed by Ms. Buckley at a Judy Collins concert at the Café Carlyle in New York City, The Mayflyis a love letter to music and New York City.

Ms. Buckley said, “What I observed was so lovely —a mayfly, dancing as if part of the show itself.  I felt the mayfly’s dance was intentional. And from this experience, the story of Megalyn emerged. It’s a film that I hope encourages us to embrace our passions and break free from societal norms.”

The Mayfly is directed by four-time Emmy-nominee Sue Perrotto (Beavis and Butt-head Do America; Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, Daria).  The music is composed by Grammy-nominated Christian Jacob (Clint Eastwood’s Sully and The 15:17 to Paris). BluBlu Studios is the animation house.

The creative team includes character designer Eugene Salandra, production designer Meryl Rosner and storyboard artist Viki Anderson. Produced by Melissa Coolidge and Bradford Coolidge. Buckley and Perrotto also serve as Executive Producers.

Betty Buckley

Betty Buckley

Betty Buckley is a legendary, multi-award winning actress/singer whose career spans theater, film, television and concert halls around the world.  She is a 2012 Theatre Hall of Fame inductee and the 2017 recipient of the Julie Harris Awards from The Actor’s Fund for Artistic Achievement and received The Lifetime Achievement Award from The American Songbook Association in 2023.

Ms. Buckley co-stars in the film Imaginary for Blumhouse Productions to be released by Lionsgate March 8, 2024.  She co-starred with James McAvoy in the M. Night Shyamalan hit film Split, one of the top international box office hits of 2017.  She received a Saturn Award Nomination for Best Featured Actress for her work in the film.

She won a Tony Award for her performance as Grizabella, the Glamour Cat, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s CATS and received her second Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a musical for her performance as Hesione in Triumph of Love.  She received an Olivier Award nomination for her critically acclaimed interpretation of Norma Desmond in the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, which she repeated to more rave reviews on Broadway.

Her other films include her debut in Brian de Palma’s screen version of Stephen King’s Carrie, Bruce Beresford’s Tender Mercies, Roman Polanski’s Frantic, Woody Allen’s Another Woman, Lawrence Kasden’s Wyatt Earp and M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening.

Her other Broadway credits include 1776, Pippin, Song and Dance, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Carrie.  She headlined the first National Tour of the new Broadway production of Hello, Dolly! in 2018/2019.

Off-Broadway credits include the world premiere of Horton Foote’s The Old Friends for which she received a Drama Desk Nomination in 2014, White Lies, Lincoln Center’s Elegies, the original NYSF production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Eros Trilogy, Juno’s Swans and I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road.  Regional credits include The Perfectionist, Gypsy, The Threepenny Opera, Camino Real, Buffalo Gal, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Old Friends at Houston’s Alley Theatre and Grey Gardens at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor, NY and The Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles in 2016 for which she received an Ovation Award Nomination.

In London, she starred in Promises, Promises for which she was nominated for An Evening Standard Award and in the 2013 British premiere of Dear World.

On television, Buckley has a recurring role on “Law & Order SVU” for NBC and guest starred on the Fox/Warner Bros. TV show “The Cleaning Lady.”  She co-starred in the third season of AMC’s hit series “Preacher” and has guest starred on The CW hit “Supergirl”, the NBC Series “Chicago Med” and ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.”  For HBO, she has appeared on “Getting On”, “The Leftovers”, “The Pacific” and for three seasons on OZ.  She starred as Abby Bradford in the hit series “Eight is Enough.” She appeared twice on The Kennedy Center Honors and was a guest star in numerous television series, miniseries and films for television including Evergreen, Roses for the Rich and Without a Trace. She has been nominated for two Daytime Emmy Awards® for her work on Taking a Stand, an After School special.

In 2022, she released the compilation recording Betty Buckley Sings Stephen Sondheim as a tribute to the late composer. The recording comprises 24 songs Buckley has recorded of Sondheim’s music over the span of her career.  She has recorded 18 CD’s: including Ghostlight, produced by T Bone Burnett released in 2014, Story Songs in 2017 and Hope in 2018.  Buckley tours in concert worldwide with her ensemble of musicians and in 2015 was featured in the Royal Albert Hall concert of Follies, in celebration of Stephen Sondheim’s 85th birthday.

She received a Grammy Nomination for Stars and the Moon, Betty Buckley Live at the Donmar. She received her second Grammy Nomination for the audio book The Diaries of Adam and Eve.

For over forty years, Ms. Buckley has been a teacher of scene study and song interpretation, giving workshops in Manhattan and various universities and performing Arts Conservatories around the country.  She has been a faculty member in the theatre department of the University of Texas at Arlington and teaches regularly at the T. Schreiber Studio in New York City, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX and in Los Angeles, Denver and Oklahoma.

In 2009, Ms. Buckley received the Texas Medal of Arts Award for Theater and was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame in 2007.  In 2015, she was awarded The Stephen Bruton Award by The Lone Star Film Festival for her work in film and music. In 2018, she received the Sarah Siddons Award for outstanding theatrical performance in a Chicago theatrical production. She has two honorary doctorates from The Boston Conservatory and Marymount College and has been honored with three Lifetime Achievement Awards for her contributions to theater from the New England Theater Conference, The Shubert Theater in New Haven and the Terry Schreiber School in NYC.

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The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

TRUMAN’S SWANS — I only know Ryan Murphy by reputation. He’s been the flavor-of-Hollywood for quite some time now; yet a devil-may-care attitude persists in his CV. I loved his Nip/Tuck which just defied expectations on every level; terrific acting from Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon, and just the wildest plots I’ve ever seen.

From there Hollywood started throwing money at him left and right; American Horror Story and Hollywood (with Jim Parsons) followed. Also, the anthology series-Feud which began with the “feud” between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis and was succinctly thrilling.

Now, Feud is chronicling Truman Capote and his “feud” with his Swans; featuring mainly a terrific performance by Noami Watts as Babe Paley. Calista Flockhart; a devilish-Diane Lane and Chloe Sevigny are also there as the other swans. Director Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy) directed several episodes and it is, without a doubt, the best thing Murphy has done and I’ve seen in quote some time.

One episode is entirely shot in black-and-white, a risky-gamble for anyone … but, it pays off handsomely.

Tom Hollander as Capote is simply off the charts and is, I believe, one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.As a young writer, there were two writers I was absolutely captivated with: Dominick Dunne and Capote. Dunne I met and he was everything I hoped him to be, Capote, never. The Swans is a long, long story and I urge you to look further into it. Capote, truly self-destructive, became an appendage of them all and they all told him everything, some of which he wrote about is Esquire (La Cote Basqu”-1965) exposing their innermost secrets and thereby severing the relationship.

Just a brilliant, brilliant series, Murphy’s crowning touch.

Sanford Townsend Band

SHORT TAKES — In my final few weeks working from home, I finally dialed up ROKU’s Yacht Rock station after initially being somewhat repelled by the term. Turns out, it really means soft rock and I’ve heard everything from Hall & Oates to the Sanford Townsend Band (big favorite) and lots of Steve Winwood; Eagles; Al Stewart; and Chicago.

Not bad actually. Guess I really am old … Micky Dolenz does an interview with NPR’s Lillian Galvez today and BreakfastWith The Beatles’ Chris Carter on March 31 before his show at LA’s Troubadour on April 5 … The Rascals people Got To Be Free tour at the Patchogue Theater on April 26; Keswick Theater on April 27; and SONY Hall in NYC on May 17 …

James Gunn’s Superman: Legacy movie has been re-named Superman; and has cast Wendell Pierce (The Wire; Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan) as Perry White. And remember, Rachel Brosnahan is Lois Lane! … Keith Richards singing Lou Reed’s immortal classic “I’m Waiting For The Man” is so excellent. Take a look: https://variety.com/2024/music/news/keith-richards-covers-waiting-for-the-man-lou-reed-tribute-1235927738/

Lou Reed

The track appears on a Lou Reed tribute album that also features Angel Olsen, Lucinda Williams, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Rufus Wainwright, Rickie Lee Jones, Rosanne Cash and others. It arrives April 19 — with a special Record Store Day edition arriving the following day — on Seattle’s indie Light in the Attic Records (which was chosen by the late artist’s estate to handle his reissues and got a Grammy nomination for the “Words & Music: May, 1965” album). Booklet features liner notes by compilation producer & former Lou Reed publicist Bill Bentley, featuring photos by Mick Rock and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. Said Richards: “To me, Lou stood out. The real deal! Something important to American music and to ALL MUSIC! I miss him and his dog” …

Micky Dolenz and Chris Carter

SIGHTING: Micky Dolenz and Alison Martino at the Catalina Jazz Club watching Jimmy Webb … And, we watched the awesome Jeffrey Wright in American Fiction and loved it until the end. It’s almost as if writer/director Cord Jefferson couldn’t figure the right ending, so he portrayed three. Pretty weird for sure, but a staggeringly excellent performance by Wright, Erika Anderson and Sterling K. Brown.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Nancy Jeffries; George Michael; Helene Blue; Monica Lynch; Thomas Silverman; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Alexa Blake; Joe Bonadonna; Andrew Sandoval; Race Taylor; Scott Shannon; Dan Ingram; Bruce Morrow; Wolfman Jack; William Schill; Ed Steinberg; Chris Carter; and CHIP!

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The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

YOUNG’S 12 — (via Ultimate Classic Rock) Since he began making records in the 60’s, Neil Young has seldom let a year or two pass between albums. Even as the last LP by Buffalo Springfield was being prepped for release, the Canadian singer-songwriter was making his self-titled solo debut, which came out just a few months later.

Young has never been reluctant to follow his creative muse, even if he’s in the middle of another project. More than one time during his career he’s shelved a project just to move on to something else. Sometimes – as in the case of Homegrown and Chrome Dreams – those records would be released at a later (sometimes much later) date; in other instances, we’re still waiting.

All this productivity and activity can lead to periods of inconsistency, as you’ll see in the below list of the 12 Worst Neil Young Albums. One era in particular stands out: the ’80s (spoiler: Six successive albums during the decade make the list). But LPs from the ’60s, ’70s, ’90s and the ’00s are here, too.When you’re as prolific as Young, they can’t all be After the Gold Rush and Harvest. Even when the records didn’t reach his usual standards, most of them still found new ways to continue on the restless path he started in the mid-’60s. From synth-pop and traditional country to ’50 rock ‘n’ roll and horn-spotted soul, Young’s instincts rarely took him to expected destinations.

Are You Passionate?’ (2002)

Young’s 24th album was supposed to be another Crazy Horse collaboration, Toast, which didn’t get released until 2022. Instead, he pivoted to a record with Booker T. & the MG’s that was billed as a soul album and included Young’s response to 9/11, “Let’s Roll.” One of the shelved Crazy Horse tracks is included, and it concludes with a nine-minute jam. Scant direction and thin songs sink Are You Passionate?

‘Peace Trail’ (2016)

Young’s 36th studio LP was sandwiched between a live album with Promise of the Real and a solo archival release recorded in 1976. Both are preferable to this quickly assembled record made with drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell. Its political points are similar to the ones he’d been supporting since the ’60s, but now with a technological lean (there’s even some Auto-Tune on a track). Instantly disposable.

‘Storytone’ (2014)

The second of two albums released by Young in 2014 (the first was the solo acoustic A Letter Home), Storytone featured big band and orchestral backings to songs inspired by a new romance with actress Daryl Hannah. Forgettable and uncertain – swing and classical don’t mix all that well – the album arrived during a period of prolific activity. An equally unmemorable stripped-down version of the album was released at the same time.

‘Old Ways’ (1985)

Young’s country album Old Ways was first proposed after 1983’s Trans, the synth-based LP he delivered to Geffen. The label balked and insisted on a rock album instead; they got the 1950s throwback Everybody’s Rockin’. Young returned to his country album in 1985, enlisting Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and fiddle and pedal steel musicians. Another unremarkable genre detour during Young’s most dour decade.

‘Everybody’s Rockin” (1983)

Young’s second Geffen LP was as baffling as the first. But where Trans moved forward, Everybody’s Rockin’ was a throwback to 1950s rockabilly, complete with a retro look (pompadour, face-dominating sideburns) and name (Neil and the Shocking Pinks). Four songs were covers; an original (“Wonderin'”) dated to 1970. It runs less than 25 minutes. Geffen soon sued Young for making deliberately uncommercial records.

‘Landing on Water’ (1986)

Three genre-specific albums left Young at odds with Geffen Records in the mid-’80s to the point where the label sued him for making records that didn’t sound like Neil Young records. Landing on Water was his return (albeit once again stitched together from years-old sessions) to fuss-free rock music. Good luck finding a memorable song, though. Even Young has referred to Landing on Water as a “piece of crap.”

‘Broken Arrow’ (1996)

After 1989’s career-reviving Freedom, Neil Young had an admirable run in the first half of the ’90s. Then Broken Arrow arrived. Shaken by the death of longtime producer David Briggs, Young and Crazy Horse falteringly recorded the LP over a month, often with no guidance or direction (the first three songs each run more than seven minutes and are little more than aimless jams). An unsteady new era was around the corner.

‘This Note’s for You’ (1988)

After a contentious five-album run with Geffen, Young returned to Reprise for his 16th LP. But he still wasn’t ready to discard the ’80s explorations that marked the decade. The flimsy This Note’s for You, co-credited to the Bluenotes (a horn-based group with other ties to Young’s past), dipped into jump blues music while adhering to a slim conceptual thread about commercialism. At least it contained a minor hit in the title track.

‘Life’ (1987)

Neil Young made five albums with Geffen in the ’80s, none of them particularly good. But at least most of them have some sort of identifiable tag: synth-pop, rockabilly, country. Life has nothing to single it out. Mostly recorded live with overdubs added later, the Crazy Horse collaboration ended Young’s controversial relationship with Geffen on a sour, but expected, note. Maybe the most easily dismissed LP in his entire catalog.

‘Trans’ (1982)

After more than two dozen years with Reprise Records, Neil Young jumped to the flourishing Geffen label for his 12th album. Nobody expected his first record under the new contract to be a futuristic new-wave LP made with synths and a vocoder altering Young’s voice – especially the label. Young has said he made Trans to communicate with his son, who had cerebral palsy. A year later Geffen filed a lawsuit.

‘American Stars ‘n Bars’ (1977)

Neil Young’s catalog is scattered with albums stitched together from various session sources. For his eighth LP, he collected nine songs recorded over a two-and-a-half-year period, starting in 1974. The results were mixed. The stripped-back country rock made with Crazy Horse on Side One has little connection to the plugged-in fury of “Like a Hurricane,” a mid-decade highlight, and the solo acoustic “Will to Love.” Aimless.

‘Neil Young’ (1968)

Young’s solo debut isn’t terrible, it’s just a letdown after the buzz he generated with Buffalo Springfield. Only a handful of songs (including “The Loner,” fleshed out onstage over the years) make an impression; the rest finds the still-growing singer-songwriter tentatively stepping away from his former band while occasionally tethered to their era-identified folk rock. Better things were to come.

SHORT TAKES — On Wednesday’s Today Show, Carson Daly revealed his first concert ever was Ziggy Marley. And as he and a friend took their seats, it seemed to Daly as if smoke rose from the stage. Daly’s friend said it was happy smoke

Leah McSweeney

I never heard of Leah McSweeney (another Bravo Housewife), but Tuesday she filed a lawsuit against Andy Cohen. More lurid details for sure. Is Andy this year’s Harvey? I’ll tell you, between Cohen, Puffy and the gals … it’s a huge, huge mess and heads will definitely roll at NBC/Comcast. Stay tuned … Yankee-Bernie Williams is at the Carlyle?

I haven’t heard his music, but this reminds me of Knick-Earl Monroe years back introducing his Pretty Pearl Records. I honestly don’t even remember the artists, but the project came and went pretty quick … Debbie Gibson on the 80’s Cruise with Wang Chung; Escape Club; English Beat; Soft Cell; Air Supply; Ray Parker; Animotion; and Tommy Tutone. Check it out here: https://the80scruise.com/lineup/

Richard Lewis photo by Stephen Sorokoff

So sad about Richard Lewis. He used to be a very, very frequent companion to me back in the day at Lorelei on West 58th street. He was always so funny and sweet. A true companion for the naughty 90’s. He’ll be much missed …

Kjersti Long

Zach Martin interviews 17-old wunderkind Kjersti Long on his NEW HD radio today …  Felix Cavaliere and The Rascals at the Patchogue Theater on April 26 and SONY Hall on May 17th … Happy BDay Zach Lloyd; Mitch Ryder; Roy Trakin; and Judy Libow!

Debbie Gibson

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Jacqueline Boyd; Nancy Harrison; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Jim Kerr; Debbie Gibson; Heather Moore; Roger Friedman; Mark Bego; Melinda Newman; Joe Lynch; Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Amanda Naylor; Tolouse Bean; Howard Jones; Mark Alpert; Donald Johnson Kyla Nicole; Angela Tarantino;n Barry Fisch; and SADIE!

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The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

THE NEW OUTLAWS — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) Willie Nelson has announced the lineup and dates for his 2024 Outlaw Music Festival Tour.

In addition to headlining sets by the 90-year-old country legend and recent Rock & roll Hall of Fame inductee, this year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour will include performances by Bob Dylan each day throughout its 25-date run.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will also play on select dates, alternating appearances with John Mellencamp.

Nelson’s Outlaw Tour debuted in 2016 and has since featured Sheryl Crow, Van Morrison, Chris Stapleton, Neil Young and ZZ Top.

“This year’s Outlaw Music Festival Tour promises to be the biggest and best yet with this lineup of legendary artists,” Nelson said in a press statement announcing the shows. “I am thrilled to get back on the road again with my family and friends playing the music we love for the fans we love.”

Brittney Spencer, Celisse and Southern Avenue will also perform at this year’s Outlaw Music Tour Festival. Billy Strings will join the tour for one concert at Washington’s The Gorge. You can see the tour’s complete run dates and lineups below.

General public ticket sales start on March 1 at 10 a.m. local time. Citi card members have access to presale tickets starting Tuesday at 10 a.m. local time until Thursday at 10 p.m. local time. More information can be found at the tour’s website.

SHORT TAKES — Boy, that Andy Cohen news sure disappeared quickly. I guess Brandi Glanville’s lawyers were right when they said NBC/COMCAST was making too much money from Cohen, to dismiss him. Sure, Andy apologized, but that was it …

Joe Manganiello is hosting the new Deal Or No Deal Island. With one of the worst haircuts, I’ve ever seen, he was on Monday’s Today Show -3rd hour- with Jenna and Hoda assisting him. There were so many rules in the intro, I was immediately thrown. All these game shows seem to be the thing these days – cheap to produce; easy to write; and B and C actors are certainly available …

Jenny Boyd

Jenny Boyd – sister to Patti and married twice to Mick Fleetwood – has a new autobiography out, Jennifer Juniper. Here’s a great piece from Spin on it: https://www.spin.com/2024/02/60s-muse-turned-psychologist-jenny-boyd-explores-rocks-greatest-icons/

Patti Boyd-Harrison

Not to be outdone, sister Patti Boyd-Harrison has an exhibit with Christie’s in London. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHBWT_HKDJ8 … Markos Papadatos has a great new interview with John Oates in Digital Journal, but strangely, nothing about his ongoing dispute with Daryl Hall. Methinks it was more of a PR-move to quickly extinguish any and all reference to it, as it just dragged their legacy (Hall & Oates) down … way down. Take a read: https://www.digitaljournal.com/entertainment/john-oates-talks-about-his-new-music-and-his-tour/article?fbclid=IwAR0T42cxA0lJtXRJZ0db1D0mNakjsjVUJYmerGNzTMXdPNotaHrmuPoPmFI … One more trailer for Kevin Costner’s epic Horizon. Pundit Roger Friedman quipped the Indians don’t look too happy in this one. To be honest, I see much of Yellowstone in the trailer. And, Danny Huston who was in the series is in the movie too. Take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYsReoZMj1k … As of this writing, subway crime in NYC up 22% from this time last year! Reminds me of the 70’s here these days … Big, big layoffs at both Atlantic and Warner’s. The later about 600 employees. To me, they got rid of all the people who knew exactly what to do and when to do it. Sad for sure … SIGHTINGS: PR-pasha David Salidor at Brooklyn’s Table 87

Mike Scott

And, one of the greatest forgotten about bands is Mike Scott and The Waterboys. Just tremendous and timeless music. Check this article out from The Guardian:https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jul/27/how-we-made-waterboys-the-whole-of-the-moon-mike-scott… RIP McCanna “Mac” Anthony Sinise.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Obi Steinman; Felix Cavaliere; Gene Cornish; Steve Walter; Jane Blunkell; Markos Papadatos; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Anthony Noto; Anthony Pomes; Kent & Laura Denmark; James Edstrom; Alec Baldwin; Lee Jeske; Andrew Tobin; Jewel Smithee; David and Delia Jones; and ZIGGY!

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The Most Beautiful Woman in the World 

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photo credit Conor Weiss

Who comes to mind when you see that phrase—Catherine Zeta-Jones, perhaps, or certainly Grace Kelly?  Most would concede the title belongs to one glorious, gracious and violet-eyed lady – Elizabeth Taylor.   

Elizabeth (ET from hereon in) was known for her films, jewelry and various husbands, but there was much more to that woman. The perfect person to let us in on the side we never saw is Ann Talman, who played her daughter in The Little Foxes on Broadway. Chosen for her uncanny resemblance to ET as a young girl, they remained close friends until ET’s death in 2011. Through song and story, Ann paints a portrait we never would have imagined—the prankster, surrogate mother, the fashion advisor funny-face maker and more. When consulting with her about what to wear to an awards gala, ET arranged for a private fashion show at Saks and then added “Do you want to borrow any of my jewelry?”.  Now that’s a friend to have! 

The evening began with Ann singing “The Shadow of your Smile” from The Sandpiper, a film that starred ET and Richard Burton against a backdrop of ET holding a sandpiper. In the film, the bird is a metaphor for broken-winged people, and Ann shyly admits that she had been a sandpiper. Ann was 22 when they met, and she explained how ET took on the surrogate mother role and gave her the support and counsel she needed. When Ann talks about pajama parties and drinking Soave Bollo, one imagines two sisters sharing secrets and giggling. (I can’t imagine ET in PJs, can you?)  Nevertheless … 

As if the offer of shared baubles was not indication enough of ET’s generous nature, Ann gave a brief history of ET’s involvement with AMFAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research) as well as her own foundation.  

This show was powerful, yet delicate, informative without being gossipy, funny while evoking a tear or two. It was lovingly put together with superb direction by Lina Koutrakos with Alex Rybeck as music director. The songs flowed so naturally that it might have been easy to not recognize the skill that went into their selection.   

Ann’s ability to mimic ET’s breathy voice as well as her sincerity, added to the charm and verisimilitude of the event. It was such a loving tribute, with little touches, like purple Mardi Gras beads, a printed program and cupcakes with lavender frosting for all in celebration ET’s birthday this week.   

The evening ended with a reprise of the first song. Thank you, Ann, for giving us a clearer picture of the shadow behind that most alluring smile. 

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