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SOUND OFF Special Interview: Linda Eder's SONGBIRDSSOUND OFF Special Interview: Linda Eder's SONGBIRDS
by Pat Cerasaro - March 14, 2012

Today we are talking to a queen of the concert stage famous for her decades touring the country who has also made a mark on the recording industry with her countless remarkable albums and who will be returning to New York with an intimate show dedicated to her favorite leading ladies of song, titled SONGBIRDS - the one and only Linda Eder. (more...)
SOUND OFF: SMASH Gets SexySOUND OFF: SMASH Gets Sexy
by Pat Cerasaro - March 13, 2012

As we near the halfway point for Season One, it is evident now more than ever that SMASH has established a pretty clear-cut style, structure and overall dramatic direction - each week we can depend upon most if not all of the following in one form or another: a fabulous Marilyn Monroe-themed musical production number; a soul-baring rehearsal scene or three; a pop cover or two (both a classic and a current one, if possible); some Derek (Jack Davenport) and Ivy (Megan Hilty) diva drama and hand-wringing; cattiness, backstabbing and shade thrown in the direction of, and almost always directly affecting, sweet-as-pie Karen (Katharine McPhee), an all-too sympathetic character who just can't seem to catch a break (bar mitzvah tween audiences excluded); a peek into the lives of the Marilyn musical songwriters, Julia (Debra Messing) and Tom (Christian Borle), currently developing the show-within-the-show before our very eyes and ears; Julia and Tom's subsequent respective romantic relationships and entanglements (showmances and otherwise; though it seems there are many more of the former than the latter with these two); and, of course, Anjelica Huston being both poignant in one way or another in her delicate portrayal of Eileen and also just plain divine as only she can be, kicking ass and taking names as the lead producer of the show-within-the-show. All in all, the show-within-the-show based on Marilyn Monroe acts as the real machine running SMASH and keeping it all connected. And, that about sums it up. Shake, stir and serve - there you have SMASH in a sentence or two. Better still, this formula really works - and also really works wonders, from time to time, too. Each week dishes up its fair share of surprises, as well. I mean, who could foresee that scintillating scene with Julia and Joe DiMaggio (Will Chase) post-rehearsal paralleling the Marilyn/DiMaggio duet just rehearsed? Or, furthermore, Karen positively killing Florence & The Machine at a bar mitzvah like she most certainly did? Best of all, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman provided another tantalizing and terrific new Marilyn song with a fiercely fresh style and sound in the spectacular form of the romantically rapturous, late-50s doo-wop-hued duet "History Is Made At Night", given a particularly playfully seductive performance by Chase and Hilty as the undeniably perfect Monroe and Joe DiMaggio (though Chase's character does not seem like he will be sticking around much longer). Plus, how badass was Eileen (Anjelica Huston) at the very end of the episode and how all around awesome was her delivery of the final line? Shoot to score, indeed - and, on 'Chemistry', there was more focus on the scoring, both in the musical and sexual senses, than on anything else. Above all, last night's SMASH showed that one aspect of show business shall always remain a viable, hot-cross-bun-level-hot commodity: sex. (more...)
SOUND OFF: SMASH Makes Bad Look GoodSOUND OFF: SMASH Makes Bad Look Good
by Pat Cerasaro - March 6, 2012

Packing more music per minute than any episode of the show since the pilot, last night's SMASH showed the ever-developing musical dramedy series finding its footing and delineating the many relationships and interrelationships of the onstage and backstage cast of characters that populate it - and, as always, the music made the night. Will Chase scored yet again with a soulful "Song For You"; McPhee emanated sultriness in her cover of James Brown's "It's A Man's Man's World"; and, in particular, Megan Hilty made the bawdiest and most big Broadway-sounding song from the Marilyn Monroe musical we have yet heard hit like Joe DiMaggio's bat when it met a meatball in the big 20th Century Fox production number we are sure to remember. When it comes to the musical numbers, SMASH is adult musical storytelling done exceptionally well with a precise, professional sheen. The story and characters have exhibited a lot of areas where they could go in future episodes, and, now, by the fifth episode, the style and music/drama formula is being perfected right before our eyes. What has resulted is that we are witnessing SMASH as a show finding its voice with all the world to hear - not an enviable position to be in, but that is the name of the game of a network TV gamble on the level of this. And, anyway, what sights and sounds we have to look forward to in the coming weeks as the Marilyn musical within the show begins to take a more tangible shape - and Bernadette Peters makes her SMASH debut in less than two weeks! (more...)
SOUND OFF: SMASH Is Out For BloodSOUND OFF: SMASH Is Out For Blood
by Pat Cerasaro - February 28, 2012

SMASH is out for blood - wolf's blood, that is. So, go howl! In the climax of the series so far - at least since that thrilling finale to the pilot episode - the wildly talented cast of characters that inhabit SMASH were joined in purpose and performance for the first time onscreen all together, singing "I Never Met A Wolf That Didn't Like To Howl" - well, at least the current top choices for Marilyn Monroe (Megan Hilty) and Joe DiMaggio (Will Chase) by the songwriting duo (portrayed by Debra Messing and Christian Borle) behind the show-within-the-show; guest appearance by prospective investor portrayed by pop idol and current Broadway star Nick Jonas notwithstanding. Yet, Katharine McPhee shone bright in her secondary storyline, bringing defiant joie de vivre to a karaoke cover of Adele's soulful earworm "Rumor Has It" at the close of the show. Nick Jonas got a moment in the musical spotlight, as well, in a self-played piano accompanied cover of Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet". On the dramatic side of SMASH, the twists and turns of the theatre-centric musical series are beginning to create intriguing complexities for the individuals caught in the tumult - none the least being the budding romances between Derek (Jack Davenport) and Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty), but also the secret liaison rekindled of one half of the songwriting duo (Messing) and Joltin' Joe (Chase) himself. Plus, the other half of the team behind the Marilyn musical, Tom (Christian Borle), finally got his own romantic plotline and sudsy, soap-ish moment. It seems to be a prerequisite that each cast member have a post-coital scene at some point, so, one supposes Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and her ex husband, Jerry (Michael Cristofer), may re-team behind the scenes - or, maybe not. Eileen was given finest material of the night as far as I'm concerned and Huston's delicate portrayal of a woman conflicted was artful in its attentiveness and believability. She imbues the material with a grace and gravitas that few stars can consistently achieve as she has done throughout her career and continues to do so here on SMASH. Episode Four cleanly and clearly displayed the attributes we came to love about the pilot - natural integration of fabulous Marilyn-themed musical numbers into the drama, as in "Howl"; superlative new renditions of modern-day pop hits, such as "Rumor Has It"; and a specialty song or two, too, like Nick Jonas and his Michael Buble party accompaniment. While it did not break new ground as far as where the show is heading as a series like last week's show, this episode gave us an inkling of the entertainment experience coming in the next few weeks as we anticipate the arrival of many new and exciting guest stars, such as Bernadette Peters and Uma Thurman, in addition to the pain, passion, ecstasy and As for the rest of the drama, music and comedy, read on! (more...)
SOUND OFF: Academy Awards 2012SOUND OFF: Academy Awards 2012
by Pat Cerasaro - February 27, 2012

Billy Crystal was nine for nine with his stupendous hosting - particularly thanks to his superlative musical material courtesy of Tony-winning tunesmith Marc Shaiman - yet, the 2012 Oscars were all about the awards, for once, with a heavy helping of superstars and surprises. A glamorous and generally genial broadcast, more than many in recent years this years, last night's top entertainment honors came across as a class act on the elegantly produced and impressively rendered broadcast, from beginning to end - unscripted screenwriters' Angelina impressions aside. Crytal's hilarious opening montage allowed the Oscar host extraordinaire the opportunity to enact his oh-so-idiosyncratic take on the year's top nominated films - including a kiss with George Clooney ala THE DESCENDANTS and a Justin Bieber/Sammy Davis, Jr. skit inspired by Woody Allen's MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, both of which went on to win the Best Screenplay categories - and remind us why he is tops. The portrait of the winner of Best Picture may have been painted long before last night for THE ARTIST, yet the 2012 Academy Awards show was packed with a plethora of surprises in technical and even some major categories, with Martin Scorsese's HUGO also scoring big and Meryl Streep winning her third statuette, this time for her Best Actress turn in THE IRON LADY, uncanny in her portrayal of British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. Additionally, THE ARTIST's Jean Judarjin took home Best Actor - over Hollywood titan George Clooney, no less - for his superb performance as a Gene Kelly-esque silent film star (save a few words at the very meta finale). The supporting categories showed some love to expected winners Octavia Spencer - for the audience hit, THE HELP - as well as veteran actor Christopher Plummer - for the indie release, BEGINNERS. Cirque Du Soleil afforded us some spectacle in the form of a 3D aerial classic film homage as only they could create and present, but Crystal's inimitable opening sequence - film sequence and crisply amusing song acting as the ideal entree into the awards season's show of shows - were the night's undeniable highlights. So, too, on the performance front did the In Memoriam sequence shine thanks to a soulful rendering of "What A Wonderful World" by Esperanza Spalding. Many of the major categories may have went the way we have all predicted, yet important categories also went to a surprisingly large smattering of the year's other fine filmatic achievements, as well, making it an entertaining and overall quite pleasing broadcast when considering the conservative slate of films nominated this season. (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE Wins Regionals With A Bang, Splash & CrashSOUND OFF: GLEE Wins Regionals With A Bang, Splash & Crash
by Pat Cerasaro - February 22, 2012

Fourteen episodes in, with eight more to come after the seven week hiatus that just began, GLEE's Season Three has been filled with shocks and surprises, but none so shocking and surprising as last night's potentially fatal collision involving the one and only Quinn Fabray, Dianna Agron. In the show's final moments, the danger of auto texting was made painfully plain to see as Quinn's car was demolished by an oncoming truck as she typed the episode's title into her phone, "On My Way," - on her way to the wedding of Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Monteith), that is. 'Chapel Of Love' playing on the radio gave the scene an extra added note of morbid irony and twisted the dramatic knife in a way few enterprises dare to do, as well - a NIP/TUCK twist (as Ryan Murphy would have it). So, is this really the last we shall see of Quinn on GLEE? We will have to wait until April to see, but some pictures have already surfaced of Quinn wheelchair racing with Artie (Kevin McHale) onset, so perhaps she survives after all. Besides Quinn's catastrophe, one of the most complex and controversial secondary characters on the show, closeted gay football player and Kurt's former McKinley High bully par excellence, Max Karofsky, succumbed to a heartbreakingly presented suicide attempt, but survived to fight another day. Will Quinn be as lucky? What will become of her daughter, Beth - sired with Puck (Mark Salling) back in Season One - who is being raised by Rachel's birth mother, Shelby (Idina Menzel)? Does this mean we will be seeing more of Ms. Menzel in the back 8 of the season? Will Puck and Shelby rekindle their romance in the wake of Quinn's crash and subsequent rehabilitation or, maybe, death? Only time will tell, it seems. In an episode packing an incredible punch, GLEE'S "On My Way" delivered the drama, the social commentary, the laughs, tears, joy and, of course, the music as stylishly and successfully as any of its finest episodes ever have, even if some of the questionable of-the-moment contemporary song selections at the central Regionals competition failed to fully ignite as other songs may very well have done. Indeed, last night's GLEE was all any gleek could ask for from the Winter Finale of their favorite show, and, if we are forced to wait a few weeks for the next episode, best to go out on a big, bad cliffhanger that makes a splash. (more...)
SOUND OFF: SMASH Catches Joe DiMaggio's GrenadeSOUND OFF: SMASH Catches Joe DiMaggio's Grenade
by Pat Cerasaro - February 21, 2012

"Baby, I would catch a grenade for you," as Bruno Mars wrote in his international smash hit song "Grenade", recently nominated for a Grammy, and, so, too, would Joe DiMaggio catch a grenade for Marilyn Monroe, and, maybe - just maybe - married Broadway star Michael Swift (Will Chase) will cross the line into the danger zone and rekindle his romance with former flame (similarly, married with children) Julia (Debra Messing), half of the songwriting team responsible for the spectacular musical-within-the-show on NBC's SMASH. Yes, the third episode of the new musical drama series was a much different experience from the first two shows, with Karen (Katharine McPhee)'s journey back home to Iowa - complete with down-home karaoke baby shower and Gretchen Wilson's "Redneck Woman" - and the introduction of Broadway star Will Chase's character and the subsequent exploration of his prior trysts with Julia, as well as detailing more of Ivy (Megan Hilty) and Derek (Jack Davenport)'s hot and heavy romance. So, too, did the dissolving marriage between the Marilyn musical's lead producer, Eileen (Anjelica Huston) and her ex (Michael Cristofer) see further shading, as did the trusting and caring coupling of Karen and Dev (Raza Jaffrey). Along with recurring guest stars Dylan Baker and Becky Ann Baker as Karen's supportive but speculative parents, "Enter Mr. DiMaggio" was a relationship-themed episode that reached its thematic, dramatic and musical apotheosis in the stunning new Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman Marilyn musical composition, "Mr. & Mrs. Smith", ending the episode on a stylish and all-too-apropos note. A hard rock rendering of the aforementioned Bruno Mars pop hit "Grenade", as well as Karen's spirited country karaoke "Redneck Woman" were the other musical entertainments in an episode that showed that SMASH does, indeed, have legs - a Rockette-worthy line of them, actually - and this story can sustain more than a handful of episodes or, even, a season or two. Sure, this episode had a different feel than the first two, more Broadway-based shows, yet the series seems to be finding a rhythm that is particularly appreciable at this very, very early stage of the game. After all, the first two episodes of an hour-long adult drama such as SMASH usually set the scene for the series as a whole, if they even succeed at accomplishing that. So far, SMASH has already gone far beyond that, and, I promise, next week will be more along the lines of the first two entries, showcasing the simple fact that this tree has many, many branches and exceptionally deep roots supporting the strong core of central and supporting performers that make up its trunk. Episode Three was a gamble that largely paid off dramatically and thematically, and, wow, that final number was a home run hit truly worthy of a show billing itself as SMASH. (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE Will Always Love WhitneySOUND OFF: GLEE Will Always Love Whitney
by Pat Cerasaro - February 15, 2012

In an absolutely uncannily coincidental occurrence last night, the Valentine's Day episode of GLEE included among its song-stack the all-time most memorable Whitney Houston ballad of all time, originally sung by Dolly Parton in 1974 but made famous by Houston on the soundtrack of the 1992 film THE BODYGUARD, in which she also starred, "I Will Always Love You". While this episode was filmed weeks ago - long before Houston's sudden passing, of course - the fact that this was the moment GLEE finally tackled one of the biggest songs ever - a single that originally stayed atop the chart for more than 3 months - comes as a definite shock and surprise; and, also, somehow, a fitting tribute. The tasteful "We Will Always Love You" card at the end of the program dedicated the episode to Houston's memory, in a last minute addition to the long-wrapped show by the powers-that-be. It hit just the right chord - as did the effervescently enjoyable if slight episode. Amber Riley wrought the high emotion out of the Houston barn-burner in a manner that surely would do the gospel singer of Whitney's own roots more than merely proud and the overall show was a sure success as far as knockout musical numbers go. As for the rest of the "Heart" Valentine's show, we were treated to a number of well-played guest appearances, such as Rachel's two dads, essayed all-too-deliciously by Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell, in addition to THE GLEE PROJECT winner Samuel Larsen's much ballyhooed debut on the show. Former TGP finalist and Season Three GLEE featured player Damian McGinty also got more focus than usual, as did Amber Riley, who emerged as the star of this particular episode. Courtesy of a lively and raucous "Love Shack", Darren Criss made his welcome return after a few episodes out. The rest of the songs added to the overall candy-coated allure of the sweet and sugary confection of a show. No, "Heart" was not an episode that will linger forever in the memory like some in GLEE's past, but the music made the night - and, in the case of "I Will Always Love You", made it really pack a punch when we needed it. It most closely resembled the wedding episode from last season, I thought - which is certainly a compliment. Plus, "Heart" featured the return of Karofsky - in gorilla suit, no less - and many dramatic twists for the gleeks we have all come to know and love. And, just how adorable is Sugar Motta?! (more...)
SOUND OFF: SMASH Casts Its MarilynSOUND OFF: SMASH Casts Its Marilyn
by Pat Cerasaro - February 14, 2012

Last night, SMASH cast Marilyn Monroe in the big Broadway musical based on her life at the show's center. Or, did they? While Ivy Lynn (Megan Hilty) may have done whatever it took to make an impression on the show's lothario director, Derek (Jack Davenport), it was Ivy's long-standing friendship with the songwriting team of Julia & Tom (Debra Messing & Christian Borle) and the belief in her readily apparent talent by the lead producer, Eileen (Anjelica Huston), that really sealed the deal. So, where does that leave Karen (Katharine McPhee)? In the chorus, it seems - at least for now. The drama escalated and reached an early peak along with the crescendos of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman's smashing "Twentieth Century Fox Mambo" showstopper - the musical highlight of the impossibly strong second episode - as the heated fully-staged and fully-choreographed audition gave way to a dream reality which finally showed us all out there in the audience what a Karen/Marilyn could potentially be: a true blonde bombshell to beat the band. Of course, nothing is quite so cut and dry as it may appear and Karen may get her chance in the spotlight on the actual Marilyn musical's stage after all. Yet, for the next few episodes at least, Ivy is the star of the show - and she is going to wring every last wiggle, coo and peck out of the role. Plus, who can put over a number in true Broadway fashion - as Marilyn Monroe, perfectly played, no less - than Megan Hilty? Did you hear her line in the newly envisioned 'Let Me Be Your Star'? In much the same way as Hilty with the Broadway pizazz, McPhee effortlessly puts over treacherously tricky pop songs with smoothness, sweetness and near-tangible sincerety and conviction. Which way will the score ultimately go - and, furthermore, what shall be of the show that contains it? Will the musical be more Norma Jean or more Marilyn, thus more befitting of Karen or Ivy, respectively? Who knows, perhaps there ultimately will be two Marilyns required - as was proposed in this very column last week at this time and seems the logical ultimate conclusion of the casting dilemma at the show's core. We will certainly have to wait and find out what happens next on SMASH and what the show ends up requiring of its incredibly talented cast of hoofers and stars-to-be. Plus, Nick Jonas, Uma Thurman and Bernadette Peters make guest star debuts in the next several weeks! (more...)
SOUND OFF SPECIAL AWARDS SHOW SPOTLIGHT: Grammy Awards 2012SOUND OFF SPECIAL AWARDS SHOW SPOTLIGHT: Grammy Awards 2012
by Pat Cerasaro - February 13, 2012

Coming quick on the heels of the untimely death of iconic pop singer and film star Whitney Houston was last night's subdued and largely somber 2012 Grammy Awards telecast which had a definite focus on three soulful leading ladies in particular: Whitney, Jennifer Hudson and Adele, the latter being the night's across-the-board big winner. Begun on the completely wrong foot with an awkward and inappropriate religious tribute to Houston by charismatic but ineffectual host LL Cool J, the rest of the Grammy show managed to have sporadic moments of entertainment - the best and brightest being Bruno Mars, Foo Fighters, Tony Bennett & Carrie Underwood, as well as the button-pushing performance by rap/pop notable Nicki Minaj and some polished country stars. Pushing boundaries with an exorcism-themed theatrical spectacular, complete with a Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim sample from WEST SIDE STORY in the form of "I Feel Pretty", surely Nicki Minaj made many fans - and more than a few enemies, no doubt - with her expressive and eccentric production number, "Roman Holiday" - complete with priests, fire pits, confessional booths and levitations! The Grammys definitely had many lows and a few memorable highs beyond Minaj's exorcism, though, for the night was a veritable wake for Houston and a celebration of her musical legacy. Oscar-winning DREAMGIRLS star Jennifer Hudson gave Ms. Houston a truly tasteful and respectful tribute to mark the occasion. (more...)
SPECIAL: A Whitney Houston RetrospectiveSPECIAL: A Whitney Houston Retrospective
by Pat Cerasaro - February 11, 2012

The entire entertainment world is reeling. We have lost one of our most iconic pop, R&B and soundtrack performers this evening - as well as a formidable movie star in her own right - Whitney Houston was just reported dead at the age of 48. Having had one of the most successful and most multimedia of careers of any multi-hyphenate star in recent memory, Houston scored multiple Grammys and racked up countless nominations over the course of her multi-decade recording career, yet her most notable contributions to the world of music reside in her outstanding soundtrack work - most of all, the songs for the film in which she made the transition into feature film leading lady, 1992's THE BODYGUARD. The biggest hit from THE BODYGUARD's blockbuster soundtrack was undoubtedly Houston's rendition of a Dolly Parton song originally recorded in 1974 and later made famous by Parton in the feature film version of the Broadway hit THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS, "I Will Always Love You". In addition to Houston's sensational work on that mega-selling soundtrack - one of the Top 5 best-selling soundtracks of all time - she also provided her dramatic and vocal skills to the multi-platinum soundtracks to THE PREACHER'S WIFE and WAITING TO EXHALE, both films which she also starred in to much box office success. An Oscar-winning duet with Mariah Carey, "When You Believe" by WICKED's Stephen Schwartz from THE PRINCE OF EGYPT is yet another diadem in Houston's triple crown of accomplishments in the realms of music, film and television - having dominated all. Theatre fans may know Houston best for her incomparable portrayal of the Fairy Godmother in the incredibly successful 1997 ABC TV adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's CINDERELLA starring Brandy and produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. In addition to Houston's contributions to THE BODYGUARD, THE PREACHER'S WIFE, WAITING TO EXHALE, THE PRINCE OF EGYPT and CINDERELLA, Houston also rose to fame early in her career for her rendition of "Home" from THE WIZ on THE Merv Griffin SHOW, as well as made a mark with a Cissy Houston duet on the CHESS international smash, "I Know Him So Well" on her second hit album. The last project Houston was working on prior to her death on Saturday night was the feature film musical SPARKLE, co-starring AMERICAN IDOL winner and Broadway standout Jordin Sparks. SPARKLE reportedly completed production of principal photography and soundtrack sessions, though it is not clear when the musical remake will now be released in light of Houston's unexpected death. No matter the circumstances of her life and death, Whitney Houston most surely left a legacy that will never be forgotten by those that adored her for her vast multitude of talents and many notable accomplishments in all areas of entertainment. (more...)
SOUND OFF Special Interview: Kim Smith & MISFITSOUND OFF Special Interview: Kim Smith & MISFIT
by Pat Cerasaro - February 10, 2012

Song stylist and performance artist Kim Smith is a truly unique performer who brings together the worlds of cabaret and theatre in a wholly idiosyncratic and arrestingly amusing manner. Part Marlene Dietrich, part Eartha Kitt and all Kim Smith, Kim and I recently had the chance to discuss his solo show, MISFIT - what inspired it; what he will be singing; what we can expect from the show - as well as a host of other topics, such as his Australian upbringing, the music and performers who inspire him most, performing in Sondheim's MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG and other musicals, as well as other collaborations with director Christian Coulson. Plus, Smith and I take an overview of his favorite current pop artists - many of whom he pays tribute to in his shows, such as Bjork and Robyn - and what elements draw him most in creating his series of surreal solo shows, the most recent being the highly regarded MISFIT, which returns to New York this Sunday. Also, we have first news on his forthcoming solo album and much, much more! (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE En Espanol (With Ricky Martin!)SOUND OFF: GLEE En Espanol (With Ricky Martin!)
by Pat Cerasaro - February 8, 2012

Completing the Lima Sound Machine in a truly terrific way, Ricky Martin made his highly-awaited GLEE debut last night and the word on the tips of tongues wagging across the country today is undoubtedly duende. Dwarf, you say? No, not dwarf - to paraphrase the idea of the term, a passion for performance. That being the definition, no show currently on TV packs more duende into each and every minute than GLEE. A dramatic and musical marriage to beat the band and infusing the show with some spine-tingling spark and verve, Ricky Martin made his musical moments really matter. Both Ricky's cover of LMFAO's international smash hit, remixed and sung alongside none other than Madonna on Sunday night's Super Bowl, "Sexy And I Know It" - in a new bilingual iteration - and Madonna's own "La Isla Bonita", in a moving and exceedingly pleasing pairing with Season 3 standout Naya Rivera, allowed for Ricky Martin to make his musical mark on the GLEE universe in much the same way Neil Patrick Harris, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Gwyneth Paltrow and many other featured guest stars have done in leaving indelible impressions that still linger in the memory. The Ian Brennan-penned "The Spanish Teacher" occasionally may have lapsed into Season Two variety show territory, but acted as an enlivening - and, eventually, surprisingly poignant - episode to occur at this point in the show's history. Will David Ramirez return to McKinley High to guest lecture a glee club rehearsal or two? We will have to stayed tuned to see - and hear - but, until then, this episode went a long way in furthering Sue's development as well as giving Finn and Kurt a welcome bonding scene. Beyond all that, though, Matt Morrison played a hard-to-swallow storyline about a non-Spanish speaking Spanish teacher with finesse and ease, letting Martin shine - or, should I say, twinkle. Like teeth - or stars - that is. (more...)
SOUND OFF: Get SMASH-edSOUND OFF: Get SMASH-ed
by Pat Cerasaro - February 7, 2012

Get SMASH-ed. Last night, NBC unveiled the most sparkling, dazzling jewel of many a TV season with the hotly anticipated debut of the new musical dramedy series SMASH. Hatched from an idea by mega-mogul Steven Spielberg and given life by playwright Theresa Rebeck, director Michael Mayer and songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, SMASH follows the journey of the auditioning actors and creative team of a new Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe from inception to final presentation on opening night and follows the highs and lows of making a hit show on the Great White Way. While I have only viewed the first four episodes, I can tell you that this show certainly knows where it is heading and heads will unquestionably turn with each new surprise and dramatic twist along the way - and that's to say nothing of the simply stupendous presentation of original songs by Shaiman & Wittman for the musical-within-the-show and spirited, inventive covers of pop hits, new and old, ranging from Adele to Blondie to Bruno Mars and beyond. In just the first four episodes alone, SMASH manages to pack more sheer entertainment value into its running time than virtually any other show on network TV - besides GLEE, that is. Ah, yes: GLEE. Comparisons will be made - and most critics have already made them - but, the truth of the matter really is that there is more than enough room on network TV for two music-themed shows that tell their story through song from time to time. After all, on SMASH, there are a lot dramatically justified reasons to break out into a song - or four. Plus, there's certainly a big enough audience out there to justify AMERICAN IDOL, THE VOICE, THE X FACTOR and AMERICA'S GOT TALENT - to name just the network reality competition shows focusing on performance-based entertainment - so why can't GLEE and SMASH happily co-exist on TV together? As SMASH shows, if there can be two Marilyns in a Marilyn Monroe musical, then anything is possible. The possibilities are as vast and numerous as the possible subjects for a new Broadway musical - endless. Endless, too, is the enjoyment and entertainment value SMASH potentially can provide for many more seasons to come. All that is needed, wanted and so desperately desired is an audience - so, let SMASH be your star. (more...)
SOUND OFF: America Luvs MadonnaSOUND OFF: America Luvs Madonna
by Pat Cerasaro - February 6, 2012

Epic Egyptian pageantry. Gold galore. Soldiers by the score. An entrance befitting of - and evoking - Cleopatra, set to the instantly recognizable strains of "Vogue", and the love affair began again. Between Madonna and America, that is. It has been a tumultuous and trying relationship, at times, but, at heart, Madonna represents the ultimate American dream of making a superstar of one's self - Michigan to Milan; pop starlet to mega-mogul; cheerleader to icon. Madonna's career has been up and down and she has certainly seen it all in her half century on this planet, but, last night, she showed the world all she was worth. And more. Throwback and cutting edge, some avant garde choreography and even a few stumbles on that indescribable, but nevertheless impressive, field-spanning LCD set. Then, in a spectacular column of smoke, she vanished. A ghost. Yes, indeed, Madonna made magic out of her Super Bowl main-stage chance to strut - and lip-sync - for all she is worth, and, gosh darn it, you gotta give it up for the Material girl. In carrying off something that could have been chaotically cacophonous and gruesomely calculated - and, more than not, it usually is in this instance on the international stage; good intentions, hype and Nipple-gate notwithstanding - came off as a genuine bid to do the biggest, best and most theatrical presentation on the Super Bowl yet - and, in that regard, Madonna was MVP. MDNA is the title of her new album - her 12th - and the lead single, "Give Me All Your Luvin'" - the first of a purported eighteen tracks - was given a spirited airing with the helpful aid of Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. LMFAO and Cee-lo Green guested, as well, but Madonna made her moment count in a truly memorable and thrilling way. "Vogue" through "Music" to the grand, million candlelit finale featuring the stirring "Like A Prayer", Madonna towed the line, but never crossed it to the detriment of the overall presentation - so often what happens to boundary pushing pop artists such as herself; she calls the shots, as she always does, and it came off as 100% Madonna, for better and best. While she may have had her crass moments over the course of her incredible career, Madonna's Super Bowl performance was all a fan or a viewer could ask for as far as cutting-edge spectacle and stage effects go - plus, those tunes are some of the most classic pop songs of the last century. Madonna managed to move from ancient Egyptian to futuristic alien with aplomp and never break a sweat. A bit robotic, sure. Was she nervous? Obviously. But, she made it work - and work it she did. Best Super Bowl Half Time Show ever? Best Super Bowl Half Time Show Ever. Madonna shows us all how it's done - lip-synced or not. Music really does bring the people together - especially over Madonna. (more...)
SOUND OFF: OMJ/OMGLEE - The Michael EpisodeSOUND OFF: OMJ/OMGLEE - The Michael Episode
by Pat Cerasaro - February 1, 2012

"I don't want to see the spectacle that is Michael, I want to be the spectacle." And so goes the motto of GLEE giving Michael Jackson his musical due. Much like MJ brought together the worlds or pop and R&B and broke down racial barriers through his music and message, GLEE set the stage by placing our favorite gleeks in a battle with the Warblers - not unlike the Sharks vs. Jets of the recent WEST SIDE STORY tribute. And it was quite a sight to see - and hear. Like the memorable Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Fleetwood Mac tributes before it, last night's "Michael" episode of GLEE was the realization of a life-long dream for many gleeks in the audience and the epic convergence of two pop culture dynasties. Series creator and show musical sequence mastermind Ryan Murphy penned the episode himself and the razor sharp dialogue was as biting and bizarre as always - in a good way. A very good way. And, the musical numbers? Even better. Filled with fun facts relating to the man in the mirror being honored and with more musical numbers than one could envision even fitting into an hour of network TV with story, too - and what plot developments - once again, GLEE made us remember that this is our very own spot in the entertainment universe, right at corner of Hollywood and Broadway. The joy that standing on that corner can make us all feel through sheer osmosis is transcendentally exciting, and, even more than that, exquisitely exciting. My, oh my - how we have missed thee, GLEE! True, it's only been a few weeks, but Season Three has been so consistently strong as to make each and every episode unmissable thus far and each pause positively interminable. After all, in just the last episode alone we were left with three marriage proposals! No more scattershot scenarios ala Season Two or heavy focus on the adults like Season One, Season Three is all about the cast of characters that comprise New Directions - and, Ma Ma Se, Ma Ma Sa, thank goodness that is the main subject being taught at McKinley High this semester. "Bad" to "Ben" to "Black Or White"; "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and "Smooth Criminal", "Scream" and more, GLEE's MJ tribute was a true OMGLEE moment. (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE Gets GREASE-y (With Helen Mirren!)SOUND OFF: GLEE Gets GREASE-y (With Helen Mirren!)
by Pat Cerasaro - January 18, 2012

Showcasing six of the show's strongest supporting performers in a vast array of arresting ways in the first ten minutes was merely one of a myriad in the embarrassment of riches on view as GLEE roared its way back after a multi-week Winter hiatus last night. From GREASE done grandly and giving Amber Riley and Chord Overstreet a duet to linger in the memory - "Summer Nights" - to Helen Mirren's unexpected and unquestionably brilliant narration for Becky (Lauren Potter), and, the piece de resistance: Jayma Mays backed up by Jane Lynch and Dot Jones on the Laura Nyro-penned Fifth Dimension stoned-soul classic "Wedding Bell Blues" - ingeniously accredited to "Will!" in this iteration. While the opening sequence of the show packed a wallop and stood as clear evidence that at this stage in Season 3 GLEE is far from treading water and very well may be the most polished and smooth and consistent it has been since the first episodes of Season 1 (and even then). Matt Morrison and Kevin McHale - backed up by Harry Shum, Jr. and the boys of New Directions - strutted out the recent Maroon 5/Christina Aguilera hit "Moves Like Jagger" in a mash-up with the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" with sleek stylishness to spare and some ferociously fierce moves. REAL HOUSEWIVES reality star Nene Leakes as the synchronized swimming coach certainly made a strong first impression in her over-the-top and hilarious characterization of a, well, over-the-top and hilariously-written character (Sue Sylvester better watch out for her). Speaking of strong writing, co-creator Brad Falchuk wrote the 'Yes/No' episode and it was directed by a helmer of many of the show's best in previous season - an actor in his own right - Eric Stolz. Three knockout musical numbers in the first fifteen minutes in addition to the two aforementioned cameos was only the start of an episode evidencing the most consistently entertaining show on TV in top form as we head into the meaty middle of GLEE Season 3. Three proposals in, and all signs point to 'Yes' for GLEE in Season 3 - let us hope Rachel follows suit in her response to Finn when the show returns in two weeks with the highly-touted Michael Jackson tribute episode. (more...)
SOUND OFF Special Interview: Justin Sayre & THE MEETINGSOUND OFF Special Interview: Justin Sayre & THE MEETING
by Pat Cerasaro - January 17, 2012

Today we are talking to the cultural raconteur, inimitable political commentator and monologue artist Justin Sayre all about the 2012 edition of his solo show THE MEETING, a gathering of the I.O.S. (International Order Of Sodomites), which returns to The Duplex on Thursday, January 19 at 9:30 PM for a spotlight show dedicated to the one and only Dolly Parton. Much like a modern-day Quentin Crisp (who Sayre has saluted in past engagements), Sayre's erudite wit and idiosyncratic views on society have made him one of the hottest names in the downtown experimental theatre scene and in this all-encompassing conversation we discuss his many influences - ranging from Sandra Bernhard to fellow InDepth InterView participant Margaret Cho to Lenny Bruce, Jack Benny, George Carlin and beyond - as well as what we can expect from the upcoming shows in this, THE MEETING's third successful year onstage. Additionally, Sayre shares his views on many of the GLBT issues of today and generously defines camp as he sees it - and his "supernatural instinct" for it - as well as gives us a taste of the utterly unique performance style he employs in his shows that is unmistakably all his own. Plus, Justin's takes on the Kardashians, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin and much, much more! (more...)
SOUND OFF SPECIAL AWARDS SHOW SPOTLIGHT: GOLDEN GLOBES 2012SOUND OFF SPECIAL AWARDS SHOW SPOTLIGHT: GOLDEN GLOBES 2012
by Pat Cerasaro - January 16, 2012

Meryl Streep Got Bleeped. So goes the 2012 GOLDEN GLOBES broadcast and its destined subtitle for all time. A gallon of gaffes and a ton of risque fun made the night more memorable for its moments of awkwardness amidst technical tomfoolery, and, the many, many surprises in the winning categories, to make it an award show worth watching - but, at what cost? THE ARTIST, THE DESCENDENTS and Harvey Weinstein productions in general were the cause celebre of the entire affair, all things considered, with everything from MY WEEK WITH MARILYN's Michelle Williams and THE IRON LADY's Meryl Streep to Madonna's W.E. taking home gold. Showtime's HOMELAND took many of the top wins in the TV categories, though some truly sensational and exceedingly superb fan-favorites got their due, too - AMERICAN HORROR STORY's Jessica Lange and GAME OF THRONES's Peter Dinklage both received their rightful trophies for their exceptional work on two of the finest dramas on television (both nominated, but unfortunately losing out to Showtime's tense war drama HOMELAND). Laura Dern's effervescent showing on Showtime's ENLIGHTENED and Kelsey Grammer's brusque and brilliant BOSS also unexpectedly ruffled some probably prognosticator's feathers, as well, with their wins. Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese were saluted for THE ADVENTURES OF TIN TIN and HUGO, respectively, showing clear evidence of not one but two long-standing titans of Hollywood remaining at the top of their field for decades with no foreseeable end in sight. While warm-heartedness was sporadic and spicier, spacier fare was more the special of the day, there was plenty of delectable dessert - a gold-flecked tart, let's say - to go around. (more...)
SOUND OFF 2011 Year-End Round-Up: Toasts To The MostsSOUND OFF 2011 Year-End Round-Up: Toasts To The Mosts
by Pat Cerasaro - December 31, 2011

Today we are taking a look at the very best theatre-related entities in a variety of different categories - books, music, television, film, and, of course, theatre - as we look back on 2011 and all of the many marvelous moments of excitement, passion, joy and exultation that only theatre and theatre-related projects can possibly hope to provide. From Stephen Sondheim's LOOK, I MADE A HAT on the bookshelves of every Broadway baby worth their weight in sequins to Neil Patrick Harris and Patti LuPone in Sondheim's COMPANY on the big screen courtesy of Fathom to the stunning Broadway revival of FOLLIES starring Bernadette Peters and its tremendous new cast album, all the way to the thrills and chills of Andrew Lloyd Webber's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL on the big screen and Blu-ray to the BOOK OF MORMON breaking Broadway records and even TV's best drama and comedy, both from mastermind Ryan Murphy - GLEE and AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Plus, we also have top film picks in the categories of Drama and Comedy, as well as the best of the best of them all, with Lars Von Trier's apocalyptic masterpiece MELANCHOLIA, George Clooney's play adaptation THE IDES OF MARCH and the 80s music video stylized thriller/drama DRIVE topping the list. All of that and a whole lot more awaits in this all-encompassing look back at the theatrical highlights in all entertainment realms in 2011, as well as a look ahead to what we cannot wait for in 2012! (more...)
Special SOUND OFF Interview: Sierra Boggess Talks REBECCA, PHANTOM & Christmas!Special SOUND OFF Interview: Sierra Boggess Talks REBECCA, PHANTOM & Christmas!
by Pat Cerasaro - December 25, 2011

Today, as a well-earned holiday surprise for all of the millions of Broadway babies who read Broadway World all year long, we have a sneak preview of next year's upcoming InDepth InterView with leading lady stage superstar Sierra Boggess, best known to Broadway and West End audiences for her creation of the title role in THE LITTLE MERMAID, as well as originating the role of Christine in both PHANTOM VEGAS - the Las Vegas iteration of the international sensation THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, directed by original helmer Hal Prince - and LOVE NEVER DIES, the recent Andrew Lloyd Webber-penned musical sequel to the original thriller/romance tuner, as well as her most recent essaying of the role in the absolutely phantastic 25th anniversary production THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL, which will be released on Blu-ray and DVD in the US in 2012. Before we get to all about PHANTOM 25 - lest we forget, Ms. Boggess was also generous enough to tell us all about the show when it was still in rehearsals (you can read that chat here) - Boggess shares her affection for another recent InDepth InterView participant who shared the stage with her at the thrilling encore for PHANTOM 25 - the one and only Phantom of legend himself, Michael Crawford, as well as all about her participation in the yearly ASTEP charity concert CHRISTMAS IN NEW YORK CITY and the cast recording of it featuring herself along with Raul Esparza, Andy Karl, Orfeh, Constantine Maroulis and many more! Plus, insight into her preparations for her next Broadway role, that of Rebecca in the lavish stage spectacular REBECCA and much, much more! (more...)
SOUND OFF Special Edition: 2011 Giving Gifts GuideSOUND OFF Special Edition: 2011 Giving Gifts Guide
by Pat Cerasaro - December 21, 2011

For all those silver and golden Broadway babies, young and green gleeks and plain old all-around entertainment enthusiasts of any age on your holiday shopping lists this year, today we have a SOUND OFF Special Edition 2011 Giving Gifts Guide sure to fulfill the wants, wishes, dreams and desires of your nearest and dearest theatre-loving family and friends with a white and red spotlight on the absolute essential must-haves for this holiday season! Among the festivities: we have GLEE taking on Joni Mitchell and Elvis; two charity albums benefiting arts-related causes and featuring Broadway's best; the most spectacular production of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA you are ever likely to see; candles coming in the six scents from THE SOUND OF MUSIC's beloved "My Favorite Things"; and, of course, Sondheim's massive new tome of the lyrics from the second act of his career - "with Attendant Comments, Amplifications, Dogmas, Harangues, Digressions, Anecdotes and Miscellany," no less - topping the list at #1! Plus, the most important gift of all! (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE's Blue, Starry ChristmasSOUND OFF: GLEE's Blue, Starry Christmas
by Pat Cerasaro - December 14, 2011

A television staple since the very beginnings of the format, the Christmas episode is a tried and true trope of TV this time of year and no show promises more hatfuls of holiday cheer and buckets of glee more than, well, GLEE does - and, last night, on the seasonally-themed "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" (titled after one of the two new original songs penned for the episode), GLEE was a cool, neon blue star in the oft-midnight black galaxy - one far, far away, evidently; especially given the Chewbacca cameo and STAR WARS CHRISTMAS SPECIAL nods - of network TV today (or ever, for that matter). Capturing the copious charm of the cast and commonalities of the holidays among us all, the Matthew Morrison-directed Christmas special was a jolly Santa, his decked-out sleigh and all the merry reindeer to go along with them. Positively overflowing with song selections from the simply spectacular GLEE: CHRISTMAS VOLUME 2 - available now - last night's GLEE was not only a holiday music lover's and gleek's dream, but it also came with a maraschino cherry on top for the Broadway babies among us - THE SOUND OF Music's "My Favorite Things"; sung in Summer in the famous Rodgers & Hammerstein show and Robert Wise film version, the song has nevertheless become widely associated with the season due in no small part to Barbra Streisand's unforgettable inclusion of it on her peerless 1967 classic, A CHRISTMAS ALBUM. "Extraordinary Merry Christmas" also gave Sue Sylvester some room to exact her ongoing revenge - and redemption - while the rest of the episode contained a multitude of New Directions-centric plot developments, surprises and, of course, seriously Santa-friendly musical numbers - all, fascinatingly enough, with an all-inclusive (and, even, religion-friendly; in Rory's nativity story scene) style. Not that Judy Garland's Christmas classic special wasn't paid as much homage as Santa and the baby Jesus were - as we should always expect from GLEE - because it was. More on that in a moment. So much to discuss! (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE's Sectionals Champs!SOUND OFF: GLEE's Sectionals Champs!
by Pat Cerasaro - December 7, 2011

The long-awaited return of Trouty Mouth himself - Chord Overstreet; singing Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup", no less - was only the beginning of the big moves and even bigger events of last night's epic GLEE "Sectionals" episode. Yes, this year's sectionals competition certainly spelled a vast departure from less successful years' past and seeing and hearing New Directions taking on the vaunted catalog of Michael Jackson was the convergence of two true blue pop culture institutions coming together and making musical magic at long, long last - from "ABC" to "Man In The Mirror". Michael's sister Janet got her hotly anticipated GLEE treatment, as well, in the form of a syncopated and spirited "Control", during the stylishly executed Jackson tribute sequence. For the Broadway babies amongst the gleeks, we also were treated to an EVITA homage from Ohio's rival glee group, the Unitards, led by GLEE PROJECT's Lindsay Pearce. In addition to Finn and Rachel's discovery of White Chocolate (aka Sam) making ends meet as a stripper - as well as their subsequent reclaiming of him back to McKinley High and to the ranks of New Directions - "Sectionals" proved to be a strong and satisfying end to the journey of Season Three: Part 1 and next week's Christmas episode seems poised to provide ample entertainment value over the rushed tying up of loose dramatic ends as the series prepares to go on a brief hiatus until February. "Sectionals" displayed the continued rise to prominence - musical, dramatic and otherwise - of some featured players to the top of the star ranks and afforded Chord Overstreet and Darren Criss in particular with some delectable dramatic and musical moments - providing a distinct parallel to off-stage/off-show realities; Criss having become the biggest GLEE breakout star of all in a very short span of time - with Harry Shum, Jr. and Jenna Ushkowitz given solo moments to shine, as well. So, too, did Dianna Agron get her dramatic due at long last and her bumpy and grumpy story arc for Season 3 seems to be finding its footing and justification in the overall themes of the consistently strong season - her particularly well-delivered and delicately measured scene with Idina Menzel's Shelby (the adoptive mother to Quinn and Puck's baby, Beth) being a dramatic highlight of the season so far. So, too, was Finn and Blaine's scene in the gym an understated and sensitive reading of this episode's particularly smart and sharp script. Lea Michele continues to get short shrift in the musical department, but her leading of Fun.'s "We Are Young" was a welcome reminder of her golden instrument. So, while there were definitely many dramatic moments to remember in "Sectionals", the music - as always and forever - was the central delight and the payoff of the pairing of GLEE and the music of Michael Jackson (and Janet) was generally well worth the wait. (more...)
SOUND OFF: GLEE Kissed A Girl & I Liked ItSOUND OFF: GLEE Kissed A Girl & I Liked It
by Pat Cerasaro - November 30, 2011

Having already broken down barriers in Season Three insofar as the depiction of gay teenage romance in concerned, last night on GLEE Ryan Murphy and company addressed lesbianism and its similarly taboo place in society - both in school and out. Brave and daring, GLEE's "I Kissed A Girl" episode surely opened up the doors to closets and more open conversations pertaining to human sexuality, yet it also painted a complex and all-too-real picture of the challenges facing teens of any and all sexual persuasions and how challenging it really is to be a teenager at the edge of seventeen in 2011. On the musical side, last night's show boasted an eclectic assortment of Sapphic-themed songs to go along with the dramatic content, such as Dolly Parton's "Jolene", Melissa Etheridge's "I'm The Only One", KD Lang's "Constant Craving" and Katy Perry's recent hit "I Kissed A Girl". With Pink's "F-ing Perfect" given the duet treatment courtesy of Kurt and Blaine and a stripped-down, male-sung version of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" rounding out the seriously stupendous songstack, it was a night to remember for many more reasons than merely oh-so-fabulously spilled slushies and touching coming out stories - the music really, truly acted as an elemental ingredient; even more than usual. So, too, did Naya Rivera's seriously fine acting throughout make her turn as Santana this season a truly Golden Globe and Emmy-worthy performance - not unlike how Kurt's complex coming out story rightfully acted as award bait for Chris Colfer in seasons past. So, for all of that - and to recount the stunning "Constant Craving" and all of the rest of the superb musical sequences; as well as all about Rachel's surprising expulsion from McKinley High right when Sectionals are quickly approaching - read on. (more...)

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