Mary Poppins on Broadway – a MUST see

The Practically Perfect Play

Mary Poppins the musicalMary Poppins, the musical, is on tour — currently at the New Amsterdam theater at 42nd Street on Broadway — where I went with the family last week.  It is a show I strongly recommend, providing you see the lead played by the exquisite Laura Michelle Kelly.  Ms Kelly had just returned to the show after a 4-month absence to shoot a film, so we were exceedingly fortunate to see her play the part of Mary Poppins.

If, at the beginning of the show, I was nervous because the acoustics did not seem to be optimized, I was utterly blown away by the performance of Ms Kelly.  She combines a beautiful voice, wonderful grace and a beguiling beauty. Laura Michelle Kelly I was entranced by the sparkle in her eye: contagious pleasure.  No wonder she has won acclaim and awards for her role.

The set was splendid and Gavin Lee, also a well decorated performer, plays a great Bert, singing one of my all-time favorite show tunes: “Chim Chim Cher-ee.”  If some of the other supporting roles were less powerful, little would sway from me from wanting to see this version of Mary Poppins again.

Some trivia

A little “trivia” about Mary Poppins:  Do you know who was the author of the original book (written in 1934)?  It was Pamela Lyndon Travers, OBE (originally Helen Lyndon Goff, per wikipedia).  Ms Travers was an Australian-born British novellist, who refused to make a film at first after Disney’s initial approaches.  It was not until 1964 that Disney managed to gain the rights and produce the wonderful film version with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyck.

The only thing missing from the musical is the song “I Love to Laugh”… Then again, that’s a good reason to go watch the film again.

Sending y’all some sugar

On a final note, Mary Poppins features the most memorable song: “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down…”   When this play was written, it was not known that sugar – which means “love” in southern slang – would become one of the world’s plagues.   Maybe they could convert the text to “a spoonful of love”?

In any event, please go and see the play if you have a chance.  It will surely bring a light step to your walk and a smile to your face.

Spamalot Monty Python Review NYC

Monty Python Spamalot on BroadwayQuick Review of Monty Python’s Spamalot on Broadway, NYC

Spam, spam, spam, bacon & spamalot – internet emails meet On Broadway ?

While in New York, my wife and I had a 4th July evening to ourselves (celebrating our independence) and decided to hit Broadway. Our choice: Spamalot at the Shubert Theatre, NYC. It was a gamble. On the one hand, I am a die hard Monty Python fan (and my kids are fast joining the band) ; on the other hand, such British humour was likely to be difficult for Yendi, my French wife (although her English is fully fluent).

Directed by Mike Nichols and based on a book by original MP star Eric Idle, Spamalot features an entirely new score (by John Du Prez and Eric Idle). Running since March 2005, it has won three Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical of the 2004–2005 season.

The irony of the play was that it was a hit with my wife and less so for me. The story is fun and certainly is loyal to spirit of the mythical 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. The tagline says that Spamalot is “(lovingly) ripped off from the motion picture.” However, Spamalot is also a substantially watered down version of Monty Python humour, replete with wildly « easy » moments. Among the more « interesting » moments, however, was the song entitled, “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” that features the line « You just won’t succeed on Broadway, If you don’t have any Jews! » How true — especially in New York.

Wikipedia comments on the views of the original MP team with a wide array of opinions. Cleese, who gave his voice to God in Spamalot, apparently was favourable. However, Terry Jones who co-directed film with Gilliam, said in an interview with Entertainment News, “Spamalot is utterly pointless. It’s full of air… Regurgitating Python is not high on my list of priorities.” Evidently, there was also a feeling of bitterness regarding the unshared commercial success (to Eric Idle’s benefit).

Plabill spoof – a highlight

Meanwhile, the Spamalot Playbill features a surprising hoax section, where all the normal information is transliterated into a Finnish version of the musical (“Finns Ain’t What They Used To Be”). Particularly impressed by the EVP, Vlad the Impaler Wankel. This part of the Playbill was apparently written by Michael Palin (who gave the musical a less-than-positive review himself). The Finnish section also advises “Patrons are asked not to smoke or speak Swedish in the theatre. Please use cell phones whenever possible.”

Spamalot is currently also running in London, Las Vegas and Melbourne (where it is apparently flopping), with a Spanish version in the works. Clearly, it is doing well — bringing a “democratic version” of Monty Python to the masses. And, there is some kind of international competition — verified by the Guinness Book of World Records — on the world’s largest coconut orchestra. The new record was set when 5,567 people, led by the cast from the London production, along with the two Terrries (Jones and Gilliam), armed with coconuts performed “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” in Trafalgar Square. Will the folks down go nuts enough to break the latest record?

In an era of changing and updating the initial film, I missed the opportunity to link the spam skit to the internet spam.

Overall, I give Spamalot a notawholelot rating and a 2.5/5.0 star review. Anyone else have an opinion to share?

For a few reviews: try New York Times, Popwatch Blog (some good comments), and a fun blog called Dressing.

A Difference between Men and Women

Are Men and Women So Different?

Women waiting at the toiletAn advocate of diversity and a student of women’s studies at university, I keep an eagle eye on topics concerning equality. That said, there are also many ways to express and give value to the differences between men and women.

A few years ago, it was determined (by scientists) that there were just 78 differences in our genetic codings (between men and women). Read this BBC article for a quick recap on that point along with a fairly long but enjoyable compilation of people’s thoughts on the subject. Suffice it to say, there is a latent need to recognize the differences, and the following paragraph is a case in point. Equality sometimes takes accepting, even celebrating the differences.

Women Men DifferenceA fairly recent editorial article entitled “The woman in the Men’s” by Garrison Keillor in the Herald Tribune caught my attention. The issue at hand is the inequality of the public bathroom experience for women and men to the extent that, for example at intermission at theatres, women have long queues to deal with, while men hustle through in time for a drink at the bar. Keillor suggests, and I thoroughly agree, that architects should allow for toilets to allow equal through traffic. it seems ludicrously dogmatic to create toilets the same size considering the time it takes to consummate the act for each sex, as well as the space requirements of a urinal versus a stall. However, contrary to Keillor, perhaps for living in Europe most of my life, I see no offence to women “breeching the door marked MEN.” Hurray for the New York state of mind. Anyway, good pause for reflection for anyone in the throes of planning a public space. [If you are looking for an odd blog, here is one about toilets and, more specifically, about a portable toilet for cars from Japan.]

And, while I am on the topic of equality, here is an interesting article from the BBC on the benefits of women in the workforce: Why companies need female managers. Again, many complementary aptitudes and attitudes.

Updated: And, finally, a video excerpt (5m32) entitled “Tale of Two Brains” by Mark Gungor that plays out with a very balanced sense of humour — generalisations notwithstanding — the difference between how men and women think. It is likely to draw a smile. Note the good prop.

Favorite quote: “men’s brains are very unique!… we’ve got boxes everywhere and the rule is, the boxes don’t touch…” and “Women’s brains are a big ball of wire and everything is connected.” And, on this latter point, it is hard not for me to make a reference to the opportunity for connectedness on the ‘Net.

Riverdance in Paris

Riverdance ParisWe went to see the very last performance of Riverdance at Palais des Congrès, Porte Maillot, along with the intimate 1,000 people… Although our seats were not fantastic, way out on the left hand side, the quality of the production was top notch and the handy binoculars brought the feet action up close.

This was the third time we had seen Riverdance, once in New York’s Radio City Hall, once in Montreal and now in Paris. Over its 12 years of existence (the journey began in Dublin in 1995), that is beginning to sound like Cirque de Soleil status (which I have seen 7 times in the same period). Not that I have seen much differentiation in the Riverdance shows I have seen, but the journey through different lands and emotions remains enthralling.

Riverdance Trading TapsThe highlight of the show is a piece called Trading Taps (left), a duel Spinning Skaterbetween two jazzy tap dancers and three Irish dancers. There is also an act where a woman crouches down and, balancing on one foot, is spun by a man standing behind her at absolutely the fastest I have ever seen a person spin… well beyond the spinning of an figure skater (right). for example, or the whirling dervish.

In any event, Riverdance, with its journey around the world–and the mix of dance with live music, singing and story-telling–is a recipe for a good family time. For those of you in other European cities on the Riverdance tour, enjoy. And don’t forget the binoculars if your seats are not up close.

Nos Amis Les Bobos – Piece à Paris

Cette pièce comique, écrite et mise-en-scène par Mr Alain Chapuis, est un vrai délice. Rempli avec un humour qui permet de se moquer de soi-même, “Nos Amis Les Bobos” est une petite pièce qui remet les snobs Bobos dans leur place. Ma femme et moi avons bien rigolé. Les acteurs ont même été pris, pendant quelques instants, par le fauxfou-rire d’une femme dans l’audience.

Il s’agit de quatre couples qui, avec des relations complexes — voire tordues — qui aiment Arte et les expositions de Fernando Botero, qui sont « Politically Correct » (i.e. ouvert à l’homosexualité), qui s’opposent à la mondialisation, le racisme et la pauvreté. Ils sont même fans du Vélib. Mais, ils vivent pas mal. Ils se décident, un peu par hasard, d’aller en Afrique pour accomplir un voyage humanitaire – sous la bannière du tourisme équitable. Parfois grotesque dans son propos (et ça crie beaucoup), cette comédie fait surtout beaucoup rire. Petite salle qui, au complet, permet seulement 80 places – donc intime.

Théâtre Mélo d’Amélie: 4, rue Marie Stuart – 75002 Paris
Métro Etienne Marcel

Pour d’autres avis, voir:
Oldi Blog
Le Blog de Gladys

Alain Delon on stage

Yendi (my stunning wife) and I went to see “Sur la Route de Madison” (French version of Bridges over Madison County) at the Marigny Theatre. I’d explain it more as: I went to watch Yendi watch Alain Delon… and, as it turned out, it was also about Alain looking at Yendi on more than one occasion (at the curtain call). Ok, I got to see Mireille Darc (in the buff at one point) who did a fine effort. Alain’s natural aging (71 years old, no tucks at all) gives him an authenticity in the role of Richard Kinkaid, the photographer of the covered bridges. It’s a great story told by a couple with a lot of history. One could not help smiling with Delon (as Kincaid) says “and yes, there have been a few women in my past.” And, given the setting of the play in Iowa, with references to places like “Des Moines,” there were several lines that could have been interpreted as commentary, if not criticism, on the US broadly speaking (e.g. Francesca [Darc] given her European heritage complaining about the lack of culture…). All in all, more a walk down memory lane than a great performance.