Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Five- Volume 8

The Upper East Side has so many fabulous thrift stores, and many of them sell books. I've gotten some great books, some of them just a few months old, others older books by my favorite authors. This week's Friday Five is:

Five Terrific Books I've Found at the Thrift Stores


1. Crooked Little Heart by Anne LaMott. I fell in love with Anne's writing in Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith.  This year, Imperfect Birds,  was published, and I got to see Anne at a reading and meet her. Imperfect Birds continues the story of Rosie and her Mom and was so heartfelt and real. I found the second book in the series, Crooked Little Heart, and was so excited. I'm on the lookout for the first book, Rosie.


2. When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson.  I've never read Kate Atkinson, but I've so many good things about her writing, and this book from 2008 got so much good word, I had to pick it up.

3. the Condition by Jennifer Haigh. Haigh wrote one of my all-time favorites, Mrs. Kimble, and I was thrilled to find her latest book about a troubled family and their vacation on Cape Cod.

4. Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear.  Winspear writes the Maisie Dobbs series, about a female private investigator in post- World War I England. They are mysteries for more literary-minded people, and this is the 6th novel in the series.

5. The Privileges by Jonathan Dee. I found this gem of a novel but a few months after it published in hardcover and nearly squealed with joy when I saw it. It is about a wealthy New York City family, and I found it intriguing.

Have you found any great buys at thrift stores near you?


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Cyndi Lauper rocks at CBS Early Show performance

I got to see and hear the lovely and talented Cyndi Lauper perform for CBS Early Show (airdate July 30). She was fabulous, singing two songs from her new blues CD Memphis Blues- Crossroads and Rollin and Tumblin. I have the CD and it is terrific; she has the perfect voice for the blues.

She also sang "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun", which turned into a huge crowd sing-a-long, and she closed with an acoustic version of "True Colors".

Everyone loved her and after Harry Smith mentioned twice that she recently turned 57, Cyndi asked him "What am I- a car? You keep talking about my age!" Smith growled, "If you're a car, I want to take a ride".   Cyndi blushed and laughed.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday Five- Volume 7

In honor of this week's Major League Baseball All-Star game- congrats to the National League for its first win since 1996, and to Atlanta Braves' Brian McCann for being named the MVP- this week's Friday Five is:



Five Fabulous Major League Baseball Ballparks:

1. PNC Park in Pittsburgh- We have family in Pittsburgh and have been to the stadium a few times. It is a beautiful stadium, and anywhere you sit you get a great view of the game and a fantastic view of the Pittsburgh area with their three rivers. Now the Pirates just need to win.

2. Fenway Park in Boston- Fenway is an old-school stadium, reveling in the glory of baseball when it was still the national past time. And there is nothing like seeing the Green Monster up close. It must be very romantic too, because every time we've been there, some guy has proposed to his girl.

3. Turner Field in Atlanta- Although it is ungodly hot to watch a baseball game in Atlanta in August (let alone three), I love Turner Field. I like that they have an area where families can bring in their own food and have a picnic before the game. They have lots of activities too and the best pretzels around- dipped in butter. (It was the only food I ate for three days, so I didn't feel too bad.)

4. Citi Field in New York- The Mets new ballpark is amazing, as befits the Amazings. The Jackie Robinson Rotunda is stunning- as you take the escalator up into the stadium, you can't help but be impressed. They also have Blue Smoke BBQ and Shake Shack burgers. There's always a line for Shake Shack, but for some reason, you can walk right up to Blue Smoke and get the best BBQ in NYC.

5. Yankee Stadium- The Yankees got a new stadium, and boy did they need it. Great Hall has huge banners of Yankee greats hanging to greet you as you enter the stadium, and the Monument Park is still there. I do like that the food stands have a credit card machine where you place you order and can skip the lines to get your food- very efficient. My husband likes to sit near Carl's Cheesesteaks. I like the Cuban sandwiches at Moes.







Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happening This Week in NYC- Vol. 4

Lots of books and Broadway going on this week:

Tuesday, July 13th- Jane Krakowski, best known for her roles on TV series Ally McBeal and 30 Rock has also wowed people on Broadway in Nine, for which she won a Tony. She has recorded a CD of her cabaret show from Feinstein's titled Jane Krakowski- The Laziest Gal in Town, and will appear at Barnes & Noble Lincoln Triangle singing songs and signing the CD at 5pm.

Tuesday, June 13th- Jennifer Weiner makes her annual July appearance at Barnes & Noble Lincoln Triangle on the release day of her newest novel, Fly Away Home at 7:30pm.

Tuesday, June 13th- One of my favorite authors, Susan Isaacs, will be reading, discussing and signing copies of her much anticipated new novel, As Husbands Go, at Barnes & Noble 86th St. at 7pm.

Wednesday, July 14th- War journalist and author Sebastian Junger (The Perfect Storm) will be discussing his newest book War, about his time spent with a group of American soldiers in a remote outpost in Afghanistan at the Word for Word Series at Bryant Park at 12:30pm.

Thursday, July 15th- Broadway at Bryant Park welcomes performances from Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot, South Pacific, Memphis and Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular at 12:30pm.

Thursday, July 15th- Cast members from Broadway's The Addams Family perform and sign copies of the cast recording CD at Barnes & Noble Lincoln Triangle at 4:30pm.

Thursday, July 15th- Author Jonathan Tropper discusses his book This is Where I Leave You with Allison Scotch Winn at Borders Columbus Circle at 7pm.

Friday, July 16th- The cast of Broadway's American Idiot will sing at Rumsey Playfield at Central Park as part of Good Morning America's Summer Concert Series at 7am.

Friday, July 16th & Saturday, July 17th- The Dave Matthews Band plays two shows at Citi Field, home of the NY Mets.










Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Five- Volume 6

This week's Friday Five is:

Five Things I Saw in Central Park Last Week:

Bethesda Fountain

There's always brides walking through the Park getting wedding photos taken.

This band usually plays here on Fridays- this week they added two dancers.

NYC has placed pianos in random spots and people just play them. This girl played Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'"

It was a gorgeous day to be out on a rowboat.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

PROMISES, PROMISES Cast Album Signing


This was a really fun event at Barnes & Noble! Check out the video at 1:32 in, you'll see me.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lend Me A Tenor


DSCN0502
Originally uploaded by bookchickdi
Take two actors known more for their TV roles (Tony Shalhoub of Monk and Anthony LaPaglia of Without a Trace) add an actor best known for being missing from most of the running of his smash hit movie (Justin Bartha of The Hangover- he played Doug, the missing groom), and throw in a Tony-nominated performance from Broadway vet Jan Maxwell, and you've got one of the funniest comedies to hit Broadway this year- Lend Me A Tenor.

Shalhoub plays Saunders, the General Manager of the Cleveland Grand Opera Company in 1934, in a perfectly tuned performance. Saunders has arranged for the great Italian tenor, Tito Merelli (LaPaglia), to appear in Othello as a fundraiser. I don't recall seeing LaPaglia in a comedy before and he is marvelous. He has a genius scene with Bartha, (who plays Max, Saunders' assistant and love interest to Maggie, Saunders' daughter) where he teaches Max how to warm up his vocal chords.

The scene is a physically comedic marvel, and both actors shine. At the matinee performance I attended, Bartha fell as he was supposed to, then as he tried to stand, he fell again, and he and LaPaglia tried to hide their laughter to no avail. The audience ate it up, as they did later in the play when Shalhoub and Bartha cracked each other up in a scene. Bartha is hilarious in this, his first Broadway show. He has a promising stage career ahead of him.

LaPaglia and Maxwell, as his volatile Italian wife Maria, are a comedy dream team. They scream at each other and it is gold. Maxwell also has a scene where she grabs a long pillow over her head and she falls backwards. At the Q&A session at Barnes & Noble, Maxwell described how she improvised that bit in rehearsal and it worked so well it, it became a high point in the show. The show could have used more of Maxwell, she is brilliant and lights up the stage when she is on it.

As a farce, timing is everything, and the actors have impeccable timing. Doors slam, people enter and exit, and it is a whirlwind of activity, all in service of the comedy. At Barnes & Noble, the cast tried to explain how it all worked, but honestly, watching farce is much more interesting than listening to people talk about farce.

I wasn't sure I would like the show, and other than the first act being a bit too long, which the actors acknowledged in the Q&A, it was a perfect comedy. Mary Catherine Garrison, who plays Mary, seems to have a lock on 1930's ingenues (she played one last season in Accent on Youth), Jay Klaitz makes the most of his scenes as the "boisterous bellhop", Jennifer Laura Thompson is a tough cookie as the diva, and it's so good to see Shalhoub's real wife, the fabulous Brooke Adams, back on stage. She shines in her few scenes as the Chairman of the Opera Board.

Lend Me A Tenor ends on August 15th. If you like a good laugh (actually, lots of good belly laughs), you'll love this show. The second act in particular is as good a comedy as I have seen in a long time.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

BAD MARIE is too good to put down



Some books grab you right away and others slowly seduce the reader. Marcy Dermansky's novel, Bad Marie, gets you from the first sentence, "Sometimes, Marie got a little drunk at work".

Marie is a nanny to her childhood friend Ellen's two-year-old daughter Caitlin. Ellen is a high-powered, hard-charging career woman, and Marie had recently been released after six years in prison for aiding her boyfriend who robbed a bank.

Marie loves Caitlin, but when she falls asleep in the bathtub with Caitlin and Ellen and her husband come home, Marie is fired. But not before she seduces the husband, the author of a book that Marie compulsively read in prison. The book, about a suicidal teenage girl who falls in love with a sick sea lion, was a lifeline for Marie, who identified with the girl.

Dermansky has created a unique character in Marie; she is all id, with no thought to the consequences of her actions. She never thinks beyond the immediate. It's almost child-like, like Caitlin. I wanted to dislike Marie, and should have, but I found it impossible.

I couldn't believe the situations that Marie found herself in, dragging the young Caitlin in tow. This is a book that you will find yourself whipping through to find out what could possibly happen next, yet it is not a plot driven book. It is all about Marie, who is she and how she came to be that way.

Water plays a large role in the book; Marie likes to takes baths, but it seems she can never truly cleanse herself. The character in her favorite novel kills herself by walking into the sea.

Men fare poorly in this novel. Marie's bank robber boyfriend kills himself in prison; the seduced husband is a weak man, and a fraud. Even the hero movie star turns out to be a cad.

Bad Marie is a quick read; the author wastes no words, they are all deliberately chosen to excellent effect. She has said that she was heavily influenced by French films, and the reader can see that influence in this stunning novel. Marie is a role that actresses would kill to play.

Rating 4.5 of 5

Thanks to Harper Perennial for providing an ARC of this book.

Broadway's next fall

The cast of next fall

I finally got the chance to see next fall, nominated for Best Play at this year's Tony Awards. Written by Geoffrey Nauffts, the play so impressed Elton John that he and his partner/husband David Furnish produced the show.

The play was wonderful, so poignant and funny, it is a shame it has closed. The ensemble of actors, Patrick Breen, Maddie Corman, Sean Dugan, Patrick Heusinger, Connie Ray and Cotter Smith, have been deservedly acclaimed for their performances. It reminded me of last season's The Norman Conquests in that way; the relationship between the actors was real and in the moment.

Breen merits special recognition for his portrayal of Adam, who is a 40-something sad sack of a guy. He works in a candle store owned by his friend, Holly, and just can't seem to get his life together. He can hardly believe his luck when 20-something cater waiter/actor Luke becomes his live-in boyfriend.

Luke (Heusinger) is a fundamental Christian who struggles with homosexuality; he often prays after sex and that freaks Adam out.   He hides who he is from his bigoted/racist father for fear that he will not be able to see his younger brother if his family knows he is gay. He tells Adam that he will come out to his family "next fall", when his brother is in college. But next fall never seems to come.

Smith is remarkable as Luke's bigoted, good ol' Southern boy father. He manages to make the father somewhat likeable, and when he uses a vile racial epithet in one scene, the audience audibly gasped.

Luke is involved in a bad car accident and is in a coma. Luke's father, and his mother, Arlene (the amazing Connie Ray) fly to New York, unaware that Adam and Luke have been living together for four years. Much of the action takes place in a hospital waiting room, and anyone who has been there will recognize the powerful dynamics among the loved ones there.

I really enjoyed the flashbacks to Adam and Luke's relationship. Watching it you realize that love and relationships are basically the same, no matter who is in them. People want to be loved and supported by the one who loves them.

 There are so many big things in this play- the meaning of family, love, friendship, loyalty, the role of religion- I found myself thinking about it long after the play ended. The ending is so sad, I sobbed all the way back to the subway.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Five- Volume 5

This week's Friday Five is:
Five Cool Things I've Done in the Last Two Weeks

1. Meeting Pat Benatar- 80s rock superstar Pat Benatar signed copies of her autobiography, Between a Heart and a Rock Place, at the Fifth Ave. Barnes & Noble. No photos were allowed, darn it, but it was so cool to meet her. She is very down-to-earth, and her book is fantastic. I love her music, and have lots of her songs on my Ipod. And she used to eat at our favorite neighborhood diner, Green Kitchen!

2. Meeting the cast of Broadway's Lend Me a Tenor- The cast did a Q&A at Barnes & Noble Lincoln Triangle, and I learned that while watching a farce is very funny, talking about it, not necessarily so. The show is very funny, and it was pretty cool to meet Tony Shaloub (TV's Monk, my mother-in-law's favorite), his wife actress Brooke Adams, Justin Bartha (who is terrific in this show), Jay Klaitz and the incomparable Jan Maxwell, who was nominated for a Tony for her role. If you get the chance to see this show before it closes on August 15th, do so. You will laugh your self silly.

3. Meeting author Carolyn Parkhurst- Parkhurst wrote the devastatingly sad Dogs of Babel, which still haunts me, as well as Lost and Found, which I listened to (narrated by the brilliant Blair Brown) on my Ipod when I used to walk my dog Malcolm.  Her new book is The Nobodies Album, which is another incredible, unique novel. She is not one of those authors who writes a book a year, but the wait for her novels is so worth it. I was disappointed that there weren't more people at the reading, she is one of the best authors working today.

4. Meeting the cast of Broadway's Million Dollar Quartet-  The cast of this show performed three songs from the cast recording at Barnes & Noble Lincoln Triangle. The show is about Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis singing together at Sun Studios in Memphis. They rocked out the place, singing "Blue Suede Shoes" gospel song "Down by the Riverside" and "Great Balls of Fire".  The performers look so young, and Tony winner Levi Kreis, (Jerry Lee Lewis) looks so much like Harry Connick Jr. they could be brothers. And Lance Guest (Johnny Cash) when not in costume, reminded me of Brad Garrett from Everybody Loves Raymond. 


5. Meeting the cast of Broadway's Promises, Promises- Sean Hayes is the funniest man on the planet. Everything that comes out of his mouth is hilarious, and he moderated a Q&A with the cast that was wonderful. Kristin Chenoweth is lovely and so sweet, she spoke so kindly to all of the fans who showed up (and there were over 300 of them- the crowd rivaled the one who came for Liza Minnelli's CD signing last year). Waiting in line over 2 1/2 hours was worth it see this fun-filled event.