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Music soothed the soul last night at the “Stars and Strings” tribute concert.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11: Darius Rucker (C) performs onstage at Audacy’s Stars & Strings Concert Benefiting 9/11 at Pier 17 on September 11, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Audacy )

On a day of remembrance, the captivating show was what was needed in New York City. Hearts were warmed and guitars were strung at Pier 17 as a sold-out crowd roared in between performances, “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11: Caroline Jones performs onstage at Audacy’s Stars & Strings Concert Benefiting 9/11 at Pier 17 on September 11, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Audacy )

Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Darius Rucker, Grammy Award-winning vocalist/songwriter Zac Brown, Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter Chris Young, American Country Music Award-winning singer/songwriter Lee Brice, American Country Music Award nominee singer/songwriter Tenille Arts, singer/songwriter Caroline Jones and rising country star Jameson Rodgers all sang to the people who were all overcome with emotions.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11: Zac Brown performs onstage at Audacy’s Stars & Strings Concert Benefiting 9/11 at Pier 17 on September 11, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Audacy )

The magical enthusiasm swept through the venue as cool breezes from the Hudson River blew gently through the air. Looming over the stage were the two giant symbolic blue beams of the Twin Towers that shot to heavens above. The songs played out sweet melodies to those we lost on Sept. 11, 2001. The emotional concert saluted and honored these beautiful individuals as Rucker led an incredible rendition of “God Bless the U.S.A.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11: Darius Rucker (2nd L) performs onstage at Audacy’s Stars & Strings Concert Benefiting 9/11 at Pier 17 on September 11, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Audacy )

The Audacy live event was hosted by New York’s Country 94.7 FM (WNSH-FM). The annual country music concert event returned to The Rooftop at Pier 17 at the Seaport to benefit 9/11 Day, the nonprofit that runs the federally designated September 11th National Day of Service.

ElizaBeth Taylor is a journalist for Times Square Chronicles and is a frequent guest at film, fashion and art events throughout New York City and Los Angeles due to her stature as The Sensible Socialite.Passionate about people ElizaBeth spent many years working as a travel reporter and television producer after graduating with high honors from University of Southern California. The work has afforded her the opportunity to explore Europe, Russia, South America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East. It has greatly influenced the way in which ElizaBeth sees a story and has created a heightened awareness for the way people around the world live today.

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The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

SLY REVIVED — (via Rolling Stone) Sly Stone, the enigmatic R&B/funk icon, will share his story in a new memoir, Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf  Agin), arriving Oct. 17 via Questlove’s new publishing imprint, AUWA Books.

Stone co-wrote the new book with Ben Greeman, who’s written memoirs with George Clinton, Brian Wilson, and Questlove (he helped the Roots drummer with his three other books, too). Questlove — who’s directing a documentary about Stone  — will also pen a foreword for Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).

In a statement, Stone said, “For as long as I can remember folks have been asking me to tell my story. I wasn’t ready. I had to be in a new frame of mind to become Sylvester Stewart again to tell the true story of Sly Stone. It’s been a wild ride and hopefully my fans enjoy it too.”

Born Sylvester Stewart, Stone’s music career began when he was a child, singing in a gospel quartet with his siblings. In the Sixties, he worked as a radio DJ in the Bay Area, forming various soul groups, including the extremely successful Sly and the Family Stone. The group’s debut,A Whole new Thing,  arrived in 1967, and that same year they released their first major hit, “Dance to the Music,” which anchored the band’s second album. Between 1967 and and 1982, Sly and the Family Stone released 10 albums, including classics like Stand! and There’s a Riot Goin; On.

But after the dissolution of the Family Stone, Stone struggled to find success as a solo artist while simultaneously battling drug addiction. Though he got sober, he receded from public life, making only sporadic appearances, like the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a performance at the 2006 Grammys. In 2011, Stone released a new solo album, I’m Back! Family and Friends; in 2016, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys.

Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) is one of several books on the initial slate for Questlove’s new AUWA Books venture. (The Farrar, Straus and Giroux imprint takes its name, by the way, from the bird-call noise Prince used on songs like “Baby I’m a Star” and “Eye No.”) Also on the docket: Questlove’s new book, Hip-Hop Is History, and a book from TikTok star Drew Afualo (both out in 2024).

This is major news for sure. If you’re of a certain age, Sly Stone’s music was the best. The true of story of what actually happened should be cataclysmic. The stories I’ve heard over the years encompass almost everything good and bad about the music industry. I hope the curtain is finally pulled back in this instance.

Neil Young

TICKET TO YOUNG — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) Count Neil Young among those musicians who blame escalating ticket prices for ruining the concert industry. “It’s over. The old days are gone,” Young declared in a message posted to his Neil Young Archives website. “I get letters blaming me for $3,000.00 tickets for a benefit I am doing. That money does not go to me or the benefit. Artists have to worry about ripped off fans blaming them for Ticketmaster add-ons and scalpers.”

The acclaimed rocker’s message was accompanied by a story about the Cure and their recent battle with Ticketmaster. The ticketing giant earned the scorn of the goth rock band and their fans by adding several fees to ticket prices for the Cure’s upcoming North American tour. In some cases, these “unduly high” fees, as Robert Smith called them, resulted in the actual price of tickets nearly doubling from their face value. Ticketmaster eventually agreed to refund some of the cost.

“Concert tours are no longer fun,” Young opined, pointing to ticket fees and scalpers as the culprit. “Concert tours not what they were.”

Young’s thoughts about ticket prices are the latest in his ongoing list of gripes regarding modern touring. In December, the rocker reiterated his refusal to play at concert venues that use factory farms.

John Wick: Chapter 4

SHORT TAKES — Could Big Blue be coming back? Blockbuster for decades was the go-to spot for DVDs and video-tapes. Stay tuned …I love Keanu Reeves, but I must admit I’ve not seen any of the John Wick movies. Chapter 4 opened this past weekend with a $74 million+ score. Rather amazing in this post-covid period.

I pulled up the trailer and was terrifically impressed by the lush visuals; beautiful music and Reeves and Lance Reddick just sensational. I am thinking of a John Wick-weekend where I’ll watch all 4 … Writer/producer Terry Jastrow arrives in NY this week with his wife actress Anne Archer … Whatever happened to the Madonna biopic? You ask three different people and you get three different answers,. Check this one out from IndieWire: https://www.indiewire.com/2023/03/julia-garner-madonna-biopic-fingers-crossed-1234819696/

Julia Garner

Personally, I don’t think Garner should do it. Mired in controversy already, could it really be any good? … GUESS WHO DON”T SUE: What up-and-coming metal band is using the name of a high-profile manager to score some Manhattan-gigs? They were going to work with the manager until it blew up. Simply shady if you ask me …  btw: whatever happened to Wendy Stuart Kaplan? …

Shrinking

Friday was the last episode (for their inaugural season) of Apple TV+’s Shrinking which has just been so excellent in this its debut season. Jason Segal and Brett Goldstein have come up with the best show on streaming yet. Infectiously good and the acting turns from Segal and Harrison Ford are off the charts. The show culminated in a wedding for best-friend Brian (Michael Urie) and ended with a call-back to the show’s very first scene. Remember it? Truly a one-of-a-kind show. We loved it … I’ve heard at least 4 stories on the news this weekend about composting. Is this a hot topic now? Trending is it? …  RIP Nicholas Lloyd Webber

NAMES IN THE NEWS –— Alex Salzman; Rob Petrie; Anthony Pomes; Terry Jastrow; Tyrone Biljan; Jacqueline Boyd; Bill McCuddy; Brad LeBeau; Nile Rodgers; Nancy Hunt; Steve Leeds; Terri Epstein; Brenda K. Starr; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; William Schill; Robert Funaro; Vinny Pastore; Maureen Van Zandt; Tricia Daniels; and ZIGGY!

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Broadway’s A Doll’s House Meticulously Stunning Revival Soars Like a Birdie Above That Clumsy Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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For a revival to find its footing, it has to have a point of view or a sense of purpose far beyond an actor’s desire to perform a part, whether it suits them or not. It needs to radiate an idea that will make us want to sit up and pay attention. To feel its need to exist. And on one particular day in March, I was blessed with the opportunity to see not just one grande revival, but two. One was a detailed pulled-apart revolutionary revival of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House that astounded. The other, unfortunately, was a clumsy revival of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that fell lazily from that high-wired peak – not for a lack of trying, but from a formulation that never found its purpose.

Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House.

But over at Broadway’s Hudson Theatre, a reformulation chirps most wisely and wonderfully, bringing depth and focus to a classic Henrik Ibsen (Hedda Gabler) play that I didn’t realize was in such need of an adaptation. With no extravagance at its core, Amy Herzog (Mary Jane) dynamically takes the detailed structure and beautifully adapted it with due purpose. It hypnotizes, dragging in a number of light wooden chairs, Scandinavian in style, I believe, onto the stage, one by one, by their black-clad counterparts in a determined effort to unpack what will unfold. There is no artifice to hide behind in this rendering, as designed most impeccably by scenic and co-costume designer Soutra Gilmour (NT’s My Brilliant Friend; Broadway’s & Juliet) and co-costume designer Enver Chakartash (Broadway’s Is This A Room), only A Doll’s House’s celebrated star, Jessica Chastain (Broadway’s The Heiress; “The Eyes of Tammy Faye“) rotating the expanse of the bare stage before the others join her slowly and deliberately. She sits, arms crossed, staring, daring us to look away, while knowing full well we won’t. Or can’t. And without a word, it feels like she has us exactly where she wants us. Needs us to be. And all that transpires before the play even begins.

They sit on that bare and stark stage, waiting, in a way, to be played with, like dolls patiently wanting some children to come and give them a voice through their imagination. As Nora, Chastain delivers forward a performance that is unparalleled. To witness what transpires across her face during the course of this extra fine adaptation is to engage in a dance so delicately embroidered that we can’t help but be moved and transported. She barely moves from her chair, as others, like the equally wonderful Arian Moayed (Broadway’s The Humans) as Torvald, are rotated in to sit beside her, conversing and delivering magnified lines, thanks to the brilliant work of sound designers Ben & Max Ringham (West End’s Prima Facie), that dig deep into the underbelly of the complicated interactions. This pair of actors find a pathway through the darkness, never letting us come to any conclusions until they are ready to unleash a moment that will leave you breathless. This is particularly true for Moayed’s Torvald, who seems decent enough at the beginning, but once the shift occurs, when the beautiful thing doesn’t happen as it should, his unveiling is as gut-wrenching to us as it is to Nora. Even though we knew it was coming long before the play even began to spin forward.

Arian Moayed, Jesmille Darbouze, Okieriete Onaodowan, Tasha Lawrence, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Patrick Thornton in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House.

The art of the unfolding is steeped within the whole, refocused inside the brilliant shading, shadowing, and starkness of the cast. As Krogstad, the powerful Okieriete Onaodowan (Broadway’s Hamilton), alongside the deliciously tight Jesmille Darbouze (Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate) as Kristine, find an engagement that sits perfectly in the structuring. They push the reforming to the edge, approaching and receding away from Chastain’s brilliant centering helping move the piece towards the required conclusion.

The same can be said of the wonderful Tasha Lawrence (LCT’s Pipeline) as Anne-Marie, and the exquisitely emotional turning of Michael Patrick Thornton (Broadway’s Macbeth) as Dr. Rank. Thornton, in particular, finds a telling and emotional space to connect, unearthing an engagement that breaks the circle apart, leaving Chastain’s Nora and all of us observers shattered and broken in its black X’d finality.

As directed with the same magnificently detailed energy and flat-walled framework as the previously seen Betrayal on Broadway and the West End, Jamie Lloyd gives us A Doll’s House that will never be forgotten. The focus is so deliberate, and the formulations are just so strong, pushed forward in black and white by the exacting lighting design of Jon Clark (West End/Broadway’s The Lehman Trilogy). Forced while remaining ever so intimate, the cascading of the statement delivered registers in a precise way, more exacting than I ever remembered, and I’ve seen numerous renditions of this epic play. And even though, from what I hear, many on the left couldn’t see the epic exit of Nora, a moment that typically registers throughout theatre history, the symbol of a woman, steadfast and true, leaving the safe and simple artifice of A Doll’s House for engagement in the hard cruel reality of the world outside is as clear as can be. The delicacies of this birdie trapped inside a cage, poisoned with lies and excuses, and beautifully brought forth by Chastain, registers the reasonings for this revival to exist. It has found a new and deliberate place to sing, and for that, I am truly grateful.

Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain in A Doll’s House. Courtesy of A Doll’s House
Matt de Rogatis in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

I wish I could say the same about Ruth Stage‘s modern take on the Tennessee Williams (A Streetcar Named Desire) classic, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, currently being re-delivered at the Theatre at St. Clements. As directed by Joe Rosario (Hemingway and Me; Ruth Stages’ The Exhibition), the play doesn’t find its rationale for existing in the modern day beyond the simplistic sexualization of its boxing-ring corners. Matt de Rogatis (Austin Pendleton’s Wars of the Roses) as the tense athletic Brick stays broken and damaged in his corner, riding out the moment, waiting for the click, while in the other corner is the tense Maggie, played without hesitation by Courtney Henggeler (Netflix’s “Cobra Kai“) poised and ready for the bell to ring.

The battle is only heightened by the presence of two other fighters in the opposing corners, Big Daddy, played with determination by Frederick Weller (Broadway’s To Kill a Mockingbird) in the third, and Big Mama, played with a strong intent by Alison Fraser (Gingold Theatrical’s Heartbreak House), in the fourth. And watching and cheering for their own personal perspective wins are the obnoxious Mae, typically portrayed by Christine Copley (although I believe I saw an understudy), the weasely Gooper, played by Adam Dodway (Theatre Row’s Small Craft Warnings), Rev. Tooker portrayed by Milton Elliott (Ruth Stage’s Hamlet), and Doc Baugh, typically played by Jim Kempner (“The Girlfriend Experience“) (although, once again, I believe I saw an understudy).

Frederick Weller and Alison Fraser in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

Generally, this is a battle that rages deceptively strong and subtle for the length of the play, swimming cruelly in the hazy heat of its Southern charm. But somewhere in this modernization, the reasonings never get fully realized, leaving the cast to wander in their stereotypical delivery without a sharp focal point in the horizon to zero in on. Hidden behind the bar and the drink, de Rogatis finds a Brick to be engaged with. He’s definitely handsome and desirable, especially in the eyes of the far-too-straightforward Henggeler’s Maggie the Cat, and his occupation of drinking rings more true than most. I’m not sure if the modernization has been created to fit his chest-baring delivery of a broken Brick, but I will say that his artful approach to the part is one of the stronger components of this otherwise clunky reimagining.

Given so much to unpack, Henggeler runs a little too fast and furious, not weaving a pause into her thoughts and actions. It’s all forward flowing, ignoring the laws of silence and deliberation. Big Mama and Big Daddy, ignoring the fact that they don’t seem to fit in with their surroundings or the set-up, find their way into the same cage as the two central figure fighters, giving us something else to contemplate in their constructs, beyond their tight fitting jeans and dress. There’s not much of a father/son connection, nor does their familial energy register, even as it moves and twitches within the pauses well. The details of attachment are lost, as they talk around things, with everyone else playing at high volume, courtesy of a sound design by Tomás Correa (Hudson Street’s Adam & Eve), delivering the Southern drawl with the intensity of an SNL skit. That’s a problem to the whole and one that doesn’t work for this rendering.

Courtney Henggeler in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.

Most of the cast is all hock and no spit, moving around the room with a strange case of physicalized mendacity while never really finding a reason for their existence. The artifice gets in the way of the movement, especially in Matthew Imhoff’s (off-Broadway’s soot and spit) busy and overly clumsy set, with some distracting fading in and out by lighting designer Christian Specht’s (SSTI’s Cabaret). The storm approaching is as false as the formula and the reasoning for this retelling. It showcases some basically good actors embracing the chance to play iconic Big roles that I’m sure they have always wanted to dig their Southern-accented chomps into, possibly because one or two of them might never otherwise get the chance as they don’t exactly fit the literal sashaying of the “fat old” bodies out and around the staging of this play. The idea breeds curiosity, but one that doesn’t save this Cat on a Hot Tin Roof from falling quick and hard from its perch, I’m sad to say. While the birdie in A Doll’s House flies strong out into the cool Broadway air, with solid reasoning on its stark wings, reminding us all what makes for a worthy reimagining of a classic.

Frederick Weller in Ruth Stage’s CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. Photo by Max Bieber.
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Relevantly Tuneless Fairytale Bad Cinderella Isn’t Bad, It’s Forgettable

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You are seriously asking for it, when you make the title for your musical Bad Cinderella, however the show is  not bad, it’s just seriously lacking. For an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, which is normally rich in melody, the only song that has any kind of hold is “Only You, Lonely You” sung by Prince Sebastian (Jordan Dobson or in my performance the wonderful Julio Ray). The lyrics by David Zippel and book by Emerald Fennell, adapted by Alexis Scheer are inane. It doesn’t help that the cast for the most part speaks and sings with mouths full of cotton. The orchestrations sound tinny and computerized, The lead Linedy Genao has no charisma or vocals that soar musically, instead she is rather nasal, like Bernadette Peters with a cold. Why this show is two and a half hours long is beyond me.

Grace McLean and the hunks Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

The show is based in a town called Belleville (beautiful town en Francais), that is based solely on looks and prides itself on its superficiality. The opening number starts with “Beauty Is Our Duty,” the Queen (a fabulous Grace McLean) is into her hunks including her missing son Charming (Cameron Loyal).

Christina Acosta Robinson Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

And the fairy godmother (Christina Acosta Robinson) is a plastic surgeon who sings “Beauty Has a Price”. In a day and age, where we are suppose to see past all that, this show is politically incorrect.

Linedy Genao Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Cinderella a Gothic, and a graffiti artist, naturally does not fit into the town’s mold of beauty, which is how she earns her nickname. Her rebel move happens when she defaces a memorial statue of Sebastian’s older brother, Prince Charming. Sebastian is more of a geek, and he and Cinderella are in the “friend zone,” since both lack communication skills in admitting their love.

Carolee Carmello Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Sebastian is being forced by his mother, the Queen to find a wife at a ball and invites Cinderella. Cinderella’s stepmother (the always remarkable Carolee Carmello) blackmails the Queen to get one of her daughters Adele (Sami Gayle) or Marie (Morgan Higgins) the gig.

Grace McLean, Carolee Carmello Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman)

McLean and Carmello are the bright spots in the show and if the show had been about these two, maybe we would actually have a show that could work. These two steal the show.

Linedy Genao, Jordan Dobson, Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman

Cinderella has not one, but two what should have been show stopping numbers “I Know I Have A Heart (Because You Broke It)” and “Far Too Late,” but she does not have the vocals, the character development or the star power to carry them off.

The set and the revenge porn costumes by Gabriela Tylesova, are just over the top, with the storybook set faring much better than the over complicated flowered pastels that waltzed across the stage.

The direction by Laurence Connor is just dull and lacks oomph.

If you like buff men and Chippendale type choreography this is the show for you.

Bad Cinderella, Imperial Theatre, 249 West 45th Street.

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