On Stage: School Of Rock

I’m usually hard to please when it comes to movie comedies but one recent film that did hit the right chord with me was “School of Rock,” the 2003 musical comedy that had just the right mix of Jack Black, humor, kids and rock.

It surely came as no surprise when it was announced that the movie was being retooled for Broadway in 2014. What may have surprised some was the news that musical icon Andrew Lloyd Webber would be involved in the project. It’s a long way from “Phantom of the Opera” to the “School of Rock.”

Working from the screenplay by Mike White, Webber (music), Glenn Slater (lyrics) and Julian Fellowes (book) crafted a theatrical experience with all the fun and exuberance of the movie.

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 The cast of the School of Rock tour. © Matthew Murphy

 

Rob Colletti stars as Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock god (with emphasis on wannabe) whose enthusiasm is greater than his talent. Fed up with his antics, his partners kick him out of his band right before the big Battle of the Bands competition.

Dewey retreats to his bedroom, in an apartment that he shares (without paying rent) with his best friend Ned Schneebly (Matt Bittner) and Ned’s girlfriend Patty (Emily Borromeo). Patty wants Dewey’s freeloading days to end.

While moping about the house, Dewey answers a phone call from Horace Green, a prestigous prep school. The school is looking to hire Ned for a substitute teaching gig. Dewey decides to impersonate Ned to earn some much-needed cash.

At first Dewey plans to bluff his way through the day with lots of recess but when he discovers several of his students are talented musicians he comes up with a new class project. Now he just has to raise his students’ confidence levels, whip them into shape as a band, and keep their parents and the school principal (Lexie Dorsett Sharp) unaware of what’s going on.

“School of Rock: The Musical” follows the film pretty closely, cutting out bits here and there to make room for more music. The score features three songs from the movie – including the title track – and a dozen songs written for the stage, highlighted by the anthemic “Stick It to the Man.”

Colletti does a fine job capturing the manic energy of Jack Black, while the young cast members (too many to name) prove to be just as talented — or maybe moreso — as the adults in the show. The kids are alright at jumping up and down, singing in harmony, and especially at rocking out.

School of Rock runs through January 28 at the Fox Theatre. https://www.fabulousfox.com/

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At The Movies: The Commuter

If you’re looking for a decent but hardly spectacular action-thriller, “The Commuter” offers a comfortable, familiar ride.

Liam Neeson stars as Michael McCauley, a former cop who has spent the last 10 years selling insurance. One day he hops onto the train for the long commute into the city only to learn that he’s been laid off. McCauley is 60, has no job prospects, and hasn’t managed to save a dime. Oh, and his son will be starting college soon.

MV5BMTc0NDg1MjI4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDIwMTEwNDI@._V1_UY1200_CR73,0,630,1200_AL_After commiserating with former partner Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson) at a bar, McCauley boards the train for home. He’s seated across from a mysterious woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who begins tossing odd hypotheticals at him: Would he be willing to locate a passenger on the train and point that person out for a large sum of money? No questions asked.

When the hypothetical becomes all too real, McCauley rejects the offer. At which point Joanna threatens harm to his wife and son if he doesn’t cooperate. McCauley has until the train reaches the end of the line to find the person of interest and decide what to do about it.

“The Commuter” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who gave us other Liam Neeson action-thrillers like “Non Stop” and “Run All Night.” The pair know how to tell a tense and gripping story, even if it is a pretty stupid one.

Neeson continues to be a magnetic, if unlikely, action hero. He’s the centerpiece of the film, so it’s a good thing he’s up to the task. The rest of the cast is fine but they’re not really given much of anything interesting to do.

Like all films of this sort there are twists and turns and friends who may be enemies and enemies who may be friends. It all goes off the rails (literally) by the end when the good guys and bad guys have to be sorted out amid much chaos.

The central problem I have with the film is the central idea behind the film. The bad guys pulling the strings have eyes everywhere, ears everywhere, and can do pretty much anything. So why resort to bribery and threats to get a retired cop (who probably isn’t going to go along with your plan) to find your mystery person? Why not just hire a professional investigator?

It wouldn’t be as thrilling, but at least it would make sense.

 

 

Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The MOD

You may recall that last year the Executive Committee Holiday Dinner took place at MOD Pizza. We chose the location for 3 reasons:

  1. Everbody loves pizza.
  2. It was fairly close to home.
  3. I thought the place was named after me (my role in the EC is Mean Old Dictator) and I would get free pizza. It didn’t work out that way.

This year we decided to return to MOD Pizza for the following 3 reasons:

  1. Everybody still loves pizza.
  2. It’s still fairly close to home.
  3. Yellow was too lazy to come up with an alternative.

And so it was that Thursday night I drove the fairly short distance to MOD Pizza. I arrived to find Stevie and Gabe had already staked out the big table. Good for them. The place was more crowded that I remember from last year. Erica and her family had staked out a booth nearby because the big table was too big for her small children.

We were soon joined by Melfy, Fagan, Trent and Yellow. Cindy was, well, who knows where Cindy was? Rachie was sick. Prewitt had to work. Pokin lives in Springfield, so he might as well live on the moon. And Spaulding might as well live on the moon for all she cares about the EC. So overall, not a bad turnout.

I devoured my buffalo chicken pizza while chatting with Stevie and Melfy. I then left the big table to visit with Trent, Erica, Pete and the kids. Had a nice long visit then decided I should check in with Yellow and Fagan back at the big table.

“What’s going on?” I says

“We’re all freaked out,” Yellow says

“Why?”

“Don’t turn around now, but right behind you there is a guy sitting by himself and staring strangely at people.”

“OK…”

“And he has a gun.”

“Well, this is Missouri. He’s probably not the only person here with a gun. Heck, Pete probably has a gun. How do you know he has a gun?”

“He’s not concealing  it. You can see it. Is it even legal to carry unconcealed guns?”

“So it would be OK if the creepy, staring guy had a gun but you just didn’t know it? That does it, I’m leaving.”

“We are too.” And everybody at the big table stands up and starts putting on their coats.

“Whoa, there! I was joking.”

“I’m not. I have a very bad gut feeling about this,” says Stevie.

Everyone else at the big table also had a bad gut feeling. I thought maybe it was the pizza, but then I felt fine. I mean, I’m the biggest coward alive but I’m not really afraid of being shot to death at MOD Pizza.

So now I’ve got to go to the booth and tell Erica and the others that we’re leaving. And why.

“There’s a strange loner in the corner with a gun,” I says.

“Well, this is St. Charles,” Erica says.

“That’s what I said — only I said Missouri. But your point is even better.”

Erica didn’t seem too concerned, despite having the most to lose if it all went down, what with her husband and two offspring in tow. By this time the others had already left the building but Erica still had to bundle up and corral two kids and all their stuff. I had to decide whether to go out to the safety of the bitter cold and wait with the others or take my chances and risk my life staying in the warm restaurant with mysterious loner with gun.

As I waited for Erica’s clan to get their stuff together, the man in question walks past us with his tray. Someone says “Hi,” he smiles and says “Hi” back. He dumps his trash and puts his plate away. He walks out the door, into his truck, and drives away.

Why the f— are we leaving?

Still, once you’ve bundled up the kids and their crap it’s too late to back out, so we went outside to join the rest of the gang. Took the annual group photo, then debated what to do next. Erica and family left for home, as did Melfy. After some talk, we decided it was too cold to debate outside so we headed back to MOD. Turns out, as soon as we had walked out the door, they closed the place up. Apparently my friends were not the only ones afraid of mystery loner with gun.

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We eventually settled on regrouping at Trailhead Brewery. We each had a beer and talked about TV shows, the RFFC and the dangers of living in New Town. I’m guessing we won’t be going back to MOD Pizza next year, which is OK by me because it doesn’t look like they sell T-Shirts. I really want a “Keep MOD Weird” T-Shirt. But I don’t want to have to work there to get one.

Happy New Year. Stay safe.

The 25 Most Entertaining Things of 2017

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1. An American in Paris

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2. Something Rotten

 

519-film-page-thumbnail3. Logan

 

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5. Trivia Night 2017

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6. The Ikea Adventure

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7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

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8. Secret Empire

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9. Ann Wilson

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10. Wonder Woman

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11. Titus

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12. Joelfest 2017

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13. Spider-Man: Homecoming

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14. Astonishing X-Men

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15. LawyerCon 2017: Lake Tahoe

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16. Wind River

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17. Billy Joel

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18. Generations: The Archers

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19. Gallrein Farms Family Reunion

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20. Thor: Ragnarok

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21. On Your Feet!

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22. The Punisher

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23. Justice League (hey, I enjoyed it)

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24. The Crown

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25. Black Mirror

On Stage: Cinderella

If you’re wondering how to spend a few hours in this cold, hazy space between Christmas and New Year’s, here’s a suggestion: Find a young girl, dress her up in a cute ball gown, and take her to see “Cinderella” at the Fox.

She will have a good time — and you probably will too.

And she won’t be alone. There were plenty of young ladies dressed in their finest regalia at the opening night of the show. I even saw a few young men in the crowd. I guess “Cinderella” is a fairy tale for all ages and all sexes.

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Leslie Jackson and Tatyana Lubov in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.”                              Photo © Carol Rosegg

Originally written for television by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the musical first aired in 1957 with Julie Andrews in the title role. The Broadway version currently on stage was adapted in 2013 with a new book by Douglas Carten Beane.

One of those “tales as old as time,” “Cinderella” stars Tatyana Lubov as Ella, a young woman working like a slave for her demanding stepmother (Sarah Smith). Stepmom only married Ella’s father for his money — her main concerns are her “real” daughters Gabrielle (Nicole Zelka) and Charlotte (Joanna Johnson).

Elsewhere in the kingdom, Prince Topher (Louis Griffin) is busy slaying dragons and giant insect creatures and not really paying attention to the welfare of the little people. His handler Lord Pinkleton (Vincent B. Davis) decides it’s time for the prince to settle down so he schedules a ball because they didn’t have match.com back in those days.

Stepmother is determined that one of her daughters will win the prince’s hand — just not her stepdaughter. But Ella doesn’t need stepmom’s help because she’s got something better — a fairy godmother (Leslie Jackson). Ella is whisked away to the palace by magic carriage but has to flee at the stroke of midnight when the magic wears off.

At this point you’re expecting Ella to lose one of her glass slippers, but we’ve got to stretch this short story out to a 2.5-hour show, so she keeps her footwear — forcing the prince to have a second party so we can repeat the process and get to the happy ending we all know is coming.

There are other changes to pad, or enhance if you prefer, the story. Charlotte falls in love with the town radical (Corbin Williams) and there’s talk of mixing democracy with the monarchy.

“Cinderella” is a charming show. It features memorable songs like “In My Own Little Corner,” “Impossible” and my personal favorite — “The Stepsister’s Lament.” The stage design and costumes are bright and colorful. The transformations are magical. The cast and musicians do fine work.

“Cinderella” runs through Dec. 31. https://www.fabulousfox.com/

 

Away In A (smelly, cold) Manger

When it comes to church, I am a strict traditionalist. I want to sit in my pew, stand when appropriate, sing from a hymnal, put a dollar in the collection plate, listen to a sermon, take communion, go home, repeat next Sunday. I don’t want to wave palm fronds around, get my cues from a Powerpoint presentation, or bang a tambourine.

But my kind is on the verge of extinction, and I accept that. Grudgingly. I currently attend a church that is very into non-traditional worship. It’s a long story of how I ended up there but the bottom line is we really like the minister. So I put up with “Our God Is An Awesome God.”

So I wasn’t necessarily shocked when The Wife came to me and said,

“Tonight’s worship service is taking place in a barn.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s to bring us closer to the Baby Jesus.”

“Have you been in a barn? Because I’ve been in barns. They are dirty and smelly. They are hot in summer and cold in winter.”

“That’s the point.”

“I don’t need to be reminded that the Baby Jesus had it hard. I know the Baby Jesus had it hard. I’ve read the Bible story. I don’t need to reenact it.”

“Well, we can either go to the barn tonight, or go to Christmas Eve service tomorrow night. But if we go tomorrow night, it will cut into our time at Caroline’s dinner party.”

“Point me in the direction of that barn.”

In our family we do most of our Christmas celebrating on Christmas Eve. There would be a big dinner followed by present opening. For many years Laurie’s mother was in charge and then eventually it fell to Laurie. A couple of years ago, our niece Caroline decided she wanted to take over. Laurie gladly handed over the reins.

Caroline decided to forego the traditional turkey, ham and green bean casserole. The first year she threw a Mexican fiesta. last year it was Chinese, this year it’s Italian. Traditionalist I may be, but I am fine with this. I get my fill of turkey and stuffing over Thanksgiving. I’m good with tamales or pot stickers or veal parmigiana for Christmas Eve. Besides, we eat more traditional fare the next day.

So no, I wasn’t going to miss a minute of Caroline’s X-Mas Eve extravaganza. So yes, last night I drove all the way out to Pacific, Missouri, to sit in a barn and worship Jesus. It was cold in the barn. It smelled of horses in the barn. There were horses in the barn. Straw bales are not comfortable to sit on (although to be fair, neither are pews. But it’s easier to get up from a pew than from a bale of hay).

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Now at this point you’re expecting me to have my Grinch moment where my heart grows 3 sizes and I have a religious awakening and I tear up and tell you what a wonderful experience it was and how I was forever changed for the better.

But the Baby Jesus would not want me to lie.

Oh, it was fine. I’m glad I went. The sermon was good. I enjoyed watching the horses. I’m sure they were wondering what the heck was going on. I’m sure Andrew was wondering the same thing. But at least he had the foresight to wear a cap and gloves. I foolishly thought this was going to be a heated barn. It’s possible that the Holy Spirit flowed through me but I was too numb to notice.

But hey, The Wife enjoyed it and Andrew seemed to have a good time and any experience I can get a blog post out of is a good experience, right? Now, bring on the pasta and wine.

Merry Christmas. Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men. God Bless Us, Everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

RRandom Thoughts This Holiday Season

When did people stop sending Christmas cards? Most of what I’m getting now are postcards with family photos plastered on them. Have we really become so narcissistic? If I want to see pictures of your kids, I’ll log onto Facebook. The only baby I want to see on a Christmas card is the Baby Jesus.

xmastreeMy HULK Christmas tree does not have a Thor ornament. HINT. It is also missing a Wonder Woman ornament, but she does feature prominently on the Superfriends lunchbox ornament that Gena gave me. 

Top 3 Christmas movies:

  1. Batman Returns
  2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  3. Die Hard

The worst Christmas song of all times is not “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney. It is “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid. I actually become angry whenever I hear that song start playing.

Christmas tradition I miss: Nun Bowling with West Pod.

Favorite Christmas present this year (so far): A post-it note with the words “I appreciate you” written on it by Amy. It’s the little things.

We did not make it to Kansas City this year, but that’s OK because not all holiday traditions need to take place every year. 

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We did, however, make it to Bass Pro Shops over Thanksgiving. They have alligators and a free merry-go-round, which they don’t have at the Plaza. We didn’t buy anything. We (or rather, she) would’ve bought a lot of stuff at the Plaza.

If shopping malls are dying because of online purchasing, why can’t I find a parking spot at the Galleria?

Dear whoever is in charge of Marvel’s marketing: I would really like a nice Marvel Christmas sweater, but not one with Deadpool. Why is Deadpool on all the Christmas sweaters I find when I go out shopping? And why are there no Batman Christmas sweaters anywhere I look? Shouldn’t that be a license to print money?

(Yes, I am aware you can get a variety of Marvel Christmas sweaters and Batman sweaters on the internet, but I don’t like to buy clothes online. I want to see it, hold it, check it for flaws and make sure that it fits before I buy it. I’ve been burned before.)

It seems like a waste to spend 2 days decorating the house for the holidays when nobody comes over to see it.

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We were a day late for Wreaths Across America at Jefferson Barracks, but that’s OK. I prefer to be there when it’s not crowded.

Sometimes I can’t believe we’re still doing the Executive Committee Holiday Dinner.

Christmas isn’t as much fun as it was when I was a kid. Thanksgiving is more fun as an adult.

3 animated Christmas specials you should watch every year:

  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  3. There really isn’t a third

I don’t need anymore post-it notes with thoughtful sayings on them. That ship has sailed, cheapskates.

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