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March 2008
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Mask, The Pasadena Playhouse Musical

Mask Unfortunately I did not get to go to the Pasadena Playhouse and see the musical resurrection of the movie Mask. I only had one friend who was willing to go with me and then only with half-price tickets which were available but I was in France for most of the show's run and then my friend had to go to New York during the last week of the run. So no cookies for me. Or "I Ride With Rocky" buttons which were allegedly available in the lobby.

I was curious to hear the new songs written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (who have done Barry Manilow songs I have loved before). The musical also promised to flesh out the story a bit more with a longer running time. Unfortunately, the reviews weren’t all that great.

Sean Mitchell of the LA Times made these points:

“When a play or musical derives from a popular movie, even one more than 20 years old, it is hard -- if not impossible -- to put the film out of your mind, certainly when staged within commuting distance of Hollywood.”

“Allen E. Read, a young actor with a wonderful, emotive tenor, makes Rocky every bit as vivid and touching as Stoltz did. In the other two roles, however, the actresses tend to remind us of how good Cher and Dern were on-screen.”

“The main set, by Robert Brill, provides a painterly evocation of the Southern California suburbs, with a hazy sky dominated by power lines, dark palms and the crests of the San Gabriels. It is humble Azusa, to be precise...”

“A biker clan revealed as an unexpected cradle of homespun values is a hard sell, but it's the sort of transaction made possible through the wiles of Hollywood and musical theater.”

Mitchell actually liked the Mann and Weil music, but didn’t feel the cast pulled off the energy needed to perform them successfully. I was surprised to hear that the character Dozer had some lead vocals. Wasn't he was mute in the film? He sings "Close to Heaven,"

“describing to Rocky the transcendent experience of cruising the Black Hills of South Dakota on the way to an annual bikers' convention.” (Mitchell)

We can picture Cher there at that convention, no? Other songs include:

  • "Look at Me" sung near those fun-house mirrors.
  • "I Can't" with Rusty singing about drug abuse. Mitchell describes this number interestingly as “her cathartic Act 2 explanation to the Tribe (during an intervention) that her drug abuse is all about enduring the tragedy of her misshapen son. And for some reason, she bestows on Rusty an intrusive Brooklyn accent.”
  • "It's a Beautiful World" sung at blind camp when Rocky teaches Diana about colors.
  • "Planet Vulkturn" a song which Mitchell describes as “Rocky's stoically defiant response to being rejected by Diana's parents.”
  • "Do It for Love" with Rocky singing about The Trojan War in history class.
  • "A Woman So Beautiful" lovingly sung by Gar about Rusty.
  • "Every Birth" which Mitchell says is “describing every mother's hope for her newborn, slide projections reveal photographs of Rocky as a normal-looking adorable baby, followed by clinical pictures of his later, slowly emerging freakishness. Ouch. Try adding music to that.”

Overall Mitchell felt the musical was too long, a bit mawkish and not cohesive enough, even though the book was written by the screenwriter, Anna Hamilton Phelan, and the film’s makeup man Michael Westmore was also involved but couldn’t “rescue this overwrought idea from itself.”

Full review: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-mask24mar24,0,7180256.story

Another review on Blogcritics written by Robert Machray described the original film this way:

“The tearjerker was a highly successful vehicle for Eric Stoltz, Laura Dern, and the inimitable Cher.”

Inimitable. I love it. It means not capable of being imitated.

He goes on to say,

“Despite the fact that the story was based on real people, it was not the easiest movie to sit through despite its stellar cast and uplifting message. Add music to the mix, and believability is stretched too far.”

Like Mitchell, Machray likes the bike anthem “Look At Me” and “Planet Volturn” (these two reviews spell it differently...I always thought Cher was saying Planet Voltron, myself). But overall Machray says,

“The problem is that several of the numbers are delivered down center, as in a concert, doing nothing to further the action and serving only to tell us more about the character. This can make the show drag, especially at its staggering two hour and 45 minute length. The acting is also a mixed bag. While the principals are all quite good, the chorus is often, well, chorusy. The scenes in the classroom are quite obnoxious...”

However,

“The sets by Robert Brill evoke California's gorgeous sky, power lines, palm trees, and the San Gabriel Mountains.

Living in LA, I would have loved to have seen their depictions of the Inland Empire, which is the main thing that struck me after watching the movie Mask for the first time after moving here.

Full review: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/03/27/122433.php

The run ended on April 13 and wasn’t extended. Of Mice and Men is playing there in a few days.

   


While I Was Out - Cher Links Occurred

Cherphotocher6228347 Exactly how many Cher songs can one play at a wedding? Is there a Miss Etiquette rule on that? Hmmm. Anyway, thank you for your well wishes. I have lots of planning to do and would be grateful for any tips. Plus, I still have Paris-trip wrap-up to do. Hopefully next week. In the meantime, behold some new Cher links:

There was a great Entertainment Weekly blog post on Cher’s performance of West Side Story in her 1978 TV special and why this means Cher should perform every role in everything from now on.

Another blogger talks about the value on the dollar of a Cher Vegas show vs a Celine Dion Vegas show. She rambles a bit but I think I get her point: Cher is more than the sum of her parts. Is that the point?

And here's news! Yahoo Music’s list of the 10 most annoying singers of all time and Cher’s not on it!! What a relief. Unfortunately, Celine Dion is.

Apropos of nothing, I found that crazy picture of Cher while searching "Cher Store." I was hoping to find a sneak peak of the Caesars boutique soon to open. This photo, taken during for her many gym ads of the 80s post-Mask with her skunk-do, is crazy-odd. Is it the angle that’s so freakified?

   


The Bf of Cher Scholar Speaks Out

Chenanceua_2 I’m back from my two-week trip to Paris. It’s been a bit of a crazy week managing between personal announcements, dramas, getting back into the swing of work and dealing with my general jet lag and discombobulation being back in the United States. It will take me a bit to get back up to speed with CherStuff.

In the meantime I will make these two small posts. Before our trip my bf answered a question posted by jimmydeanPartee on March 25, 2008: 

I would like to know from your boyfriend -- what it is like being the significant-other of a SONNY & CHER fanatic like you and me...I ask because I know throughout my entire life everyone around seems jealous of my S&C devotion..plus, should IIIII ever get a boyfriend...

First of all, I’d link to point out the fact that this issue of finding a Cher-positive lover was once covered in my first Cher Zine, the answer to which appears on CherScholar.com: http://www.cherscholar.com/cherschool-2.htm#odyssey

However, this is John’s personal response:

I admit there was a time when I thought it'd be easier telling my friends I'd joined al Qaeda than admitting I was going to a Cher concert. But, after years of hiding in my cubicle at work surreptitiously listening to the new Cher-mix Mary had purchased off the Internet (which, by the way, always sounded strikingly similar to the last Cher mix Mary purchased off the Internet, except for some mystically incomprehensible rearrangement of the song order), hoping the ex-Marines I work with wouldn't be able to make out the tinny strains of "Do you believe in life after love" coming from my Walgreens headphones, I have honestly embraced Cher. Oh, believe me, there were still frequent moments of awkward silence, for example when I told my Harley-riding, Vietnam-veteran friend Andrew that I was traveling to La Jolla with Mary to hear the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus sing a tribute to Cher a few years back.

But over time, you begin not to notice the blank stares and gaping mouths so much, sort of the way black people, midgets, and hair bands must feel when they stop at hillbilly truck stops and must go in and order lunch from some toothless waitress who's afraid to approach their table for fear of catching something. But honestly, all it took was one trip to the Cher Convention and I was hooked. I met some of the most sincere, fun, and yes, completely obsessed people I've ever met (and I'm a former drunk!), and I love every one of them.

So, when you ask me what it's like living with a Cher fanatic, I'd have to say it's like 1962 and I'm a 26-year-old short Sicilian dude from Inglewood who just met a 15-year-old runaway dropout who looks kinda hot and I'm thinking to myself, maybe, just maybe, there's something here. In other words, it's pure excitement.

And, besides, you haven't lived until you've made love in a Sonny and Cher costume...I still haven't found that damn mustache!

Note to readers from Cher Scholar: I saw many things that reminded me of Cher in France (more pictures of such to come but here’s one above: the fabulous chateau Chenonceau on the Cher River). It was truly a trip of a lifetime in many ways, the highlights being the amazing food we ate, the mind-boggeling history (from Roman ruins to Napoleon’s tomb to James Joyce and Ernest Hemmingway sights near our lovely hotel in the Latin Quarter), and the walk home after one diner at a Turkish cafe (where I got a little tipsy on a small bottle of Turkish wine) where near the steps of The Pantheon my bf proposed marriage. After three years of witnessing wonton Cher obsession, my nagging health issues (my knee completely gave out in Paris and I swear I'm in the beginnings thoes of menopause), I answered simply that I hope he knows what he’s getting into.

   


The Click Song, 2004-Style

Makeba While I was in Paris, I saw nary a piece of French Cher product. Not for lack of looking for it once in a while. However, I did score a Miriam Makeba CD called Reflections from 2004. It consists of remakes of her most famous or favorite songs. As you know, on the 1968 Cher album Backstage, Cher covered Makeba's "The Click Song."

The remake of "The Click Song" on Reflections is lovely, modern and fresh. As are her remakes of "Mas Que Nada", "Xica De Silva" (a very kewl song), and "Pata Pata." Those are well-worth the album price. But the two jazz songs at the top of the album are quite dull (but note, I’m normally annoyed by any percussion sound that comes from a thing that looks more like a brush than a stick) and the feel-good pop-African songs at the end feel like filler.

I learned more about Makeba in the liner notes. She was banned from South Africa for her speaking out at the UN against Apartheid early in her career and lived as an ex-patriot in Guinea West Africa for many years. She recently opened (circa 2004) for Paul Simon's shows.

She'd be worth checking out.