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Monday, November 30, 2009

AuburnPub.com - Family tragedies a moving memoir

AuburnPub.com - Family tragedies a moving memoir
The Kids Are Alright is a fantastic memoir written by four siblings who lost their parents within a year of each other and ended up split apart.

Meeting Regis Philbin

Is there anyone who doesn't know who Regis Philbin is? He and his lovely wife Joy, who looks fabulous, have recorded a CD of duets titled Just You. Just Me..

They held a CD signing at Barnes and Noble Lincoln Triangle in NYC on November 30, the day before Regis goes into the hospital to have hip replacement surgery. The crowd was told that Regis and Joy would not be speaking, just signing the CD and leaving. But the moment Regis and Joy arrived, it was clear that they would spend time with their fans.

They were so gracious, and Regis poked fun at the sparse crowd (maybe 75 people showed up), but he gave those people a great show. He talked about how the CD came about. He harkened all the way back to his childhood and his love of Bing Crosby. He listened to Bing on the radio, and wanted to become Bing when he grew up.

He told of graduating from Notre Dame and how he decided to tell his parents that he wanted to become a singer, after they put him through college. He brought them into a room on graduation day at Notre Dame and sang "Pennies from Heaven". He said that his Italian mother had tears running down her face, and his Irish father was making a fist in anger. A classic Regis story told in his inimitable style!

Then he moved on to his career meeting Joey Bishop, working as the announcer on his show and getting to sing "Pennies from Heaven" to Bing Crosby when he appeared on Joey's show. His love and admiration for Bing is genuine.

Joy told how she played piano as a girl and loved singers like Sarah Vaughn and Edye Gorme. Regis also pointed out his neighbors and good friends Alan and Arlene Alda who showed up to support Regis and Joy. I got to meet Alan and told him how much I enjoyed his books and how my son loved his portrayal of Arnie Vinick on "The West Wing". I forgot to tell him he wrote, directed and starred in one of all-time favorite movies "The Four Seasons"!

Regis and Joy were so kind to everyone as they signed CDs and even personalized them. I told them that they are such good examples of married life and Regis gave me one of his patented looks- it was priceless! I wished him well on his surgery tomorrow and was on my way.

Meeting Regis was one of the high points of NYC life. He was just as he is on TV, so funny and genuine, and I felt like I was watching him doing host chat as he talked about how he came to record his CD. Enjoy the pictures!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BURN THE FLOOR tears it up

Fans of Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance can't miss Broadway's Burn the Floor, a two hour non-stop salute to dance playing on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre.

I saw a preview of the show at Bryant Park's weekly Broadway series in August. The energy from the dancers on the small stage was contagious. After seeing that, I put it on my must-see list of shows.

Burn the Floor has eighteen dancers from all over the world, plus two dancers from either Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance. (Pasha and Anya performed when I saw the show.) Singers Ricky Rojas and Rebecca Tapia add an extra bit of spice to the show.

The show is divided into four sections, Inspirations, Things That Swing, The Latin Quarter and Contemporary. I liked the Latin Quarter best, with Tanguera my favorite performance, although Proud Mary from the Contemporary set was a close second.

The waltzes were so lovely and delicate, like the dancers were floating on air, and the Latin dances tore up the stage with their high octane energy. The dancers dance down the aisle of the theater, and I saw a older woman who ached to join them. This theater should install seat belts to keep the audience from jumping up because it is that difficult to not want to join in the fun.

The show is non-stop and these dancers go all-out. Giselle Peacock was a standout performer, not an easy task among all of the talented dancers on that stage. If you want something that will wake you up and make you want to run out and sign up at Arthur Murray, run over to Burn the Floor before the show ends in January.

Hugh Jackman & Daniel Craig...swoon

Sometimes big stars in Broadway shows don't translate into success. That is not the case with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig in A Steady Rain, a two character play by Chicago playwright Keith Huff.

Jackman and Craig play two Chicago cops, best friends forever. Craig's Joey is a single, alcoholic, lonely guy. Jackman's Denny is married with kids, the kind of guy who always seems to be taking care of everyone around him.

The characters tell their story about an incident the author based on a true story of two Chicago cops who unknowingly returned a young Vietnamese boy they found on the streets to serial killer Jeffrey Dahlmer, who claimed to be related to the boy. Dahlmer later killed the boy.

The actors are both quite good in their roles, and both characters are not what they appear to be in the beginning. Their friendship and partnership change during the course of the play, which is a tight 90 minute show. The audience slowly learns the truth about these two men, as events spiral out of their control.

This is more an actor's play than a writer's play, set up to showcase two fine performers, who more than give the audience their money's worth. Their Chicago accents are perfect, and I was there at a matinee during preview performances when a cell phone rang during the show and Craig, in character, told the person to go ahead and answer the phone, we'd wait. This happened at more than one show, and someone actually videoed Jackman yelling at someone and it ended up on YouTube. It's a clever way to deal with this problem which I have seen repeatedly at Broadway shows. Even more annoying are the people who leave the phones on vibrate- WE CAN STILL HEAR IT- TURN IT OFF!

Now that I have that off my chest, go see A Steady Rain for the strong performances by two of Hollywood's hunkiest leading men. They are not difficult to stare at for an hour and a half.

Harry Connick Jr. Sings Love Songs

Bloomingdales hosted Harry Connick Jr. as they revealed their holiday windows for 2009. The set up was, let's say interesting, as they had people standing on 3rd Ave., with traffic zooming by. I don't think the rush hour drivers appreciated two lanes of traffic being closed off.

People waited in the street and across the street on the sidewalk. The manager of the Bloomingdales store introduced three contemporary ballet dancers who performed a dance to U2's "Vertigo". I don't attend the ballet much, but the dance didn't do much for me.

Then the manager came back to introduce Harry Connick Jr., who wasn't there yet. The first rule of emceeing an event- make sure the performer is ready to take the stage before you introduce him.

Finally, out came Harry Connick Jr., who joked about his dressing room in the personal shopper's area and the fact that Bloomingdales won't give him a discount. I really enjoy his snarky sense of humor- he's as funny as he is a good singer.

Connick opened up with a jazzy version of The Carpenter's "Close to You", which is fantastic. He segued into the Beatles' "And I Love Her", which I remember singing at my cousin Bonnie's wedding. (FYI- Connick sings it better than me). He also performed "Mona Lisa", Elton John's "Your Song" and my favorite "The Way You Look Tonight", all accompanied by a 15 piece orchestra. The songs are from his new CD, "Your Songs", which has lots of great songs, including my wedding song "Can't Help Falling In Love With You". This is a terrific wedding song CD.

The first 50 people who bought his new CD got to meet Connick and get it autographed, and I was lucky number 24. He's a very handsome man, and he was nice enough to pose for a photo with a mom and her young daughter who were in line ahead of me. "Your Songs" would make a wonderful Christmas gift for someone you love, and if you know of a bride and groom heading for the altar, it would be perfect.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Love, Loss and What I Wore

Love, Loss and What I Wore is a show written by sisters Nora and Delia Ephron. Five actresses sit in chairs on the small stage and read stories told in women's voices about clothes and how it relates to their lives.

While waiting for the show to start, the music played was fabulous- all songs about clothes. Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors", Prince's "Raspberry Beret", Bruce Springsteen's "Girls in Their Summer Clothes"; it made me want to create a new playlist for my IPod.

The five actresses on the stage the day I saw it were Mary Louise Wilson, Lisa Joyce, Mary Birdsong, Tyne Daly and Jane Lynch. Lynch (GLEE, 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, ROLE MODELS) got the loudest applause when she took the stage. I'm so glad that she is getting the recognition she deserves; she is one of the funniest actresses working today.

Tyne Daly looks fabulous and she is fantastic. I would pay to listen to her read the phone book. She works so well with the others, they all worked like a well oiled machine.

Many of the stories were so relatable- the one on bra fittings, the one about a great pair of boots, why we always wear black. The audience laughed with recognition.

Some of the stories were funny, some poignant. Tyne Daly read one that sounded like it was Rosie O'Donnell's story (Rosie is listed as a story contributor). A young girl recalls that when her mother died, her father took the children on a trip to Belfast, Ireland. When the family returned home, all of her mother's clothes were gone from the closet.

The young teen girl recounts seeing her new stepmother wearing a maroon velour zip bathrobe, and she remembered that her deceased mother had the same robe in electric blue. When she told her stepmother that her mother had the same robe, the stepmother never wore it again.

Tyne Daly also read a story about purses and how women carry their lives around in them. I recognized myself in that one for sure. I can never find anything in my purse, even though I have everything in there (just in case the world ends and I am caught outside of my home).

The cast of the show rotates every few weeks, and it's a good one to take in with your girlfriends or sisters or mother. It may even make you want to clean out your closet and remember all of the great clothes that bring back strong memories. Nora and Delia Ephron did a terrific job putting these stories together.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Harlan Coben kept me up for hours last night

I should know better than to start a Harlan Coben book ten minutes before the World Series game between the New York Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies. Thinking I could start Long Lost and then put the book down while I watched the game was foolish.

Once Coben gets his hooks into you, you're stuck. His tightly crafted story keeps you turning the pages until you finish the book and realize that not only has three hours flown by, but so has the baseball game.

But during those three hours, the reader is captivated. Long Lost is the newest entry in Coben's Myron Bolitar series, but if you haven't read any of his other Myron books, you will still be able to enjoy the story without being lost.

Bolitar is a sports/entertainment agent in New York City. He receives a phone call from a woman he had a torrid affair with ten years ago, asking him to join her in Paris. Although memories might make any man run for the first available flight, Myron is involved with a single mom who lost her husband in 9/11.

Myron and his loyal best friend/multimillionaire Win (think Bruce Wayne/Batman) are forced into a fight with a bully of a middle school basketball coach (anyone who has ever been involved in youth athletics will recognize the type). The coach humiliated Myron's girlfriend's son in front of a gym full of people, and when Myron calls him out on it, violence follows.

Myron's girlfriend tells him that she is moving to Arizona, and when word comes down that the coach and his buddies are cops and Myron and Win could be in serious legal trouble for the beating they gave them, Myron decides that a trip to Paris is a good idea.

Nothing is ever easy in Myron's life, so naturally his trip to Paris is fraught with danger. Terese, his long lost love, has brought him to Paris to help her find her ex-husband, whom she believes is in trouble.

Terese's ex-husband is murdered, and she becomes a suspect. While Myron tries to help her clear her name, he runs afoul of Paris law enforcement, and somehow Homeland Security, Israeli Mossad, and Interpol become involved. Add in some weird kind of cult, genetic disease, and the possibility that Terese's daughter whom she believed she killed in a car crash years ago may still be alive, and you've got yourself a barn burner of a story.

The great thing about Coben's books is that you never know where he is taking you. You can try to figure out where it is all going, but he always manages to surprise the reader in the end. You find yourself literally holding your breath as you read, and when you get to the end, you can finally let it out. Sometimes I'm surprised that I don't pass out from lack of oxygen before I finish reading.

His characters are well drawn, and Myron is one of the classic good guys in comtemporary fiction. His relationship with his parents is touching, and he and Win make one of the best buddy teams around.

One section of the book particularly interested me- Myron makes a visit to a doctor at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Center in New York, and I was so excited when I read that because my husband has a connection to the center. It was such a cool shout-out!

I give Long Lost my highest recommendation. If you are looking a thriller with terrific characters, a fun sense of humor (his one-liners are hysterical)and one that will keep you turning the pages, pick this one up. Then get busy with the rest of the Myron Bolitar novels.

Rating 4.5 of 5 stars