Palm Springs Film Fest red carpet shines with celebs

The stars of films tipped for Oscars hit the red carpet for the 30th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival awards gala. Rough cut (no reporter narration)


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Indigo – Kandace Springs

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Indigo

Kandace Springs

Genre: Jazz

Price: $ 9.99

Release Date: September 7, 2018

© Blue Note Records; ℗ 2018 UMG Recordings, Inc.

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U.S. Justices Won’t Hear Sandy Springs, Ga., Adult Zoning Case

The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear a challenge to a long-running adult zoning case, Flanigan’s Enterprises Inc., et al v. City of Sandy Springs, Ga.
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Dosa’s Christina Kim Plans Exhibitions in Oaxaca, Marfa, Palm Springs and the RISD Museum

Before Dosa’s Christina Kim picks up the National Design Award for Fashion from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum this fall, she will be exhibiting why she earned it.
Partial to protecting handcrafts and recycling goods to reduce waste, the designer and artist will be involved with a series of projects. Just back from Mexico, Kim has been working with artisans in Oaxaca, finessing an installation. Under her direction, their work will be installed in a 15,000-square-foot former cotton mill that is now an art center. The eight-person team is cutting paper into what will look like lace in time for the July 8 opening. There will be 1,000 hand-cut designs. “It’s a lot of work, but that is part of working with artisans,” said Kim, who has already made three trips there and plans to make three more before the opening.
Having worked on Oaxaca for 27 years, she has teamed with a workshop that specializes in handmade papers for 15 years. “It’s interesting how you can make paper look like textiles.” Kim said. “I haven’t been doing as many collections any more because I have been working with so many different cultures and I see shifts happening really quickly. What I’m

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J.Crew and Rowing Blazers Team Up for Spring’s Coolest Rugby Shirt

Jack Carlson, the archaeologist and founder of the young menswear line Rowing Blazers, has been wearing rugby shirts since he was a kid. And while his label turns out no shortage of its namesake preppy jackets, rugby shirts have been a big part of his offering since day one.

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Gal Gadot and More Stars Shine at 2018 Palm Springs International Film Festival

Gal Gadot, Palm Springs International Film Festival AwardsNew year means brand-new award season!
Before the 2018 Golden Globes kick off Sunday night in Hollywood, some of the biggest movie stars are heading to the California desert for the 2018…


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Blueberry Springs – Jean Oram

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Blueberry Springs

Series Starter Box Set (Books 1-3)

Jean Oram

Genre: Short Stories

Publish Date: May 16, 2016

Publisher: Oram Productions

Seller: Jean Oram


Get started on the series that won readers over to the funny, heart-warming small town of Blueberry Springs. This box set contains the first three books in Jean Oram’s Blueberry Springs series. Ready to stay up all night reading? Get swept away with… Whiskey and Gumdrops (book 1) One woman. One case of self-denial. One hunky best friend who wants a lot more.   Watching the man she thought she'd marry tie the knot to someone else spurs small-town waitress, Mandy Mattson, to finally pursue her dreams of opening her own restaurant.  But she can't do it alone. . .  Mandy's going to need the help of her sexy, long-time best friend, Frankie Smith. He has everything she needs–and more. She fell for him years ago, but has never allowed their friendship to evolve into something more. After all, he's "Frankie fall-off-the-tower Smith,” and she has no intention of giving her heart to a dare devil like him. But what happens when Frankie asks Mandy to take the biggest dare of all? Rum and Raindrops (book 2) One nature guide. One accidental forest fire. And one steamy investigator hot on her tail.   Life would be easy for Jen Kulak if she hadn’t just burned down the forest she depends upon for her business’s wilderness adventures. It would be even easier if she hadn’t accidentally fallen head over heels for the fire investigator tracking her every move.  When the pressure on Jen heats up will she run like she has in the past? Or will she find the strength to fight the accusations that could cost her everything, including her own happily ever after? Eggnog and Candy Canes (book 3) Sometimes enemies make the best boyfriends.   Nurse Katie Reiter’s nemesis, Dr. Nash Leham is back in Blueberry Springs and he came for one thing—Katie. Will their battles turn to stolen kisses in the midst of a Christmas storm or will Katie find her happily ever after in the arms of another?  Katie loves to be in control, and so does Nash. And while the two may have butted heads in the past, when a family member falls ill on Christmas Eve, Katie knows there is only one doctor in Blueberry Springs that she trusts to help the Reiter's pull through in the midst of the blizzard. But what she doesn't count on is how her heart begins to sing for the man she's always considered an enemy… Fall in love with Blueberry Springs with this starter set!

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Bourbon Springs Box Set: Volume III, Books 7-9 – Jennifer Bramseth

Jennifer Bramseth - Bourbon Springs Box Set: Volume III, Books 7-9  artwork

Bourbon Springs Box Set: Volume III, Books 7-9

Jennifer Bramseth

Genre: Fiction & Literature

Publish Date: April 28, 2017

Publisher: Woodford Press

Seller: Woodford Press


Welcome to the Land of Bourbon and Bluegrass… Welcome to Bourbon Springs, Kentucky… Get Books 7-9 in the Bourbon Springs Series in this box set. Included works: Bottled Bluegrass : Mack Blanton dreams of returning to Nashville to make music. Jorrie Jones is tired of practicing law in small town.  But after a chance meeting,  Mack can’t stop writing songs about Jorrie, and she realizes the attractions of small-town life in the form and voice of Mack. As they discover the simple gifts of love, will they spread their wings or choose to stay in Bourbon Springs? Toast and Char : She’s the love of his life. She’s also the woman he left at the altar. When Prent Oakes jilted Miranda Chaplin two years ago, he was sure it was over. Except Miranda has never been able to tell him to get out of her life. The heat still burns between them—but will their love be resurrected from the ashes or will they both be left burned? Water of Life : Widowed judge Cara Forrest guards her young son as fiercely as she does her heart. But when Drake Mercer makes a plea to be more than professional acquaintances, it is an argument she can’t resist. As Cara faces the prospect of getting a seat on a higher court, she and Drake are forced to face allegations of unethical conduct due to their relationship. The choice is theirs: to be sustained by love or pulled apart by the currents of doubt.

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How you can stay at Elizabeth Taylor’s luxurious Palm Springs home

In a home just as classic and stylish as the former owner herself, you’ll find the perfect rental for a luxurious Palm Springs jaunt.


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Kandace Springs – EP – Kandace Springs

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Kandace Springs – EP

Kandace Springs

Genre: R&B/Soul

Price: $ 3.36

Release Date: September 30, 2014

© ℗ 2014 Blue Note Records

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The 10 Best Fashion Instagrams of the Week, from the Met Gala to Louis Vuitton’s Resort Show in Palm Springs

best fashion instgrams

The Met Gala came and went this week, leaving a trail of glitter and tulle in its wake (as well as a rather remarkable rear view, if one takes Kanye Wests snap of a retreating Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez into consideration), and the chic set packed up for Palm Springs and Nicolas Ghesquières cruise collection for Louis Vuitton soon after; posing prettily on the grounds of Bob and Dolores Hope’s John Lautner–designed estate or the nearby Parker hotel. Some stepped out of the action to catch some sun (or dodge it, under an oversize straw hat) while others made a chase for monochromatic ensembles in seasonal verdant shades. Either way, spring has decidedly arrived.

 

Watch Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Cher, and more hit the Met Gala red carpet:

 

The post The 10 Best Fashion Instagrams of the Week, from the Met Gala to Louis Vuitton’s Resort Show in Palm Springs appeared first on Vogue.

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This Spring’s Literary Subject May Have You Calling Your Pals

Roger Schall Vogue Photograph

My first best friend—I’ll call her Katie—was adorable, with dimples and two long braids with ribbons on them, like little girls in fairy tales. I, meanwhile, resembled a miniature accountant, with cropped hair, glasses, and a host of anxious tics. Katie had looks and charm, in other words, while I, the most insufferable of kindergarten know-it-alls, had something else: the correct answer. “She’s always right!” I remember hearing her complain to her mother in the next room, to which her mother replied consolingly: “That’s OK, because you’re prettier than she is, and one day, that’ll be more important.”

You are this; I am that. For years, we were pretty much content with the terms of our friendship, which seemed equitable and fixed. But with puberty and high school came a newfound social complexity, and neither of us could find a way to revise them. Katie was no longer the cutest girl in school; I no longer had all the answers. There were so many other potential selves to explore.

It was while reading Elena Ferrantes Neapolitan novels that I thought of Katie, and of the way in which friendship, once relegated to the domain of chick lit and young adult novels and buddy comedies, has been gaining fresh and welcome literary attention. In summarizing the plot of Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend—two friends growing up in a gritty neighborhood in Naples after the second World War—I thought how slight the word “friend” felt, and how overdue for revised understanding. Friends not only remind us of who we are, but who we might have become.

Until recently, portraits of intensely formative, Lila and Lenù–style bonds have felt rare and luminous. Think of the fierce alliances in Mary Gaitskill’s novels Two Girls, Fat and Thin and Veronica—and, in the realm of memoir, Ann Patchett’s tribute to the quicksilver poet Lucy Grealy, Truth & Beauty, or Patti Smiths Just Kids, in which she recalls her early years in New York City with Robert Mapplethorpe. As the old family archetypes fade, books have begun to remap our emotional lives in bonds far less strictly codified.

“Today we do not look to see, much less affirm, our best selves in each other,” writes Vivian Gornick in her warm and rueful new memoir, The Odd Woman and the City (FSG)—a love letter to New York City, and to a 20-year relationship with her irascible friend Leonard. “To the contrary, it is the openness with which we admit to our emotional incapacities—the fear, the anger, the humiliation—that excites contemporary bonds of friendship.” A single “odd” woman and a gay man, their alliance made loneliness peaceable, the comfortable rituals and rhythms of friendship becoming the best reason for sustaining it.

These days, to admit to our flaws, we believe, is to create intimacy. We want our truths validated, our hurts and fears witnessed. We want to feel known. An entry in Heidi Julavits’s journal-like new book, The Folding Clock (Doubleday), beautifully captures this dynamic. “We bypass the years and our widening differences by confessing,” she writes about her wildly charismatic high school best friend, the Lila to her Lenù. Now in their forties, living in different cities, “we confess about our bad behavior toward husbands, children, other friends, ourselves. We are each other’s priests.” Their cozy pattern of dysfunction is threatened when, going through a rough patch, Julavits’s friend takes up with a guru. And then Julavits commits the ultimate transgression—confiding a secret in someone else first. In writing about it, “I think, in part, I was throwing down a gauntlet—like, our friendship is dying. What are we going to do about it?” says Julavits.

In our twenties, friendship was easy, but the further our paths diverge, the more effort it takes to meet halfway. A friend must be chosen, and chosen again. “The biggest test at my age is when you’ve gotten used to your friend in one role, and something fundamentally changes in his or her life,” says Hanya Yanagihara, whose second novel, A Little Life (Doubleday), follows four friends, college roommates turned members of New York City’s creative elite. Over the years, the push-pull of race and sexuality and politics—you are this, I am that—falls away, along with the illusions of youth. What’s left behind, through middle age and beyond, is a bond that’s essential but never easy. “Our friends can’t save us, no,” says the author. “But I do believe the act of confession and exposure can be liberating.” Though not uncomplicated, as Yanagihara herself discovered when the themes of her book resonated unexpectedly deeply for a dear friend.

If one of the best measures of a book is its degree of emotional truth, the same could be said of a friendship—which, after all, tells a kind of story, that of the accumulation of shared memory. These days, my own small constellation of bright-burning friendships are less about fierce discussions of art and identity than about holding a hand through a harsh edit, a divorce, a parent’s illness, an IVF cycle. They’re about seeing ourselves reflected back, in the tender and merciless gaze of the person who knows us best.

Via social media, I catch glimpses of Katie now and again. She lives in our hometown with her husband; she’s a writer and blogger and works for a nonprofit. She recently adopted a son. She lives a full-color life, rich in plot and character. I will always be reading along.

The post This Spring’s Literary Subject May Have You Calling Your Pals appeared first on Vogue.

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Eight Garden Gnomes to Mark Spring’s Arrival

Garden Gnome Instagram

He’s back! No, not the Terminator, rather your friendly garden gnome, as sure a sign of spring as daffodils or sandaled feet. Tacky yet lovable, these bearded and red-hatted guarders of gardens, which likely first appeared in Germany in the nineteenth century, have become universally popular (at least on Instagram).

The post Eight Garden Gnomes to Mark Spring’s Arrival appeared first on Vogue.

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Tackling One of Spring’s Most Surprisingly Flattering Trends

Photographed by Steven Klein, Vogue, August 2007

I can’t really trace where my aversion to flared jeans began. And it’s not jean-specific, really, so much as pant-specific, though, come to think of it, I don’t own a lot of flared-hem-anythings. Straight and sleek and long, that’s me! (Or straight and sleek and very, very short, if I’m honest, but that’s another story.) Flares are back from the seventies with a vengeance, though, trouncing down the runways and on the streets on the legs of editors, bloggers, and god knows who else. Men don’t seem to like them, particularly, though they’re hard-pressed to explain exactly why. “I like to see a woman’s leg,” says my long-suffering boyfriend, when pushed. (My leg, of course, is what he means by that, right?) And to that end, all that extra fabric, rippling about the ankle, taunting my young golden retriever, who so, so desperately loves to catch a hem in his teeth and pull. Why bother?

 

 

Well, because they’re in, my friends, and also, the chances are that you haven’t actually given them a fair shake. I see you out there, rolling your eyes. Costumey, you’re thinking. Dumb. Leave me and my worn-out skinnies alone. Well, I won’t. Because if I do nothing but convince you, at this exact moment, to try a pair of flared jeans this season, I will have done my job. Because look here a second, skinny jeans are swell! We all know that. But they’re also kind of . . . boring. I mean, they’re very versatile—any look! Any shoe! Any top!—and thanks to modern fabrics, quite comfortable, and really very easy. Easy to the point of invisibility, really. It’s the legging of the denim world. Which is fine, I swear. But would you really be here, reading this, if you wanted to spend your whole life in leggings? I didn’t think so.



Jane Birkin

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Jane Birkin

Photo: Getty Images

So how did I go from flared-averse to evangelist? Because, um, I actually tried them. At the behest of Vogue.com’s beloved Market Editor and denim expert Kelly Connor, I slid into a few pairs, and suddenly my legs were longer, my waist was slimmer, and I actually looked dressed. And like that, I got it. Chloe Lonsdale, founder and chief creative officer of MiH Jeans (whose Marrakesh flare jean predates this current trend and will long outlast it, for its utterly flattering and perennially Jane Birkin–perfect silhouette), was not exactly surprised. “When you have the cut of a flare right—even if you don’t like flares and you think you will never ever wear a pair—you cannot deny that you look great,” said Lonsdale. “It makes your legs look like they come from under your arms, it’s super slimming, super leg-lengthening, and you just feel great in them. It gives you a sense of something that you don’t get from a skinny jean.” There’s something intentional to it, in other words, a look that you’re after. Think of it this way: If your skinnies are made to blend in, flares are made to stand out. Sure, some styling tricks are required: You have to be aware of your waist (no overly long tops), and a heel really takes the leg-lengthening aspect to exponential heights (though Lonsdale prefers to wear hers with Converse for an ineffably cool, overtly confident effect). But when it comes down to it, spring 2015’s denim trend is not about laziness, or slumping around in your jegging alternatives: It’s about dressing like you mean it. And I’m starting to think that means a flare. So do yourself a favor and try it. The smart money’s on you never looking back.

Here, five great pairs to start the revolution.

The post Tackling One of Spring’s Most Surprisingly Flattering Trends appeared first on Vogue.

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Vogue’s Coachella Travel Guide: Where to Stay, Eat, and More in Los Angeles and Palm Springs

Photo: Courtesy of @mattjp123

The not-so-indie music festival in the desert (AC/DC?) officially became a see-and-be-seen affair last summer, when Kim and Kanye threw a Kidchella party for North West. Why not embrace it? Here, your itinerary for a long, exhibitionist weekend in Los Angeles and Palm Springs—sorry, no selfie sticks.

 

The post Vogue’s Coachella Travel Guide: Where to Stay, Eat, and More in Los Angeles and Palm Springs appeared first on Vogue.

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Really Good Jeans! Supermodel Selfies in Spring’s Best Denim

Emily Ratajkowski denim

The post Really Good Jeans! Supermodel Selfies in Spring’s Best Denim appeared first on Vogue.

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Amal Clooney Aces One of Spring’s Best Trends

Amal Clooney

We don’t know about you, but we’ve yet to tire of spring’s new pant length, the just-so crop as seen on Kendall Jenner, Victoria Beckham, and throughout the pages of our March and April issues. The kicky abridged hem gives any ensemble a fresh touch, makes limbs look practically endless, and lends the wearer the ability to show off sinfully chic shoes, whether they be boots, stilettos, or sneakers. But it was Amal Clooney who best demonstrated the length’s versatility this weekend in New York, proving that all it takes is a bit of pop to really ace the look. The creamy bell hem of Clooney’s effortlessly simple jumpsuit flows against her bronzed legs, while yellow Versace strappy sandals ground the look with a louche nod to the seventies. The finishing touch? An oversize menswear-inspired cardi jacket that looks pulled straight out of Love Story—and to that end, perhaps love really means never having to say you’re sorry . . . for nailing one of spring’s best trends.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Splash News

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Watch Video Tour of Gerald and Betty Ford’s Newly Restored Palm Springs Home


Entertainment execs Bill Damaschke and John McIlwee purchased the estate after the former president’s estate put it on the market in 2012.

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Theater: Radio City Springs New Tradition; The Elizabeth Moss Chronicles

NEW YORK SPRING SPECTACULAR ** 1/2 out of ****
THE HEIDI CHRONICLES * out of ****
THE TALLEST TREE IN THE FOREST * 1/2 out of ****

NEW YORK SPRING SPECTACULAR ** 1/2 out of ****
RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL

Radio City Music Hall’s New York Spring Spectacular has one goal and one goal alone: to create a new tradition in the spring to match their unparalleled success with the Christmas Spectacular. You’ll get lots of Rockettes and lots of NYC vignettes, less Santa and a whole lot more Easter Bunny. After a dramatic last minute cancellation in 2014 and an entirely revamped creative team, they have finally presented this long-gestating project…and they’ve succeeded in spades. This will pack ’em in for years to come.

It’s a spectacle of a very particular sort and — especially if you bring along a kid — it pretty much gets the job done, as hokey as it is. I did bring a kid and she had a blast (“I’ve never seen ceilings so tall!” she exclaimed after entering the lobby of Radio City for the very first time.) As we walked out at the end, she was gobsmacked to hear they do another, different show in the fall. “Really?” she said, wide-eyed. We’ll be coming back, apparently.

It’s a simple story, just like whatever plot they use each year to hang the various set pieces on the Christmas Spectacular. This time, it’s about a billionaire (Tony winner Laura Benanti) who wants to fire the lovable old coot named Bernie (Lenny Wolpe) who does her NYC tours and replace him with a virtual Bernie! Virtual Bernies rarely ask for overtime, of course. Meanwhile, an angel named Jack (Derek Hough of Dancing With The Stars) wants to earn his wings. His task? Convince billionaire Jenny to take Bernie’s tour, discover the magic of the real New York and real people and save Bernie’s job. If you’re wondering what happens…well, actually, no one wonders what happens in a show like this.

The show starts with an orchestra popping up and diving right into the classic “Rhapsody In Blue;” subtlety is not on tap here. Before you know it, we’ve got our set-up, some high kicking from the Rockettes, a Taylor Swift song and we’re off to the races. The show swings through landmarks like the Metropolitan Museum Of Art, the New York Public Library, a fashion show, every sports arena you can think of, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and more, all delivered with a dusting of magic thanks to the angel Jack and about a gazillion taped celebrity cameos.

It’s neatly done with a high-powered creative team including Mia Michaels of my preferred dance show So You Think You Can Dance doing the opener, Diane Paulus & Randy Weiner working as a creative team of overseers, a mild book by Joshua Harmon of the wildly acclaimed play Bad Jews, original songs by Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy and all of it helmed by choreographer and director Warren Carlyle. What’s remarkable is that despite all these disparate talents and what must have been heavy corporate oversight on a hugely important financial gamble, the show actually has a pulse and a little personality. A few laughs, lots of virtual highlights of the city, a moment of adult romance for the folks and then it’s over.

While they have a similar spirit, the difference between this and the Christmas Spectacular are many. One, that show is essentially an old fashioned revue; all the modern add-ons in recent years like 3-D and video feel like awkward fits meant to keep the show “current.” In contrast, the Spring Spectacular has been conceived from the start with all sorts of multi-media elements and they work together naturally and effectively. Two, it’s called the Christmas Spectacular so despite a generally secular air, the finale does bring out the Living Nativity and suddenly you get a quick blast of “Jesus is born!” This is not the Easter Spectacular, so while the Easter Bunny pops in and out, there’s absolutely no Easter message at the end. Yes, the story revolves around God (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) giving an angel a task, but Easter it ain’t. Finally, this show has stars.

It must have been a much-debated idea to bring in a Tony-winning talent like Laura Benanti and give her top billing. Believe me, whatever they’re paying her, it’s not enough. The script is a smidge better than average but Benanti elevates the material tremendously. She strikes just the right note: wryly self-aware, but never undercutting the essential sincerity of the story. She makes bad jokes sort of work and makes the few good jokes funnier. She sings beautifully. She even manages to make the “surprise” of dancing with the Rockettes towards the end seem like it’s actually happening for the first time. They should beg her to come back next year. Derek Hough is an amiable presence as well, dancing nicely of course and handling his modest dramatic demands capably. He’s no singer but gets by easily enough, though I think he has one too many solos for a guy who is essentially a hoofer. Their presence pays off and is crucial to turning what could be an anonymous revue into something not bad.

While there’s a nominal storyline, the Spring Spectacular is really a string of set pieces, just like the fall edition. Many work, but some don’t.

The Rockettes — Golden. To my limited experience, they are used a lot more here than in the Christmas Spectacular and effectively so. The lone exception, oddly, is the big finale, a long, drawn-out and poorly choreographed affair that is underwhelming. Until Benanti comes out and they do those kicks, it’s surprisingly dull and should be reworked significantly for next season.

3-D and those glowing wristbands — Kids actually hate 3-D; just look at the dramatically falling numbers for 3-D movie attendance. (Studios make more and more of them and people go to them a lot less, primarily because kids hate the glasses.) Luckily, it’s a brief segment but since 3-D is not what a stage show is all about, this is one multi-media element that is worth dropping. No one would miss it. At least it’s brief. On the other hand, I thought the wristbands they handed out that glowed and changed colors whenever “magic” happened were a lot of bother for nothing. Yet the audience seemed to be continually amused by them. Still, surely they can do something more with them other than one brief, raise-your-hand segment.

Movie clips — A compilation of movie clips celebrating New York City was a savvy breather, proving entertaining and giving the stage a chance to reset for a new number. Hey, Radio City has a history of exhibiting movies so it makes sense. But The Godfather? Really?

Met Museum — The first stop on the tour set the tone. After a few mild jokes you realize a slightly more sophisticated air would prevail rather than just dancing elves (or in this case, bunnies).

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — They voiced the lions in front of the Public Library. It’s a good example of the show’s use of sophisticated technology in service of a simple effect — talking with the lions. The show is filled with celebrity cameos, most of them harmless but some of them effective, like this. Their jokes were pretty good and it revealed that this Spring Spectacular would focus heavily on using the entire space of Radio City Music Hall. At times, the roof was illuminated to look like the ceiling in Grand Central Station, the walls featured pictures of immigrants who came to America, t-shirts were shot out of cannons into the crowd, ushers tossed around free boxes of popcorn and in this segment the two lions quizzed audience members (including one effective plant) on New York trivia. The sense of a big party, that the show was spilling out into the audience was a smart move.

Don’t buy your umbrellas on the street — A solid “Singin’ In The Rain” segment featured Derek Hough. In the performance I saw, he was suddenly saddled with an umbrella that fell apart. Hough handled the snafu like a pro but it’s a good lesson for tourists: don’t buy umbrellas on the street; they last about five minutes. This was the peak chance for Jared Grimes to shine (he plays Benanti’s numbers guy) and he tapped well. Maybe I’m too sensitive — it does mimic the film, after all — but I’d tweak their interactions with the cop.

The romance — One didn’t really expect a moving storyline from this, so it’s hardly a disappointment. But the entire purpose of the tour we’re taking is to have the Laura Benanti character open up to the fun of a real tour guide and the pleasures of New York City, while falling in love with the angel Jack. Instead, time and again, something magical takes place involving Jack or the grandkids of Bernie the tour guide while Benanti and her right hand man Grimes would be off to the side, oblivious while chatting on their cell phones. Huh? It’s a missed opportunity not to see her won over as each stop reveals something more magical than the one before. The sense of her opening up is utterly lost simply from the staging. She should be a part of the fun right away, first reluctantly and then more and more willingly.

The original songs — Forgettable. They should lean even more on instantly recognizable classics and current tunes like Taylor Swift’s “Welcome To New York,” not originals. Since she’s practically a cheerleader, the Swift tune works particularly well here as backdrop for the Rockettes.

More dogs! — It’s astonishing how thrilled audiences are to see live dogs on stage in a theatrical setting. Any show — play, drama, musical, “happening” — if you bring on a dog, audiences will melt. This show has an almost constant parade of doggies, putting the corgis in The Audience to shame.

The sports cavalcade — One section has Bernie the tour guide trying to accomplish a feat of sportsmanship like scoring a goal in hockey or hitting a home run. Unlike say the museum section, which went to just the Met, here they decide to go to every single sporting event in the city, complete with a banal celebrity cameo. It’s like a parent who tries to overstuff your trip by going to seventeen stops in a day when five stops enjoyed at leisure would be far more memorable. This is a dutiful “checking off” segment and it falls flat. Choose one sporting venue — Yankee Stadium of course — and make it fun. Sure, they wanted to give sports fans (ie. little boys, or so they imagine) their due. But it’s a real bore. Yet it’s not as bad as….

The fashion show — This is the show’s number one clunker, an almost absurdly dull and out of place attempt to give fashion a moment to shine. We see faux fashion shows complete with models and photographers while videos of top fashion designers like Isaac Mizrahi describe what inspires them. They let the educational aspect of the show overwhelm them here. If they must, they can keep the futuristic fashion display complete with Rockettes in LED costumes. But they must drop the rest of the segment as a very bad idea, very poorly done. Because this is so female-oriented, they follow this with the laborious sports segment I mentioned above. (It’s not exactly a thrill to see video of a sports star chanting “Go Bernie!”) This back-to-back misfire is by far the show’s weakest area. It’s also easily fixed; shorten or remove both immediately. Take the kids on a bathroom break right here.

All in all, despite some dull passages, it was a trim and mildly amusing event. Not theater as such, but a decent spectacle. Mind you, there’s an hilarious disconnect between a show extolling the virtues of a live tour guide and seeing the sights of New York…all while giving you a virtual tour of New York. But pointing that out seems pointless in this silly context.

Benanti bears pointing out, though. She’s worth her weight in gold and you should knock off half a star or more when imagining the show without her. Hough was also good, though here’s one more tweak for them: under no circumstance should he be taking the final bow. It makes no sense in terms of star power in New York City and hey, their characters just fell in love! It seems awfully ungallant. She should go last or at most they should bow together. But the show itself can take a bow or at least heave a sigh of relief. After a very stormy process, they’ve got themselves a crowd-pleasing hit.

THE HEIDI CHRONICLES * out of ****
MUSIC BOX THEATRE

Oh dear. I was warily looking forward to seeing this revival of The Heidi Chronicles, though I feared the beloved Wendy Wasserstein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play had been wildly overpraised in 1988 and would not date well. To be fair, this is a weak production. But I doubt even an ideal one would do more than bring back misty memories of when a female playwright seemed bold just for being present and commanding attention. Luckily, we have a lot more substantial female playwrights around, thanks in part to Wasserstein (though not nearly enough). So we can treat this simply as a play and not the pathbreaker it was.

The story depicts the chronicles of Heidi, though when a secondary character makes that reference it seems odd and out of place. She’s far from the most storied member of her circle and often seems like a bystander in life, at least as seen here. Nonetheless, we meet the esteemed art historian Heidi Holland giving a lecture on important but overlooked female painters throughout history in 1989.

Then we flash back to Heidi meeting the two major men in her life: best pal and future out gay man Peter Patrone (Bryce Pinkham, very appealing) and brash, masculine, confident and smart Scoop Rosenbaum (a fine Jason Biggs). Scoop is untrustworthy in love and Heidi proves the touchstone of his life as Scoop marries and cheats and makes loads of money. What might his life had been if he’d proven worthy of her? She would have married him, Scoop declares. Yes, but I wouldn’t have stayed married to you, Heidi replies in one of the better retorts in this retort-heavy affair.

We dance through decades, charting the progress of women and gays, successful careers, the launch of Scoop’s magazine for Baby Boomers, a pal’s TV producing career, the spectre of AIDS and so on. It’s a quick, superficial trip so you better not blink.

This production has many faults such as an ugly set design that combines sort-of period furniture with slapped-on visuals from each era, as well as atrocious costumes that look like the sort of thing you’d don for a very broad SNL sketch. Indeed, the entire evening feels like a series of strung-together SNL sketches, from the feminist consciousness raising segment to a local TV segment where the otherwise thoughtful Peter is suddenly cutting off Heidi in mid-sentence to score his moment in the sun. (We expect that from Scoop, not Peter.) And again Heidi remains passive, though when she later describes not scoring better on this eight minute segment on a local TV show as one of the major regrets in her life, I can only hope she’s joking.

But the major flaw is the play itself, which begins superficially and gets worse. Take Heidi’s friendship with Peter. He is the best and most enduring relationship she has. And yet, they barely seem on the periphery of each other’s lives. We see them meeting, we see him coming out, we see them re-connecting, we see them at weddings and so on. But they always seem to be catching up. Towards the end, Heidi hasn’t been able to reach him for a while and interrupts Peter to say she’s taken a teaching job far away and leaving the city, a massive change in her life that Peter knows nothing about even though they live in the same city. He breaks down because it’s the late 1980s and friends are the only family a gay man has. Why is he sad and angry? Because all his friends are dying; all he does is go to funeral after funeral and memorial service after memorial service. Doesn’t she understand?

But what the hell? This is news to her? Isn’t she attending at least some of these funerals? Her best friend is gay, works in medicine, indeed shields HIV positive children from bigots, he’s losing friends and lovers left and right and Heidi has to be told what’s going on? That would make sense if they hadn’t spoken in years. But as far as I can tell, they’re best friends.

Her female friends seem even more distant. The consciousness raising segment doesn’t feel like a scene where Heidi makes friends for life. It’s just a series of jokes. When Scoop’s wife and a friend of Heidi’s seem to know each other, I’m confused. How did their paths cross? When all these women seem to know Scoop is cheating yet again, I’m even more confused. They barely seem to know each other; when do they trade gossip?

Heidi’s best female friend (or at least longest, since by and large Heidi seems alone) swoops in from LA and pitches Heidi on coming up with ideas for a sitcom set in the art world. Has she met Heidi? Heidi is the least pop savvy, least sitcom-friendly person around. She is (presumably) immersed in the art of past centuries. What could conceivably make Heidi seem like a good idea for a consultant on a sitcom? And are they really friends? They keep saying so but it’s hard to believe.

Indeed, the entire show feels disconnected. Elizabeth Moss is a marvelous actor on film. I’m not sure her style will transmit to the stage but she certainly doesn’t have her legs yet. Wonderfully subtle and compelling on Mad Men, here she seems to have wandered into most scenes and barely draws your eye. Moss and everyone else seem to be speaking in italics, which is my phrase for when scripted dialogue sounds exactly like scripted dialogue. You almost start to look for the cue cards. Pinkham does this from the start and almost to a fault. At first I thought it was an adolescent tick for his character; but he continues throughout the show. And yet his performance is the most effective one here, somehow. Biggs is fine but all the rest feel like stock characters given stock characterizations. I was just thinking how I hate plays and movies that echo a line of dialogue from early in the work to remind us of the connection that these characters have…and then this show does it. Twice. Both men and Heidi recite so much dialogue from the first time they met some 20 years earlier I wondered why they didn’t just do a flashback.

Heidi is a very passive character and frankly uninteresting character. The only time she really shows any personality is when she’s alone on stage, delivering a speech or lecture. But even here Wasserstein undercuts her heroine. It would be nice to know Heidi is a pro at her career if a bit lost in her private life (a cliche, but still). Instead, even her lectures are undercut by some goofy attempts at humor when surely Heidi should be razor sharp. And her big monologue is a speech about the future of women where she breaks down weeping. That’s the peak for our strong, independent female who is forging her own path in life? When Heidi adopts a baby towards the end, it feels like an accessory, no more meaningful a step for her than the acclaimed scholarly work she published feels like a real career peak.

This is thin stuff un-enlivened by the star power on display. Perhaps a powerhouse actress with stage chops could bring something more to the character of Heidi, make her not seem a bystander in her own play. But that wouldn’t change the fact that The Heidi Chronicles is a dated time capsule — one of those time capsules lodged in cornerstones in small towns all over the country. It contains the usual items — events of the day, “timely” issues, pop songs, hair styles, political and social references and so on. It’s not particularly unique or revealing and when you get right down to it, not very interesting.

THE TALLEST TREE IN THE FOREST ** out of ****
BROOKLYN ACADEMY OF MUSIC

Actor and activist Paul Robeson is a fascinating, even tragic character. Once the most influential and well known black man in America, he fell under the wheel of the McCarthy Era and died a shadow of his former self in the 1970s. We’re still waiting for a great movie or miniseries or stage play that tackles this titanic figure. This one-man show written and performed by Daniel Beaty is a potent reminder of Robeson’s remarkable trajectory. But Beaty simply isn’t up to the demands of creating multiple characters on stage and delineating them one from the other on a dime. It’s cleanly directed by Moisés Kaufman with all the tech elements nicely judged. I’d happily hear Beaty give a lecture on Robeson. Unfortunately, a stage play that feels more like a lecture is not so satisfying.

The Tallest Tree In The Forest begins with Robeson being commanded to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the 1950s. Then it jumps back to his childhood and the tragic loss of his brother out of Robeson’s life, his academic achievements and how he almost stumbled into performance. Actually, even here the play drops the ball: Robeson is an excellent student and then out of nowhere we’re told he gives concerts to raise money to pay his tuition. Really? When did he discover his voice? How did it flourish? Were these concerts the first time he performed in public beyond say the church choir? The arts would prove his calling but we miss how it all began.

The show moves on, with Robeson becoming a lawyer but quitting out of disgust for the virulent prejudice he faced. He’s cast in the London production of Show Boat, becomes a star and yet still finds prejudice wherever he turns. A chance encounter with a coal miners’ march lights an activist fire, illuminating here what Beaty failed to do with Robeson’s musical passion. Soon he is constantly balancing his performances with calls for social justice. Robeson is treated with honor and respect in the Soviet Union, a country where officially all races are treated equally in its governing document. That sparked a passionate appreciation for communism, one that would ultimately doom our hero in the eyes of the public.

His life is so complex and rich, a show about it can’t help but be interesting. Still the play Beaty has written is of the very blunt variety. Robeson’s father might walk up and say, “Son, I’m so proud of you. You’re the third black man to attend this university.” Or Robeson might say to a woman he’s just met, “I’ve heard of you. You’re the first black woman to achieve such a high position at this institution….” I’m paraphrasing but you get the idea; information is ladled out in chunks.

Worse, Beaty is not a master of multiple characters. His attempts at a Welsh coal miner and a Jewish dissident are unfortunate in the extreme, but many people come and go via awkward, unconvincing attempts at characterization.

Even Robeson himself has an accent that wanders here and there. Yes, sometimes Robeson is speaking one way in public and another in private, but by and large it’s a failing on the actor’s part. I was often unsure who was talking; in a one-man show, that’s death. Keeping each character specific and clear so we always know who is speaking is essential. Beaty is successful at creating two vivid characters, both women. Robeson’s wife Essie was always a distinct person and I knew immediately whenever she was speaking. Similarly, a brief monologue from a professor on why Robeson and indeed anyone who speaks up about class and labor is erased from US history also came alive for me.

Those are the exceptions, unfortunately. Along with the play’s didactic nature, it also fails to give Robeson his complicated due. Like many on the left that embraced the Soviet Union, he found it hard if not impossible to accept the brutal reality of that totalitarian state. Fair enough, but here Robeson is almost noble in refusing to listen to the pleas of Jewish friends and denounce their treatment and indeed execution in the USSR. And why? Because he’s worried about enabling a third world war and nuclear annihilation. It’s a little more complicated than that in the show, but not much. Robeson led a remarkable life and it’s easy to see why Beaty or anyone would burn to tell this story. But doing it well is another matter entirely.

THEATER OF 2015

Honeymoon In Vegas **
The Woodsman ***
Constellations ** 1/2
Taylor Mac’s A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music 1930s-1950s ** 1/2
Let The Right One In **
Da no rating
A Month In The Country ** 1/2
Parade in Concert at Lincoln Center ** 1/2
Hamilton at the Public ***
The World Of Extreme Happiness ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year 1915-1940 **
Verite * 1/2
Fabulous! *
The Mystery Of Love & Sex **
An Octoroon at Polonsky Shakespeare Center *** 1/2
Fish In The Dark *
The Audience ***
Josephine And I ***
Posterity * 1/2
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame **
Lonesome Traveler **
On The Twentieth Century ***
New York Spring Spectacular ** 1/2
The Heidi Chronicles
The Tallest Tree In The Forest * 1/2

_____________

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming website BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.
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