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The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

GHISLAINE MAXWELL — Last Thursday came news that Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged-partner-in-crime Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested – she was hiding out in a mansion in New Hampshire. I met Epstein and few times and, like the recently departed Steve Bing, knew instantly that there was much, much more to him and that was probably most sinister. 

Never met Maxwell, but if the stories thus far are true, she was as complicit as he was. With three passports in different names, a ton of cash, and several phone numbers, it sounds as if she could be on the move in a mere minute. For me, however, the strangest part of the story was that she would be extradited to NYC and housed, most likely, in the same supposed fortress that Epstein was in … where he ultimately committed suicide. Does that make any sense at all?

If you believe that Epstein was murdered in jail (as I am beginning to believer) why put Maxwell there? Doesn’t make any sense. Who thought of this idea … DeBlasio? Cuomo? And, will they have the same guards who apparently were really asleep (and, literally) at the wheel that fateful night. Amazing!

MASH COMPOSER PASSES — Johnny Mandel, the Oscar and Grammy winning composer whose noted work included composing the MASH theme, has died at the age of 94. Details of his death have not been disclosed but his friend and fellow musician Michael Feinstein confirmed the news on Facebook, as did numerous others close to Mandel.

“A dear friend and extraordinary composer arranger and all-around brilliant talent Johnny Mandel just passed away,” Feinstein wrote on his official page. “The world will never be quite the same without his humor, wit and wry view of life and the human condition. He was truly beyond compare, and nobody could write or arrange the way he did. Lord will we miss him. Let’s celebrate him with his music! He would like that.”

Born in New York in 1925, Mandel studied music and played in numerous bands before beginning composing and arranging orchestral scores for the likes of Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra Streisand.

He broke into composing for movies in the 1960’s, with his original song The Shadow Of Your Smile composed for the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor film The Sandpiper scoring him both an Oscar and Grammy.

“Suicide Is Painless,” with music written by Mandel and lyrics by a 14-year-old Michael Altman, became the theme song for both Robert Altman’s MASH movie and the subsequent TV series. The song was covered by the Manic Street Preachers and released as a single in 1992, making it to number seven on the UK Singles Chart.

In total, Mandel won five Grammys in his career. 

Robert Miller Project Grand Slam

SHORT TAKES — Friday, July 24 is the official release date of Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam’s new album, East Side Sessions. We’ll have a new interview with Miller in the next few weeks …

Chuck Lorre’s The Kominsky Method on Netflix, with Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin has been renewed for a third and final season. Final season? I’m quite sure both actors are terribly expensive, but what a great show. How can they end it at only three seasons?

Beyond me … Also renewed for a fourth and final season is Ozark (also on Netflix), with the terrific Jason Bateman and Laura Linney. Sure, last season was a little shaky, but the performances were just outstanding. Julian Garner (as the white-trash Ruth) is just amazing. Sad to see this one go; but, Netflix is notoriously tight fisted with the dollars … Hugh Downs passed last week at 99. As the onetime Today Show host and anchor of 20/20 (in its prime) with Barbara Walters, and, as the host of game-show Concentration, Downs impact on TV was awesome. Even though Walters described him as more of a professor, he was simply great. RIP Hugh …

Speaking of TV game shows, every time I watch Alec Baldwin or Steve Harvey on their current game shows (Match Game and Family Feud) I recall just how good Gene Rayburn, of the original Match Game and Hugh Downs was. The game are still the same, but the hosts pale in comparison …. And, the PR-rep at Macmillan Books, Molly Ellis, is not answering her emails. We’ve been trying to get her for three months now, about a recent release. I knew things in the book-PR-area were bad, but this is ridiculous. Not professional at all.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Alicia Spiegel; Vic Kastel; Tony King; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Sam; Sutherland; Kenny Kerner; Chuck Lorre; Judd Bernard; Lenny Beer; David Adelson; Roy Trakin; Carol Weber; and, ZIGGY!

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.

Cabaret

My View: Dick Robinson & Family Celebrate at Cafe Carlyle With Peter Cincotti

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Cafe Carlyle, a preeminent location in the world of Cabaret was visited by a preeminent figure in the world of radio broadcasting last night.  Dick Robinson, founder of The Society For The Preservation of The Great American Songbook (SPGAS) and Legends Radio (WLML) was in the house for a performance by Peter Cincotti, who is in the midst of a residency in the historic Woody Allen Monday spot.

Bobby Short began his residency at Cafe Carlyle in 1968, Woody Allen in 1997, and Steve Tyrell in 2005.  Now it’s   Peter Cincotti in the legendary hotel exhibiting the exciting pianistic and vocal style (with his killer band) that have made Cincotti a world famous songwriter and entertainer….. and Dick Robinson was there to enjoy the show with family and friends celebrating “the old jocks” birthday!

Singer, Pianist, Composer, Cincotti was recently awarded SPGAS’s “Legend Award” at their annual Gala held at The Kravis Center For The Performing Arts.

DICK ROBINSON & SALLY ROBINSON

PETER CINCOTTI

Jimmy Robinson, Jill Robinson, Eda Sorokoff, Stephen Sorokoff, Dick Robinson, Sally Robinson, Missy Robinson

ROB RUSSELL, STEPHEN SOROKOFF, PETER CINCOTTI, EDA SOROKOFF, DICK ROBINSON, SALLY ROBINSON, MISSY ROBINSON, JILL ROBINSON, JIMMY ROBINSON

PETER CINCOTTI

PETER CINCOTTI

PETER CINCOTTI

PETER CINCOTTI

CAFE CARLYLE

CAFE CARLYLE

PETER CINCOTTI, SCOTT KREITZER, JOE NERO, TONY GLAUSI, COLE DAVIS

STEPHEN SOROKOFF, EDA SOROKOFF, MISSY ROBINSON, JILL ROBINSON, ROB RUSSELL, JIMMY ROBINSON, DICK ROBINSON, SALLY ROBINSON

MISSY ROBINSON & JILL ROBINSON

MISSY ROBINSON & EDA SOROKOFF

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Out of Town

“Women of the Fur Trade” Soars (even with all those controlling men looking down on them)

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Portraits of distinguished men stare down at us, surprisingly, as we enter the space. I did not expect those domineering men’s faces peering at me, with three rocking chairs out front giving off a feeling of waiting and wanting, comfortably and leisurely, for movement without too much proactive action. It’s a captivating portrait highlight, filled with power dynamics and control, that ushers in the Women of the Fur Trade, presented strongly and dynamically by Native Earth Performing Arts. Rocking back and forth with a hypnotic clarity, the three emerging women play a quoting game with glee, one that I would definitely lose without a doubt. The ladies in fur and formal period form engage in a manner that makes us want to lean in with wonder and curiosity. We watch them prattle and dabble on with a modern air of compellingly fun dialogue and gossip, wondering where this is going, and how the essence and themes will be delivered.

With an eccentric electric energy, dropped and messaged in by a basket post, the play, written with a strong sense of self and history by Frances Končan (Space Girl), unleashes ideas and captive arguments about rebellion and colonialism that are drenched in historic fact and laced with symbolic fiction. The play intends to find meaning and understanding of that particular time and place in Canada’s dark treatment of the indigenous population, and the women, representing different fractions, find themselves, trapped, for reasons unknown, in a fort on the banks of the Reddish River in Treaty One. The dividing politics and approaching violence hang over their heads like those black and white male faces, pressing down and inflicting themselves in every engagement, as the three causally and with a modern vernacular that is impressively smart, unpack themes of racism, misogyny, and the challenge of remaining united while having differing views. Its comedic delivery and contemporary colloquialisms keep the space light, delivering empathy and care inside ideas without shame or defensiveness.

Jonathan Fisher and Jesse Gervais in Native Earth Performing Arts’ Women of the Fur Trade. Photo by Kate Dalton.

It’s quite a challenging premise, met with sharply constructed success by Končan, to find pathways through windows and disappearing doors without sounding preachy or heavy-handed. Yet, the playwright manages the space with perfect formulations and structure, giving an intelligent space on the banks of the Reddish River to discuss advancing British troops, confederation, and whether the hot nerd Louis Riel, played beautifully by Jonathan Fisher (VideoCabaret’s New France) is truly worthy of the undying adoration of a young Métis woman, Marie-Angelique, played brilliantly by Kelsey Kanatan Wavey (Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre’s The Rez Sisters). Or whether the momentarily pregnant Cecilia, portraying a nervous married settler woman to perfection by Cheri Maracle (Firehall’s White Noise), is correct to think that Riel’s assistant, Thomas Scott, played hilariously well by Jesse Gervais (MTC/Grand’s Clue), is the actual true heartthrob of the pair (I’m leaning towards Gervais, even if he is, ultimately, the bad guy of the lot). Their portraits hang above their heads proudly, setting up a battle of more than just one superficial dimension, while the free-spirited Ojibwe, Eugenia, perfectly and powerfully portrayed by Lisa Nasson (Stratford’s R+J), watches on with amazement, knowing that they both have a lot to learn and understand about these men. As do we.

The inescapable reaction to their history and predicament hangs heavy and true, like the watchful male oppression made clear within the subtle and wonderful set design by Lauchlin Johnston (RMTC’s The Secret to Good Tea), with strong lighting by Jeff Harrison (Arts Club’s Hand to God), a spot-on projection design by Candelario Andrade (Bard on the Beach’s Julius Caesar), and a clear sound design by composer MJ Dandeneau (RMTC’s YAGA). This lively historical satire of determined survival and cultural historical inheritance plays out like a romantic comedy with an untimely preference for twenty-first-century slang pulled through the dark waters of racism, oppression, and colonialism. The women speak of undying and unknown love of rebellious strangers and symbolic heroes. But out front, the two men travel and engage in a strong game of sideways Cyrano with rollie-bags, giving signals as to where they stand. They are a hypnotic pair, drenched in fascinating dynamics of conflictual power, which ultimately leads to one of the funniest and sharpest scenes of cross-haired love and mistaken admiration that I have seen for a long time, thanks to Wavey and Gervais’s impeccable timing, physicality, and perfect comic delivery.

Cheri Maracle and Lisa Nasson in Native Earth Performing Arts’ Women of the Fur Trade. Photo by Kate Dalton.

The irreverent and pointed humor is as clever as can be, finding empathy and care in their comic humanity, and timelessness. The three actors portraying these women are perfect in their rocking situation sometime in the year “eighteen hundred and something something.” They excel in all aspects, guided most wisely by the original direction of Renae Morriseau (“Angela’s Shadow“), with revival director Kevin Loring (Battle of the Birds/playwright) coming in to assist in the last month of this production. The energy of the well-crafted piece, with disarmingly clever costuming by Vanessa Imeson (A Company of Fools’ Hamlet), hilariously and wisely unpacks history, religion, and rebellion, inside a framework of teenage girl gossip and lust, and it works most mystically and spiritually in a manner I never expected.

This was one of the only shows I, unfortunately, missed at the Stratford Festival last summer, and I was so pleased to be given a second chance to take it all in. But I had no idea how funny and charming this play actually is, and how accomplished this production and its cast & crew would be. I’m not sure I was able to fully take on and take in every symbolic plot point or focused line. It’s clear that the three represent differing polarities that could cause a break in the camaraderie of these three women. Their coming together against overwhelming historical odds while being trapped and controlled by the men of the times is the contemporary point that needs to be taken. But some of the details and points of storyboard friction were lost on me. Or was I looking too deep within?

The written colonial representation of our history, including Louis Riel, Thomas Scott, and the unseen, but much-discussed John A. MacDonald, needs a whole lot of rewriting in our history books to even come close to the reality. Končan does a fantastic job trying to present forward an alternative with hopes of expanding our understanding of how our complicated Canadian history was not as neat and wholesome as we were taught in high school. Being a card-carrying status indigenous person, the platform that Končan has dutifully and skillfully created is a welcome wonder, filled with unquestionable laughter and sharply aimed shots, fired from weapons more powerful than a few random sticks in the woods. Women of the Fur Trade is as precise and clever as one could hope for, and a wonderfully clever, entertaining adventure into some dark Canadian history. Don’t try to resist. Just go if you can, even if it means climbing out a window, and join these well-crafted characters on the banks of the Reddish River in Treaty One Territory to laugh and fall hopelessly in mistaken love with a pretty perfect piece of theatre and enlightenment. Every dog will bark in support.

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Off Broadway

Gun & Powder is a Powerful Piece of Musical Theatre

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Over at Paper Mill Playhouse there is a new powerhouse musical that opened last night. Gun & Powder is the true story of Mary and Martha Clarke, African American twin sisters who, pass as white to settle their mother’s sharecropper debt. In the meantime they learn to love who they are, celebrate their history and bloodline.

The direction of this show by Stevie Walker-Webb features a superb cast, a compelling story, and possibly one of the best new scores to come along in awhile, sung to perfection.

Liisi LaFontaine Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Set in 1893 Texas the show is centered on the book writer and the lyricists Angelica Chéri great- great aunts Mary and Martha Clarke (the incomparable Ciara Rene and Liisi LaFontaine who sing and act these roles flawlessly). Born into slavery, their mother Tallulah Clarke (Jeannette Bayardelle) had the girls with a Caucasian man so they are light skinned. When they are penalized for not reaching their quota of cotton, they will lose everything unless they come up with $400. Mary and Martha decide to leave posing for white. Martha is given a gun by her mother and when she finds the power that gun affords her, the two ended up robbing to get ahead. They ended up in a saloon owned by Jesse (Hunter Parrish) and Mary falls in love and ends up marrying him, but that is when the real action begins.

Sonya Love and Aurelia Williams Photo by Jeremy Daniel

There are also the two housemaids of the Salon, Flo and Sissy (Sonya Love and Aurelia Williams) who almost steal the show with their attitude and killer vocals in “Dirty Shame”. Also standing out are Aaron James McKenzie as Elijah a black servant who falls in love with Martha and sings “Invisible”. His duet with LaFontaine “Under a Different Sun” is in a word, gorgeous. The fabulous Katie Thompson, plays Fannie Porter a white saloon singer who sings “Frenchman Father” and makes you really listen.

Katie Thompson Photo by Jeremy Daniel

The star of this show is Chéri’s lyrics and composer Ross Baum’s music. From Jazz, to Gospel, to Spirituals to blues, to Broadway, this score soars. It is like going to musical theatre church. From the “Prologue”, to “Wide Open Plains” until “All of Me,” this score captures you heart, mind and soul. The orchestrations by John Clancy, just enhance the whole experience.

Hunter Parrish Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Tiffany Rea-Fisher’s choreography keeps the show in a profound transformation.

The scenic design by Beowulf Boritt is simple yet effective. The lighting design by Adam Honor really makes the set come to life and the costume design by Emilio Sosa keeps us in the period.

Gun & Powder and Chéri and Baum are a show and a team of writers to keep your eye on. I predict big things for both.

This musical is fresh and exciting and if it doesn’t make it to Broadway next year I would be surprised.

Make sure you get your tickets. You will not be disappointed.

Gun & Powder: Paper Mill Playhouse, 22 Brookside Dr, Millburn, NJ until May 5th.

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Broadway

Lempicka Brings An Artist Work Back To Life

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In 1984, I saw the interactive show Tamara based on the life of the artist Tamara de Lempicka in LA and fell in love with it, so much so that it has stayed one of my favorites to this day. Lempicka is a new musical based more on her sexual choices than her stylized Art Deco portraits that changed and inspired generations. She was one of the first feminists, as Tamara choose art, sexual freedom and a lifestyle in a time of war and destruction.


The musical starts out on a park bench in LA as an older Tamara (Eden Espinosa) reflects on her life. Flash back to Warsaw, Poland as Tamara is to be wed to Lempicka (Andrew Samonsky) an aristocrat and is to live a life of luxury. Then the Bolshevik’s in prison her husband, she uses sexual favors to free him and they flee to Paris with their daughter. When her husband is unwilling to work she becomes a painter and uses the name Lempicka. There she is befriended by a wealthy art patron (Nathaniel Stampley) and his wife (Beth Leavel), is influenced by Marinetti (George Abu), the founder of the Futurist art movement, and is inspired and in love with Rafaela (Amber Iman). Both Lempicka and the musical come alive at this point. Tamara finds friendship and solace with a nightclub owner, Suzy (Natalie Joy Johnson), who gives her and others like her a refuge, until the Nazi’s invade. In the end, while breaking ground Lempicka’s life style becomes rather self centered or should I say one of self preservation as she loses her husband, her daughter and her lover.

Amber Iman, Eden Espinosa Photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman

Matt Gould’s music and Carson Kreitzer’s lyrics are well sung and the show sounds glorious. This is a new take on pop music. The problem here is the minor characters get the songs that make the show come alive. Iman, Abu and Johnson almost steal the show with their numbers. Level gets the 11 O’Clock number and breaks our hearts. Though Espinoza has some good numbers and sells them, none of them really stand out.

George Abud photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman)

Kreitzer also conceived the book and wrote it with Gould. Again the show does and doesn’t work. Instead of focusing on Lempicka’s art, the changing world around her and the fact that she was one of the first feminists, the story is more focused on lesbian repression. The show is billed as a triangle of love, but her husband once they get to Paris is in his own world until she gets together with Rafaela a prostitute. Rachel Chavkin’s direction makes the scenes between Rafaela and Lempicka beautiful and in a strange sense if feels a little like Indecent, however the show as a whole doesn’t jell.

Photo by Matthew Murphy/Evan Zimmerman

I did like Raja Feather Kelly’s choreography that seemed to evoke the changing world around.

Riccardo Hernández’s set of steel, seems like the world is on the verge of collapse and rebuilding. The lighting by Bradley King and projections by Peter Hylenski and Justin Stasi added to that effect. Paloma Young’s costumes missed the mark and seemed like they were in two different stories.

The reason to see Lempicka is it is sung and acted gloriously.

Once you see Lempicka, you will realize how much Tamara de Lempicka’s art change and influenced the world of art. This was a woman who survived at all costs and that should always be admired.

Lempicka: Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street.
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Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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Kjersti Long (David Kaptein)

G.H. Harding

GO LONG —- We’ve spoken before of 17-year-old Kjersti Long – on Origin Entertainment/ModSquad (ADA) Records. Her latest single “Sad Song” has become a digital-hit and a new album (her second) is in the works.

She’ll also be in NYC for June’s Tribeca Festival and a prominent agency is stepping up to rep her and her play Relative Space is prepping for an opening in the West End.

Said NEW HD’s Zach Martin: “Kjersti Long, at just 17, stands as a beacon of talent and ambition in the music industry. Her journey from a prodigious debut at the tender age of 11 with the album “Stronger Than You Think I Am” on Broadway Records to becoming a significant influencer on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, Kjersti’s career trajectory is nothing short of remarkable​​. Her engagement with her fans and the music community through platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where she has garnered over 50 million views and more than 160,000 new followers, underscores her magnetic appeal and the resonant connection she forges through her music​​.”

She also has a song on the new Vanessa Williams album, “Legs.” Williams’ official video will be out April 26, but here’s an update on her from LifeMinute TV:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD-Okb_T8CM

www.kjerstilong.com


RASCAL-ING AROUND —
(Via Forgotten Hits) Look for a new Rascals box set coming out May 31st.

The 7-disc set encompasses their entire recorded output with Atlantic Records, 1965 – 1971, including mono and stereo copies of their albums, special singles mixes and some previously unreleased tracks.  (I remember shelling out big bucks for an earlier CD edition of this set … but I’ve gotta tell you, this one has got the COOLEST looking cover!!!).

“The Rascals:  It’s Wonderful: The Complete Atlantic Studio Recordings features 152 remastered songs, including 14 previously unreleased tracks. The first four albums are presented in both stereo and mono, along with significant single edits and foreign language versions. The collection includes a 60-page booklet with detailed notes and rare illustrations from The Rascals archives.

Amazon’s got it for $69.99 (I paid 2 ½ times that much way back when for the original!) so pre-order now.  This is quite the collection!

Interesting that this box set is from the UK-based Cherry Red Records. Founded by Iain McNay in 1978, Cherry Red Records has continued to uphold the same fiercely independent values since day one. Check them out here: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/about

And don’t forget about Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish and The Rascals at SONY Hall on May 17.

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Atlantic-Recordings-Rascals/dp/B0CZ3NHLGG?crid=3S8UG8TZCIC3M&dib=eyJ2IjoiMSJ9.fcz-QxVsrVNGCoS-EbSPkg.htVhtZLFLUN8n9NrR1H-6rJi5fsjLvQexjIPS6c2Ges&dib_tag=se&keywords=B0CZ3NHLGG&qid=1712320481&s=music&

Micky Dolenz at Troubadour (Stevo Rood)

SHORT TAKES — Check out Tone Scott’s review of Micky Dolenz at LA’s Troubadour in Goldmine: https://www.goldminemag.com/columns/micky-dolenz-songs-and-stories-raises-the-roof-off-the-troubadour-all-for-make-a-wish#gid=ci02dac725a00025c5&pid=thumbnail-3

RIP Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola at 87. Years ago, I was at a screening of Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind Of Charles Swan with Charlie Sheen. I loved the movie and at a post-screening event, I met Francis Ford Coppola, who could not have been more approachable.

He invited me to sit at his table with his wife Eleanor. Both were terrific. She’ll be much-missed by the film community as well. From Deadline: https://deadline.com/2024/04/eleanor-coppola-dead-hearts-of-darkness-francis-coppola-wife-1235883537/Happy Bday Brit Brashear.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Melinda Newman; Barry Fisch; Toby Rasmussen; Roy Trakin; Joel Diamond; Fred Armisen; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Richie Kaczor; Jim Burgess; Tom Scott; Steve Walter; Dan Zelinski; Herb Alpert; Hubert Laws; Eppy; Craig Newman; Jane Blunkell; John Billings; Lora Evans; Andrew Sandoval; Chris Carter; Wen Fernandez; and ZIGGY!

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