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The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

THE IMAN PASSES —Legendary radio talk show host Don Imus, whose combative style and acerbic wit helped propel him to the top of New York radio, died last Friday at age 79.

Popularly known as just Imus, he died Friday morning after having been hospitalized Christmas Eve at the Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in College Station, Texas, the family said in a statement. he had been suffering from a lung ailment.

“Shocking news on the passing of my friend, Don Imus,” radio host Mike Francesa tweeted. “He will long be remembered as one of the true giants in the history of radio.”

Imus’ popular radio show, Imus in the Morning, aired from June 1, 1968, until March 29, 2018. His show created a template that paved the way for people ranging from Howard Stern to Joe Scarborough whose Morning Joe show took Imus’s place on MSNBC.

“Turn out the lights,” Imus tweeted when he announced his last show would air in March 2018. “The party’s over.”

During his career, he received acclaim for his charity work as well as scorn for his comments about the women’s basketball team at Rutgers University.

Imus told a reporter that he didn’t have many regrets in his career but that the Rutgers incident was as close to one as he ever had.

“Mostly, I said what I was thinking,” he said. “It may not have always worked out.”

Imus had an almost 50-year career – from his first radio job in Palmdale, California, to Cleveland, where he was named disc jockey of the year in 1970, to his years in New York, working at WNBC, WABC, and WFAN where he became a superstar.

He would later admit it was not always such a great thing, fighting alcoholism and a cocaine addiction at different times.

Imus was also never shy about saying what was on his mind. It was not something that always went his way.

He called Oprah a “fat phony” and, in 2007, the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team were “nappy-headed hos.”

It was a comment that almost ended his career, with the Rev. Al Sharpton leading protests and boycotts against Imus and his advertisers.

Then-senator Barack Obama said that Imus “not only crossed the line, he fed into some of the worst stereotypes.”

While Imus eventually met with the team and apologized, it was not enough to save his show. CBS Radio canceled his show as did MSNBC, which had been simulcasting the show.

The banishment was short lived. Eight months later, he was back on the radio – WABC, this time – and, on television.

“Dick Cheney is still a war criminal,” he said in his first show back. “Hillary Clinton is still Satan. And I’m back on the radio.”

His most well-known venture in charity was the Imus Ranch in Ribera, NM, a 3,400-acre facility where provided cowboy experiences for kids battling cancer as well as for kids who had lost a brother or sister.

Imus sold the ranch in 2014 after he fell and broke a hip. Much of the roughly $12 million from the sale was distributed to similar nonprofit organizations.

Imus was born in Palmdale, CA, in 1940. Along with his brother, Fred – who would later be a regular guest on Imus’ radio shows – Don Imus was raised in Arizona.

A spokesman for Imus’ family, Matthew Hiltzik, stated that they will hold a small private service in the coming days.

He also said the family asks that any donations be made to the Imus Ranch Foundation, which continues to provide resources to other charities that support families of children suffering from cancer and other illnesses.

It was at the ranch that Imus met a 10 year old kid battling leukemia, Zachary Cates. Imus and his wife would eventually adopt Zach. That kid, who beat leukemia, is now Lt. Zachary Don Cates.

Hiltzik (also Alec Baldwin’s rep), the family spokesman, says that Cates is returning to join his family after having finished military service overseas.

Imus is survived his his wife, Deirdre, and their children, Wyatt, Zach, Nadine, Ashley, Elizabeth and Toni.

A true innovator of the shock jock routine, Imus and Stern had a famous falling out which never healed. It’ll be interesting to see what, if any comment, Stern has.

Joe Scarborough, who replaced Imus in MSNBC’s morning lineup, tweeted that Morning Joe owed its format to Imus. “No one else could have gotten away with that much talk on cable news,” Scarborough wrote. “Thanks for everything, Don, and Godspeed.”

I had been a guest of Imus and found his irreverent humor quiet appealing. He always said exactly what he was thinking, which in this day and age is quite refreshing. I also recall his long-suffering aide-de-camp Chapels McCord.

Stern, Mancow, Uncle Eddie, Opie and Anthony … they all owe Imus a huge debt.

Jerry Herman

JERRY HERMAN RIP — Legendary Broadway songwriter Jerry Herman has died. The author of the hit musicals Hello, Dolly!, Mame and La Cage aux Folles was 88.

Publicist Harlan Boll said Herman was taken to a Miami hospital Thursday night complaining of chest pain and later died of pulmonary complications.

The title of Jerry Herman’s autobiography was Showtune, and if there ever was a Broadway composer who wrote good, old-fashioned, hummable show tunes, it was Jerry Herman.

Variety critic Marilyn Stasio co-authored Showtune.

“One way to understand his songs, individually and also collectively,” she said, “is to recognize the happiness that he had when he was young. And that is what he was trying to replicate. And when he says, ‘The best of times is now,’ he genuinely means it.”

Born July 10, 1931, Herman grew up in Jersey City, N.J. His parents held elaborate costume parties and took him to the theater often. Seeing Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gunchanged his life, as he told NPR in 1994. “I walked out of that theater singing all those wonderful Berlin songs and, from that moment on, that’s all I wanted to do with my life,” he said.

Herman had some modest success on and off-Broadway in the late 50’s and early 60’s, but didn’t hit the big time until producer David Merrick called him about working on an adaptation of a Thornton Wilder play, The Matchmaker.

“I went home with a script that he had given me to look at,” Herman told NPR, “and I wrote four songs over a weekend, and came back to his office on Monday morning with four brand new songs and bowled him over, not only with the songs, but with the speed that I had been able to work at. And I got the job!”

The score became Hello, Dolly!

Not only did the 1964 show, starring Carol Channing, become a smash hit, it won Herman his first Tony Award. A recording of the title tune by Louis Armstrong knocked the Beatles off the Hit Parade, Herman said in 2000

“When a man from my publishing company called me and said, ‘Louis Armstrong wants to record that,’ I laughed,” Herman recalled. “I thought it was the silliest idea that I had ever heard! And when I heard the recording, I fell out of my chair, because he turned my 1890’s valentine into one of the most famous pop songs of all time!”

Jerry Herman’s next show, Mame, starring Angela Lansbury, was another smash. He says he wrote songs for the eccentric character of Auntie Mame in memory of his mother, who passed away when he was a young man.

“It really was very natural material to me, because I had a mother who was a glamorous lady who believed in all the things that Mame believes in. And so, I didn’t have to study the subject matter! I grew up with it.”

But as the 1960’s came to an end, Jerry Herman’s kind of bright, gaudy show tunes seemed to go out of style. He suffered several failures in a row. Then, in 1983, he wrote the gay-themed hit, La Cage Aux Folles, which won him a second Tony.

Shortly after the show opened, Herman’s companion, Marty Finkelstein, died of complications from AIDS. And Herman was diagnosed as HIV-positive at a time when that seemed like a death sentence.

Herman was one of the first people to receive the complex cocktail of drugs which has kept so many HIV patients alive, and he helped raise millions of dollars for AIDS research. Co-author Stasio says Herman’s HIV status spurred him to write his memoirs — and to also set some things straight.

“One thing that really got him mad was he thought people really felt he was putting it on, the optimism and the joy and the happiness and the way he loved life. And he wanted to make it clear that it was true; he did. He loved every minute of life.”

KATZENJAMMER — I really don’t understand all the kerfuffle about the movie version of Cats. It was a odd play from the get-go and, maybe, should never have been made into a movie. The day after the disastrous reviews which  practically killed it cold, the studio released another digitized version (whatever that means) that was suppose to be better. If anything it killed it even more.

Sure, “Memory” is a great song … but, that’s about it. Turns out, the biggest loser in all this just might be Taylor Swift, who was drafted into writing a song with Lord Andrew Lloyd Weber. Here’s our colleague Roger Friedman’s take on that mess: https://www.showbiz411.com/2019/12/27/cats-movie-disaster-has-handed-taylor-swift-huge-flop-for-song-she-wrote-soundtrack-has-sold-just-2-6k-copies

For the record, I have no plans to see it.

Netflix’s Lost In Space

SHORT TAKES — Netflix’s Lost In Space (their second season) returned on December 24. I’ve only viewed the first six episodes (out of 10) and although the plot has been altered a bit (in that they’ve arrived safely home) it is still chock full of surprises and terrific special effects. One wag said they played it mostly safe this season and I concur. The individual character arcs of their premiere season are somewhat missed and the robot doesn’t even appear until the end of episode six! Check out this from Den Of Geekhttps://www.denofgeek.com/us/tv/lost-in-space/285107/lost-in-space-why-the-third-times-the-charm?utm_source=Den+Of+Geek+US&utm_campaign=e6ff54763d-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_12_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_bb43dbbe54-e6ff54763d-75088249  … Songwriter-extraordinaire Allee Willis passed last week. Tremendous and unique talent. Check out this from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/allee-willis-who-co-wrote-earth-wind-and-fires-good-time-hit-september-dies-at-72/2019/12/26/366e840a-274b-11ea-b2ca-2e72667c1741_story.html … We finally got a copy of that Debbie Harry book Face It, and I am happy to report that its as fantastic as many reviews have said. From fan-art, to vintage photos … its just a terrific read. No thanks to Ed Faulkner at HarperCollins. What kind of shop are you running over there Ed? … Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam will play at My Father’s Place on Friday,

February 23 …100 fans will spend NYE with Micky Dolenz and his close friends and family this week, at the historic Lambertville Inn located in Lambertville, New Jersey. An evening of Fun, Friends, Dinner and Dancing will be the backdrop for the party of the year. Also, speaking of Mr. D, we’ll have some exciting news shortly on Micky returning to a performance in NYC. Stay tuned … This year’s Light of Day event will hold court at Steve Walter’sCutting Room on January 15 …

Wendy Stuart Kaplan @ Indochine with Ellen Von Unwerth; Joey Arias and Nick Lion

SIGHTING: At Bar D’O performance at Indochine, social-influencer Wendy Stuart Kaplan; photographer extraordinaire Ellen Von Unwerth; performer Joey Arias; and producer Nick Lion … Eddie Murphy’s return to Saturday Night Live, after 35 years, was terrific. Honestly, I thought his brilliance kind of showed what a somewhat lackluster cast the show has had of late. Don’t get me wrong, the cast is strong, but nothing like the trailblazer Murphy was. Even when he messed up a line, he brought it all back home. Best ratings in two years for the show too. Truly memorable … We caught Greta Gerwig’s new take on the classic Little Women. Though a tad long and a bit hard to follow the frequent time shifts, it was a righteous production. Emma Watson, from the Harry Potter-series, was awesome. recommended for sure …Hard to believe it’s the end of a decade and the start of another. HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Deb Caponetta; Coati Mundi; Richard Branciforte; August Darnell; Cristina; Joe Lynch; Keith Girard; Jeff Vogel; Doug Morris; Bruce Carbone; Andy Skurow; Jeremy Long; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Scott Shannon; Debbie Harry; Ziggy and CHIP!

G. H. Harding is a four decades insider to the entertainment world. He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production companies and several cable outlets. His anonymity is essential in bringing an unbiased view to his writings on pop culture. He is based in NYC.

Broadway

Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Sarah Paulson in Appropriate

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Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Appropriate not only got a second extension, but transferred  theatre. Slated to close March 3 at the Hayes Theater, Appropriate will now play a 13-week engagement at the Belasco Theatre, with performances beginning March 25. The strictly limited run will continue through June 23. The reason for the transfer was Paula Vogel’s Mother Play, was already slated to perform.

To read T2C’s review of Appropriate  click here and here.

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Off Broadway

Brooklyn Laundry a Touching and Comedic New York Love Story

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John Patrick Shanley’s Brooklyn Laundry is heartbreaking, soul searching and will hit home, especially if your life has not always been a bed of roses. This imperfect love story, is touching as we meet a hardened disillusioned Fran (Cecily Strong), as she enters her local laundromat and meets upbeat owner Owen (David Zayas). The two seem an unlikely match, but opposites attract and these two both desperately need and want love. Owen asks Fran out and she says yes, but first she has to deal with some horrifying problems that are weighing her down.

David Zaya, Cecily Strong photo by Jeremy Daniel

First up her older sister Trish (Florencia Lozano) is dying. The father of her two children is a dead beat dad, so Fran gives of her own life to routinely goes upstate to help out.

When Fran and Owen do go on their date, it takes chocolate magic mushrooms to break the ice. They both have unrealistic versions of their wants and expectations. Fear over sexual performance, commitment and finances in raising children plague Owen. The two hit it off and are looking forward to their next encounter, except Fran’s other sister, Susie (Andrea Syglowski), whose loveless marriage and disable child, are about to make Fran’s burden even heavier. Fran can not catch a break. Even when she stands up for herself she is saddled with responsibility and familial tasks.

Can this connection win over insurmountable odds?

Shanley, also directs. I found this play so real, where you laugh, because if not, tears will come streaming down your face. Right now it seems as if most of our lives are out of control and how you cope, becomes the question of the day.

Each of these actors infuses warmth, humanity and longing for what should, could or will be, that we are right there with them. Zayas and Strong’ have such a palatable chemistry, that you root for the happy ending that may seem more of a miracle.

Santo Loquasto’s revolving set is rather spectacular involving a realistic laundromat, two homes and a beautifully lit  restaurant by Brian MacDevitt.

It seems this is the year of Shanley, with the Off-Broadway revival of Danny and the Deep Blue Sea and the Broadway revival of Doubt, but if they are all like this, count me in for this absorbing 80 minutes fable of love.

Brooklyn Laundry: Manhattan Theatre Club at City Center, 131 West 55th Street through April 14.

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Entertainment

Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents Classical/Rock Violinist Daisy Jopling

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“Live From The Hotel Edison Times Square Chronicles Presents ”, is a new show that is filmed live every Wednesday from 5 – 6 in the lobby of the iconic Hotel Edison, before a live audience. To see our first episode click here second episode click here and for our third episode click here.

You can also see us on

Pandora:

https://www.pandora.com/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/PC:1001084740

Stitcher:

https://www.stitcher.com/show/1084740

Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/show/2nKQcaG9hnSeLkxUgR2BzI

Amazon:

https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/e3ac5922-ada8-4868-b531-12d06e0576d3

Apple Podcasts:

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/live-from-the-edison-hotel-times-square-chronicles-presents/id1731059092

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Broadway

Broadway To Honor Hinton Battle

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Broadway will honor the memory of Hinton Battle, the three-time Tony Award-winning singer/ actor/ phenomenal dancer who was trailblazing. Mr. Battle passed away on January 30, 2024, at the age of 67. On March 12, 2024, the Committee of Theatre Owners will dim all the lights of all the Broadway theatres in New York for one minute at exactly 6:45pm, in his honor.Hinton Battle won three Tony’s and made his Broadway debut at 18,  playing the original Scarecrow in The Wiz.

You can see our tribute here. He was one of the great ones.

 

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Dance

A Sign of the Times Off-Broadway Dreams of the Dawn of a New Day

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It’s the dawn of a new day, says A Sign of the Times, the latest jukebox musical that opens itself up to a sweet nostalgia of American postwar at the New World Stages off-Broadway. It’s overflowing with well-known songs from the 1960s, beautifully performed and glowing, with melodies made popular and iconic by Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, and Lesley Gore. With such a strong playlist at its core, the new musical, created by producer Richard J. Robin (Memphis) with a somewhat contrived book by Lindsey Hope Pearlman (MacGyver the Musical), tries valiantly to stitch together the tale of a young woman, Cindy, played with wide-eyed determination by Chilina Kennedy (Broadway’s Paradise Square) who is trying with all her might to find a different way of living outside the heteronormative Ohio small town community she rings in the new year with. It’s a well-formulated beginning, possibly because of the fine crew surrounding her, especially her two gal pals, portrayed wonderfully by the very talented and funny Alyssa Carol (Broadway’s Bad Cinderella) and Maggie McDowell (Broadway’s Kinky Boots) giving it their all. The two are conflicted, wanting her both to stay and marry her handsome, epic raspy-voiced boyfriend, Matt, played deliciously croon-worthy by Justin Matthew Sargent (Broadway’s Spider-Man…) giving off a dreamy Luke Perry/Dylan vibe in abundance, but they also would love for her to get out of Ohio and follow her photographic dreams in the big city of New York. Like any good friend would.

J Savage, Alyssa Carol, Justin Matthew Sargent, Chilina Kennedy, and Cassie Austin in A Sign of the Times. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

But the well-strummed “I Only Want to Be with You” proposal, delivered smoothly by Sargent’s Matt, is not enough to hold down the “Who Am I?” questioning for Cindy, and off she goes on an awkwardly tight bus ride to the Big Apple in hope that “Round Every Corner” there might be some morsel of career success. It’s an empowering first chapter to Cindy’s adventure, even with the all too true and too funny apartment hunting shenanigans. Packed in with it all also comes about every culturally significant political movement that existed in those formative years, passively aggressively shoved into this tale of a time and a place in our cultural history. None of which have gone away. It’s a grand attempt, overflowing with issues and meaning, as this musical tries its best to give us another shiny and splashy Hairspray. That comparison, I know is an ‘apples to oranges jukebox’ one, but that show, back in its day, magically and deftly found its way to encapsulate segregation and racism in 1962 Baltimore with originality and musical gold, but unfortunately, with this show’s heavy-handed book, A Sign of the Times doesn’t hold its shape as strongly as that aerosol can of Ultra Clutch was made to do for those dos. Even with all of these stellar songs and performances brought to life at New World Stages.

But the cast of pros can not be held back by this book, as each and everyone delivers those iconic songs with charm, vitality, and style on a slick stage design by Evan Adamson (Le Petit Theatre’s A Christmas Carol) with expert lighting design by Ken Billington (Broadway’s New York, New York), determined and fun costuming by Johanna Pan (Barrington’s James and the Giant Peach), and a solid sound design by Shannon Slaton (Broadway’s Melissa Etheridge: My Window). Their voices ring out infectiously strong, leading us through the chance encounters and “Count Me In” moments that basically “Rescue Me” and everyone around them, particularly Crystal Lucas-Perry (Broadway’s Ain’t No Mo’) as the aspiring singer/quick-change artist Tanya, who even though she was under-mic’d in the first act, still managed to captivate, even when given dialogue that was as corny as Corny Collins. “Something [does] Got a Hold on Me” when she starts to sing, so “why am I dreaming about something else?“.


Crystal Lucas-Perry and Chilina Kennedy in Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

There is also the political activist/protestor and Tanya’s handsome man, Cody, played solidly by the well-voiced Akron Lanier Watson (Broadway’s The Color Purple revival) who tries to engage us and her with the cause. On the other end of that police baton, there is a slimy advertising executive Brian, played true to form by Ryan Silverman (Broadway’s Side Show), who uses his power and privilege to woo the determined Cindy. Yet, even with all those red flags flying, she continues to hold on to her dream of being a photographer, even as we watch her fall for this creepy businessman who charms her into not seeing the ugly blending of professional and personal that is rampant in their workplace and in his demeanor. It’s a stretch of the “Gimme Some Lovin’” imagination to believe Cindy, let alone the more worldly Tanya, can not see clearly through his harassment schtick from that first walk home, but I guess we can relax through this two-and-a-half-hour show knowing that it has to come eventually in this “Five O’clock World” gone wild.

Not even when the old Ohio boyfriend, Matt, whom we are all starting to warm up to a bit more with each Brian/Cindy “Call Me” moment, calls himself asking her to take the “Last Train to Clarksville” before he heads off to Vietnam after getting drafted, does Cindy falter in her dream of photography career success. But it’s hard to quibble about too many hot topics for one show when the cast is having so much fun kicking up their heels to the strong choreography of JoAnn M. Hunter (Mirvish’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and her “The Shoop Shoop Song” energy. The playfulness shines when used in the right moments, exemplified in the “The ‘In’ Crowd” party, hosted by the wildly fun, pop artist, cheekily named Randy Forthwall, played joyfully by Edward Staudenmayer (Broadway’s Girl from the North Country) who also adds that same flair to a dozen other minor roles. It is exactly the formula this show needs a whole lot more of and is the bus ride that could bring it success.

Edward Staudenmayer, Melessie Clark, Lena Teresa Matthews, Alyssa Carol, Erica Simone Barnett, Kuppi Alec Jessop, and Crystal Lucas-Perry in Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times. Photo by Jeremy Daniel.

Director Gabriel Barre (Broadway’s Amazing Grace) does his best to keep the engine running, but sometimes he stalls it with a few heavy-handed approaches to some bigger issue moments, like Tanya’s “Society’s Child“. It’s touching but somehow too light and in need of a stronger punch, but I also have a feeling that Lucas-Perry could have handled that one all on her own without the dramatization playing out awkwardly over to the side. Yet, once again, the music is what delivers the energy and charm of this piece “Downtown” for our pleasure under the direction of music director Britt Bonney (Broadway’s Camelot) with music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Joseph Church (Broadway’s The Lion King). But as with many jukebox musicals, the songs are the gold here, even when the lyrics only fit marginally into the storyline. The belting and the wildly colorful embodiment of the period are exactly what the piece needs to take it to the finishing line. Not the clumsy overwrought storyline and dialogue, checking as many boxes as one could hope for, that stops it in its soundtracks.

Trying hard to be a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people, Off-Broadway’s A Sign of the Times does find its way to be filled up with a ton of 1960s musical delights, performed wonderfully, all lined up in a row. Unfortunately, it is also a show with a storyline spit out by a computer program to cover all the issues of the time and place (and beyond, maybe “ten years ahead of wherever“) shoved in between and inside the cracks awkwardly. It never really finds its way into the well-balanced heights of its counterpart Hairspray, but it does entertain you well when it embraces the music it wants to share with us. Brad Peterson’s projection design (Off-Broadway’s Broadway Bounty Hunter) tries his best to add dimension and the weight of the decade with his projected photographs of activists and social movement moments, but the energy of the music presented here is really what drives this musical to its destination.

For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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