New take on a timeless tale


We saw Beauty and the Beast on opening night. The movie is the live action version of the 1991 Disney cartoon. From the beginning to the final credits, it was both a tribute to the original and a beautiful stand-alone.


Belle is my favorite Disney “princess.” She’s a farm girl, daughter of an inventor (in this version, he’s an artist). She lost her mother at a young age. They are living in a small town where she is often misunderstood because she is bookish. (I love that word.) I wasn’t sure how I felt about Emma Watson being cast in the role. She’s a smart, beautiful young woman. I wasn’t sure if she could be Belle and not Hermione. She proved me wrong as she was Belle in appearance and spirit.

The cast is full of familiar favorites. They can sing and act. I know there were complaints about who played Mrs. Potts but I suppose Angela Lansbury passed up the role. A lot has been said about the Beast. No one is going to be happy when he becomes the Prince. (So everyone needs to calm down on that issue.)


Josh Gad as LeFou steals every scene where he is featured. He hams it up yet adds a human element to that character. He is a buffoon and a villain, though not as half as mean-spirited as Gaston. In this version, LeFou adds some camp to the film.

Music and additional scenes

I’m grateful didn’t have to listen to Ariana Grande and John Legend sing. (MAC makeup and sleek high pony aside, the girl just doesn’t do it for me.  Be mad!)  Nothing against John Legend but he’s no Peabo Bryson.  As for the new songs which have received mixed reviews, I thought they were appropriately placed into the plot.


I cried through the whole movie. I started during “Good Day” through “Beauty and the Beast “and “Something There.”  I cried the most during “Be Our Guest.” For one, it’s a Busby Berkeley-style over-the-top production number; a similar favorite is “Just Can’t Wait to be King” in The Lion King. “Be Our Guest” takes place in the enchanted castle’s dining room and kitchen.  It showcases traditional French cuisine and retells the story of the servants’ enchantment. It didn’t disappoint. At one point, I tearfully looked over at M and her mouth was literally hanging open.  “Be Our Guest” was one of M’s first competition dances. Aside from their cute costumes, they also had a big finish. I found myself remembering many key choreography moments from M’s dance so this added to my wistfulness.


The cuteness

On our way out, Rambo made mention of Belle being a victim of Stockholm syndrome.  I had a smart retort since I usually don’t expect him to have a serious read on pop culture. Still, I had no problem taking M to see this film.  Belle is one of the few Disney protagonists I like. Belle is a strong, smart woman.  Gaston shoulda, woulda, coulda been the right match but he was truly rotten whereas the Prince undergoes an n external and internal transformation. I recommend Beauty and the Beast; bring a sense of humor and sense of wonder.

A feel-good extravaganza: Theatre Review

Jersey Boys

“Why don’t you come out to my twist party?”

I love me some Broadway musicals. I love them big, bold and happy. I love strobe lights, fabulous singing and fabulous dancing. I love standing ovations and production number finales. Jersey Boys has just joined my short list of all-time faves.

This true story follows the Italian-American kings of doowop as they move from playing dives for mafiosos in the old neighborhood to national tours and American Bandstand gigs. Tommy is the founding papa, a street smart local with big dreams and a knack for recognizing talent. Along with buddy Nick, he takes little Frankie Castaluccio under his wing as Frankie’s falsetto wins them more fans. They are joined by teen songwriting sensation Bob Gaudio and become the Four Seasons. The road to fame is crooked as ever as the boys become men and face issues with drinking, gambling, petty crime, betrayal, and bad relationships. But they have heart through it all and end up Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members.

Jersey Boys is unique in its grittiness and in its genuine affection for the blue-collar roots of its subjects. The music is magical, the show full of Frankie Valli and the Four Season’s greatest hits including crowd faves “Sherri”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Walk Like A Man,” “Too Good to Be True” and my personal fave, “Dawn(Go Away.)” I have rediscovered one of my dad’s favorite groups and enjoyed a show I won’t soon forget.

Jersey Boys closes in San Francisco on September 30
Jersey Boys continues to play on Broadway

Nothing says romance like a mass murderer: Theatre Review

Sweeney Todd, ACT
“God, that’s good!”

My brother and sister in law celebrated their first anniversary last month. In keeping with the tradition of paper as the gift, I bought us all tickets to the national tour of Broadway’s recent revival of musical Sweeney Todd. Thanks to a subplot in Kevin Smith’s wrongly maligned Jersey Girl, even my frat boy brother has become a fan of The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Combine that with rave reviews on both coasts and a nearly intact Broadway cast and you have theatrical magic in the City by the Bay.

Sweeney Todd follows Benjamin Barker, a barber whose beautiful wife was brutally gang-raped and driven to suicide. He returns to London to find his long-lost daughter, Johanna, and take revenge on the crooked Judge Turpin and his henchman, the Beadle. Barker joins forces with equally bloodthirsty Mrs. Lovett and their combination barber shop and meat pie shop starts making money. It isn’t too long before others see the connection between vanished locals and the infamous pies.

Sweeney Todd has always been an anti-musical musical. It is morbid and dark, a story ridden with lust, murder, and obsession. There is no cutesy romance or happy ending. This latest incarnation is even more innovative. It boasts a cast that serves as its own orchestra and set crew. In other words, they act, dance, sing, play multiple instruments, and move the scenery and props. And they do all things amazingly well.

Bravo! Bring on the razors and creepy moments.

*Sweeney Todd plays at the ACT through October 14th

Not a warm and fuzzy neighborhood but worth a visit

Theatre Review: Avenue Q

2004 Tony Award winner Avenue Q has come to the Bay. Not surprisingly, the politically incorrect racy puppet show musical is playing to packed houses and sparkling reviews. I literally dragged my injured self to the Orpheum Theater and did not regret the physical exhaustion that followed. Recent Bachelor in English Princeton moves to rundown New York neighborhood Avenue Q where he meets smartmouth building supe Gary Coleman(yes, the child star), naive kindergarten teaching assistant Kate Monster, Japanese emigre and therapist Christmas Eve, and an assortment of kooky characters, both human and puppet. Laced with profanity, sexual innuendo, puppet sex, and other adult material, the show also features funny songs like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “The Internet is For Porn” and my personal favorite, “The More You Ruv Someone” which includes the great line, “the more you love someone, the more you want them dead.” This is not a show for the kids but that is why we love it.

Now playing at the Orpheum through August 30
Still playing on Broadway in NYC

Don’t stop the beat: theatre/movie review


Tracy Turnblad rules! How girl power can you get? Big girl wins the cute boy, fame, and gets to effect social change. I recently took in both the Broadway and theatrical versions of the musical based on the John Waters film(say that as quickly as you can!) and have become a fan.
Hairspray follows high school sophomore Tracy(bubbly newcome Nikki Blonsky) who dreams of being a dancer on local TV’s Corny Collins Show. She is not the best student but a loyal friend to repressed Penny(played with wide-eyed aplomb by the adorable Amanda Bynes)and completely comfortable with her weight, her eccentric parents, and racial diversity. Tracy is all about self-acceptance and self-love so it’s no wonder she eventually wins a spot on the dance show as well as the heart of her crush, Link Larkin. Add in some great 60s style songs, campy co-stars John Travolta and Christopher Walken, and Broadway comes to the big screen.

Hairspray is playing in theaters nationwide
Hairspray can be seen at the Neil Simon Theater in New York City. It stars Ashley Parker Angel as Link Larkin, Jerry Mathers as Mr. Turnblad, Tevin Campbell as Seaweed, and Alexa Vega as Penny.