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Streaming New York Philharmonic’s Superb Carousel Not in Maine or Budapest, But On the Shores of Lake Simcoe



The New York Philharmonic’s Carousel. Photo by Chris Lee.

It was a rainy hot Sunday up here north of Toronto where I am spending my summer streaming and writing, working and playing by the shores of Lake Simcoe. It’s lovely and fresh, not exactly the same locale that they had in mind when those two iconic magicians of musical theater wrote what is said to be Rodgers’ favorite musical that he crafted with Hammerstein. That’s quite the statement, as that list holds such iconic shows, such as Oklahoma!South PacificThe King and I, and The Sound of MusicCarousel, no doubt,is by far one of the most gorgeously haunting of their works, tackling difficult and complex issues, such as love, suicide, mortality, and the most debated one, domestic abuse. Some say that one line is worth canceling the whole clam bake, and I can’t say I blame them, as that “slap was like a kiss” idea always stings so hard, especially for anyone who knows that feeling. But the musical, especially as presented by the New York Philharmonic for a five-performance run at Avery Fisher Hall, brings such life to that delicious score, that one has to pause in the quick response, like Billy should have done. Lucky for us, it remains as glorious in tone as one can imagine, streaming for us all to devour this weekend on the Lincoln Center YouTube channel. And giving us the moment to pause and examine the work as a whole, not just for one problematic part.

Directed with a clear-eyed vision by John Rando (Off-Broadway’s Jerry Springer – The Opera), under the impeccable musical direction of Rob Fisher (Broadway’s Chicago), Carousel delivers a whirlwind of beauty and magistry, unveiling the epicness of its complex structure and insane beauty of its musical expertise. I saw it for the first time in the spring of 2018 with Jesse Mueller and Josh Henry in the starring roles, and its lusciousness of wall-to-ceiling sound captivated my heart. It was a solid lesson in the intricate structure of this complicated tale, and it was there in that revival that I was introduced to the most famous and controversial piece of dialogue, one that hangs over any modern revival of this classic musical tale quite heavily. It is when the young daughter, Louise tells her mother that the blow she just received for not accepting a star from the unbeknownst spirit of her dead father, Billy, miraculously didn’t hurt at all, but felt like a kiss, not a slap. And the mother tells her own daughter that this is, in all honesty – as she reminisces her dead husband Billy, something that could quite possibly be true. A problematic line, no matter how many times you insist that it happened only once. It’s only in this tight construct where problems tend to arise for the artists, the director, and for modern audiences to take in and act out without wincing.

Stephanie Blythe (center) and the cast of New York Philharmonic’s Carousel. Photo by Chris Lee.

Carousel was adapted by this legendary musical team from Ferenc Molnár’s 1909 play Liliom, which chronicled a dismissed carnival barker who hits his wife, just the one time, attempts a robbery and commits suicide; a seemingly unlikely central character for a typical musical. Oscar Hammerstein II decided that he had to use the words and story to make the audience sympathize with the lovers, removing it from its Budapest setting to the Maine coastline, and change the ending of this tale into a story about trying to right a wrong and looking for redemption. Richard Rodgers wrote, explaining his rationale for the changed ending:

Liliom was a tragedy about a man who cannot learn to live with other people. The way Molnár wrote it, the man ends up hitting his daughter and then having to go back to purgatory, leaving his daughter helpless and hopeless. We couldn’t accept that. The way we ended Carousel it may still be a tragedy but it’s a hopeful one because in the final scene it is clear that the child has at last learned how to express herself and communicate with others.

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This PBS production, which is a semi-staged revival with the full Philharmonic on display with the actors running through and around the musicians, stays true to the classic musical retelling.  The story revolves around Billy Bigelow, the carousel barker, played most dynamically by operatic baritone Nathan Gunn (Santa Fe Opera’s Cold Mountain), whose initial attraction blossoms into a full-scale romance with millworker Julie Jordan, beautifully voiced by the Tony-winning musical theater star Kelli O’Hara (Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate),. That love and attraction causes them both to lose their jobs within minutes of meeting. And even with the trouble now heaped at their feet, they sing the most glorious of songs, “If I Loved You” to one other, illuminating everything that will drive the two forward into the dark night, filling our hearts with the gloriousness of sound and harmony.

O’Hara is as perfect as one could hope for in this classic tale, playing the pensive young woman who falls for the brooding young man. We all know he is trouble from the get-go, but her voice grabs hold of the soaring melodies, showcasing her vocal abilities gloriously, while also finding subtlety and grace in her quieter moments. Her choice to stay causes the two to lose their incomes, sacrificing more than they could possibly imagine when they first locked eyes on one another on the carousel. But when the unemployed Billy panicks after hearing the news that Julie is pregnant, he decides, most fool-heartedly, to follow through on a dangerous plan. That is when the darkness fully takes over, turning the love story into one about escapist death, moral recognition, and hopeful redemption.

Nathan Gunn in New York Philharmonic’s Carousel. Photo by Chris Lee.

Gunn also couldn’t be more perfect for the role. His voice is just plain rich and spectacular, but it’s in his masculine physical energy vibrating most fully within that impressive frame that fully reveals the underlying vulnerability that somehow exists within that easily provoked beast. Trapped in that downward spiral, he doesn’t do himself proud, nor does he understand the epic love he feels for Julie. He’s desperate and selfish, all at the same time, unable to manage and comprehend his ego and fire with the tenderness and love that also exists inside. Gunn finds it somewhere within and delivers it for us all to devour.

Jessie Mueller and Jason Danieley in New York Philharmonic’s Carousel. Photo by Chris Lee.

These two lead performers, along with a magnificently charming assist by as her best friend, the lucky-in-love Carrie Pipperidge, played to perfection by Jessie Mueller (Broadway’s WaitressCarousel) find endless richness in their musical moments. Mueller, who ended up starring in the lead on Broadway in 2018, fits Carrie just as solidly as she filled out the lead role. She finds faithful clarity and humor within her character, staying true to the part, and the emotional authenticity of each and every moment. The mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe (One Sweet Morning at Avery Fisher Hall), as Nettie Fowler, Julie’s maternal older cousin, finds unmined glory in her You’ll Never Walk Alone as does the handsome Jason Danieley (Broadway’s The Visit) as Carrie’s beau, Enoch Snow, who does this music and the part proud. New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck (NYCB’s Swan Lake) also finds her way to fly up into the stars as the young teenage Louise in the second act’s beautiful ballet segment, gorgeously choreographed by Warren Carlyle (Broadway’s Kiss Me, Kate), and partnered with the dazzling Robert Fairchild (Ensemble for the Romantic Century‘s production of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein). Together, they discover heartache and struggle inside the graceful moves and rhythms set forth. It’s breathtaking and lovely, while also piercing our hearts with truth.

New York Philharmonic's production of Carousel, 2/27/13.  Photo by Chris Lee
Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck in New York Philharmonic’s Carousel. Photo by Chris Lee.

Unlike the play that it is based, one more scene is added to the ending after the failed interaction between father and child, and it is at the graduation ceremony that Billy finds a way to whisper some meaningful words into her ear, lifting her up, and leading them all into a glorious reprise of “You’ll Never Walk Alone“. It’s a very different ending than the play, one that will have you filled with as much glory and joy as intended, thanking all those magnificent stars and the theatre-streaming gods up above that have gifted us this jewel delivered straight into our cosy living rooms on this hot summer’s day.

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Jessie Mueller, Stephanie Blythe (center), and the cast of New York Philharmonic’s Carousel. Photo by Chris Lee.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


Inside the Roku Holiday Bash to Celebrate a Season of Giving



Talk about a perfect way to celebrate the holidays!

Roku’s holiday event last night dazzled the tastemakers and influencers of New York City.

Guests were thrilled to enjoy the splendid soiree that showcased Roku’s full ecosystem of products, leading operating system, and newly launched All Things Food and All Things Home destinations.

Roku is a one-stop-shop for all of your gift giving needs with a range of products to choose from no matter your budget, including TVs, streaming players, audio devices, and smart home products.

Be sure to check out Roku’s Holiday Promotions: 

  • Now through 12/02: $15 off Express 4K+, $20 off RSS 4K
  • Now through 12/09: $30 off Roku Ultra
  • 12/03 through 12/30: $5 off Express, $10 off Express 4K+, $10 off RSS 4K
  • 12/17 through 12/30: $30 off Roku Streambar

Happy Holidays!

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Book Reviews

The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

TAP 2 — (Via Rock Cellar) Doubling down after a May 2022 report that indicated everything was a go for a sequel to 1984’s classic comedy/music industry satire This Is Spinal Tap, filmmaker Rob Reiner has now confirmed that plans are taking shape in a big way.

Rob Reiner

Not only is the sequel on tap (pun intended) to begin filming in early 2024, but Reiner recently told comedian/podcast host Richard Herring that “everybody’s back” for the sequel. This no doubt refers to principal cast members Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest, though Tony Hendra (who portrayed the band’s manager, Ian Faith, passed away in 2021).

The U.K.’s Guardian notes that the plot will reportedly center on Faith’s death, after which his widow inherits a contract that requires the band to do one last concert. Reiner is also due to return in the character of film-maker Marty DiBergi, a figure supposedly based on Martin Scorsese, who had directed celebrated music documentary The Last Waltz in 1976.

What’s more, Reiner also spilled the beans that appearances from Sirs Paul McCartney and Elton John and Garth Brooks are in the works too, among what one must assume will be a million other amusing cameos. After all, a film as beloved and influential as the original This Is Spinal Tap counts pretty much every living musician as a fan (give or take), so you know the sequel will hold nothing back when it comes to the entertainment factor.

In the podcast, Reiner also talked about This Is Spinal Tap’s remarkable afterlife, culminating in selection for the National Film Registry in 2002, after its initially unfavourable reception on its first release. “To wind up in the National Film Registry, that’s bizarre,” Reiner said. “We previewed it in a theatre in Dallas, Texas, and the people didn’t know what the heck they were looking at. They came up to me afterwards and said, ‘I don’t understand, why would you make a movie about a band that no one has ever heard of, and they are so bad? Why would you ever do that? Why don’t you make a movie about the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?’ I would say, ‘It’s satire,’ and I tried to explain. But over the years people got it, and started to like it.”

Personally, I found the 1984 original movie just hilarious. Aside from a great send-up of the music biz, the cameos were just fascinating: Paul Shaffer as PR-man Artie Fufkin; Dana Carvey and Billy Crystal as ‘mime’ waiters; Fred Willard; Anjelica Houston; Russ Kunkel; Danny Kortchmar and Fran Drescher as promo-gal Bobbi Fleckman … all just inspired.

Reiner’s on a roll – his Albert Brooks doc Defending My Life is sensational. A must-see.

Maybe an update of The Monkees’ HEAD next?

SHORT TAKES — Mark Bego’s Joe Cocker tome hit #4 on theAmazon charts this week. Here’s a great review from Goldmine on the book by their Lee Zimmerman:

 … Micky Dolenz sang “Silly Love Songs” at Monday’s Troubadour benefit for Denny Laine and our spy said he really rocked it. Maybe a Dolenz Sings McCartney album is next? … So, Merriam-Webster’s word of the year is authentic? Interesting choice for sure …

Pablo Guzman

Writer and reporter Pablo Guzman passed this last weekend. An original member of The Young Lords, Guzman was a fierce fighter and brilliant writer. On Fox 5/Good Day NY for decades, he most recently was a reporter at WCBS. Here’s the Daily News take:  …

Freda Payne, Mark Bego

And it’s official, the NY-launch for the Mark Bego Joe Cocker book will be Tuesday, January 9 at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Sara Gore; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Daryl Estrea; Tony King; Ace Shortly; Kjersti and Jeremy Long; Debbie Gibson; Van Dean; Liz Skollar; Maude Adams; Robert Vaughn; Steve McQueen; Zach Martin; Coati Mundi; Avery Sharp; Steve Walter; Gary Gershoff; Jane Blunkell; Kimberly Cornell; Paul Iorio; Lee Jeske; MArt Ostrow; Peter Shendell; Sharon White; and ZIGGY!

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Countdown to Christmas: A Sweet Treat For Christmas and Chunakah



24 days to go! Every year people panic to find the perfect gift. We at T2C have been collecting idea’s all year long to bring you the perfect gift guide at all price levels. When you’re at the end of your rope trying to find the perfect Christmas present this year, come to this guide for some great suggestions.

I am starting first with Chanukah which starts December 7th. Here are great little surprises and treats. First up are these festive Chocolate Dreidels ($14) are  handmade with the finest chocolate, and filled with milk chocolate gold-foiled Gelt coins for a surprise inside that never disappoints. They make a great addition at any Chanukah celebration everyone will love! Each Dreidel contains 3 coins. Gluten Free. Kosher Certified.

Then there are the adorable Menorah Pops. At $4.95 its a sin not to indulge.



Menorah Pops $4.95

Their unique selection of Chocolate Gift Boxes, Towers and Gift Baskets stand out among New York’s discerning chocolate enthusiasts. We loved the box of 30 Chocolate Mini Presents at $25 these bite-sized solid premium milk chocolates wrapped in Italian foil are perfect for filling stockings or party favors. Gluten Free. Kosher Certified.

 Li-Lac Chocolates are fresh, gourmet chocolate hand-crafted in small batches for exceptional quality and superior taste. They also come in dairy free, sugar free and Kosher certified making them perfect for the family. These chocolates are creamy, tasty and so delightfully sinful.

Handmade in Brooklyn, not only are you supporting a local business but freshness is guaranteed.

Li Lac Chocolates are now my go to chocolate place for gifts.

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Ziploc and Milk Bar Host Holiday Mixer



It was the holiday mixer that hit all the sweet notes.

Milk Bar founder Christina Tosi and Ziploc hosted a fun interactive holiday party at the New York City Milk Bar flagship location on November 29. Attendees at the special affair got to hear Christina’s tips and tricks for the holiday season, as well as see Ziploc’s latest innovation, the Stay Open Design bags.

“Ziploc bags have been a favorite tool of mine since I started baking because they are so versatile and easy to use. From rolling out and freezing dough to ensuring my baked goods always stays fresh, there’s no shortage of ways that I use Ziploc® at home and in our bakeries,” she said. “The new Ziploc® Stay Open Design bags help give me an extra set of hands in the kitchen. As soon as I tried them, I was immediately reminded of mixing puppy chow in a Ziploc® bag as a child, and I knew this would be another perfect collaboration.”

Teaming up for the release the bakery’s first-ever, limited-edition take on “puppy chow” dessert – Ziploc x Milk Bar Holiday Mix – is a perfect way to start December. Perfect for festive gatherings, hosting gifts, stocking stuffers, family road trips and long sessions on the couch watching holiday movies, the offering features popular holiday flavors, including corn square cereal, white chocolate, cookie butter, sprinkles, and sugar cookie pieces.

Each bag of the Ziploc® x Milk Bar Holiday Mix comes pre-packaged in a quart-size Ziploc® Stay Open Design storage bag. Ziploc®‘s latest innovation helps ensure the contents will stay fresh and easily snackable thanks to a cuffed opening and patented stand up bottom that keeps it upright and open for filling and sharing with confidence. For the month of December, pick up a bag at the New York City, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles Milk Bar stores for just $7, plus tax, while supplies last.

And, for anyone in NYC, starting December 1, you can also book the perfect holiday activity, a build-your-own holiday mix-making experience! Attendees will learn Christina Tosi’s tips and tricks with the Milk Bar expert bakers and walk away with a gallon-size bag of holiday mix gifting for their own enjoyment.

For those not located near a Milk Bar store, don’t worry! Milk Bar and Ziploc® are sharing the exclusive recipe for free on both of their websites – a wonderful opportunity for a festive home activity with friends and family. Ziploc® also created a one-stop shop, to easily find all the ingredients needed at Amazon, Target or Walmart, including Ziploc® Stay Open Design bags that allow for easily folding, filling, scooping and snacking.




Photos by AP for Ziploc®

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Avengers Tower Sets Meet And Greet With Signing



C. B. Cebulski, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics, and The LEGO Group Senior Graphic Designer Mark Tranter will be at the Fifth Ave LEGO Store this Friday, December 1st from 5pm-6pm signing the Avengers Tower set—the most iconic building in the Avengers Universe, with 5,201 pieces and an all-star cast of 31 figures.

The Avengers Tower, formerly known as Stark Tower, was a high-rise building complex located in Manhattan. Constructed by Tony Stark, the tower was powered by an Arc Reactor that made it capable of running itself for over a year. The top ten floors housed the research and development initiatives.

Following the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D., Stark Tower became the main headquarters of the Avengers. However, after the Ultron Offensive, Stark refurbished a Stark Industries warehouse upstate into the Avengers Compound to use as their primary base while Avengers Tower was repurposed for Stark Industries’ use. In the aftermath of the Avengers Civil War, Stark sold the tower and moved all of its equipment to the Avengers Compound.

By 2024, the tower, under its new ownership, had gone through extensive construction and renovation.

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