An Interview With <i>Drag Race</i> Fan Favorite Latrice Royale
Photo by Marcelo Cantu
Of all the queens to come out of RuPaul's Drag Race, there are very few as universally loved and revered as Latrice Royale. We're now three seasons past Latrice's run on the show, and the three casts of queens to come after her have only made Latrice shine even more. Longevity is key in the drag world, and it is incredibly clear that audiences around the country and world will get to experience Latrice Royale for many more years to come. She is large and in charge, chunky yet funky, and also incredibly generous, funny, and kind (none of which rhymes with anything that well but are all still very true). I caught up with Latrice during some of her very rare free time to chat about what's new in her life and her thoughts on the past and future of drag.
You were born in Los Angeles, but your drag career began in Florida. What was it like the first time you brought Latrice Royale back to your hometown?
It was really amazing, because my whole adult life was branched off in Florida, so I had only really been in Los Angeles as a teenager. Coming back and getting all the love and seeing this whole other life that I had never even seen or knew existed when I was here, because I was too young, was amazing. It felt like I had come full-circle; I had to leave home to get famous to come back home and actually be worth a damn. It was fabulous, and it's why I try to get back to L.A. at least once or twice a year. It's always a huge deal, and I love that. People really come out to see me and support me when I'm back, so it's pretty awesome.
What do you think is the key to your continued success?
The key really is to be a smart businessperson. That is the key. You have to make smart business decisions, and you have to really know how to market yourself, how to strike when the iron is hot, and how to pick your battles. Also, you always have to remain humble. That sounds cliché, but bitch, I am humble pie, and I will always remain that way, because I see what the other side of that gets you, and that's not where I want to be.
In terms of onstage performance, who are some of your favorite queens to see?
I'm from the old school, and I love a queen that really makes you feel, whether it's an emotion or you're losing your shit and screaming and hollering because they are turning the party and you can't even contain yourself. That's the kind of queen I really connect with, because that's the kind of queen I am. So my favorite queens to watch perform -- I like to see Sasha Colby, I love to see Kennedy Davenport, I love to see Chevelle Brooks. These are some pageant girls, but sorry 'bout it!
Do you think being a big girl in the drag world makes your job harder or easier?
It's definitely challenging. It's a challenge for several reasons. The obvious reason is that, as a big girl, you aren't going to find the same clothes and opportunities with shoes and designs that you would for a smaller girl, so that's the biggest hurdle. But once you get over the hurdle (like me, ha!), you then get another obstacle, because it gets expensive to get shit made that's worth a damn. So we have a joke, you know: "It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!"
Photo by Kristofer Reynolds
Florida does not exactly have a reputation as being a very open-minded state, but it is the place you call home. Do you find the audiences there to be any different from the audiences in, say, New York City?
Oh, absolutely. There's really only one place at home where every time I perform, it's absolutely phenomenal, and that's the Palace. It's in South Beach, right on Ocean Drive, and that's my absolute favorite place to perform when I'm home, because the audience there is so diverse. You get everything from little babies being carried around to old ladies with their walkers, and they're all there to have a good time enjoying the drag show and watching us cut up. It's different in the sense that when I travel everywhere else, it's a big to-do, but at home, you're never a profit in your own town.
Over the past few years, people, especially on the Internet, have gotten really touchy about things being "offensive." Have you ever had to deal with backlash over something you said in an interview or onstage, and if so, how did you deal with it?
I did get a lot of questions and eyebrows raised when I said what I did about the term "gay marriage." People were kind of like, "What does she mean? Does she not support gay marriage?" I had to be very specific in what I was trying to say, which is that I wholeheartedly believe in gay marriage; I just don't agree with it being called "gay marriage." I would prefer it be called something else. That's all that is! I said what I said, and I stand by it, because I still believe that. I mean, bitch, I'm ordained! Hello, I'm marrying gay folks all the time! Of course I believe in it. It means a lot to me to be able to do that and is really something I stand for. Sometimes you have to open up your mind and think outside the box. I can have those two feelings at the same time, you know?
The queer community has a tendency to focus on our differences rather than on our similarities, further splitting apart a group already made to feel separate from the "mainstream." Where do you think that comes from?
It stems from our reading and shade throwing that we do out of fun, but obviously we go to extremes and take that to the limit. Now it has become such an issue because there are so many different types of LGBT/queer community members. You can't love one group more than another group; it's all about trying to stand for a greater cause, which is equality for all. Here we are as a community, bickering amongst ourselves, while we have -- we're gonna call them "the straights" -- looking at us like, "Well, bitch, they don't even have it together. They don't even know what they want to be called, and they're all fighting about the 'T' word." What's that?! How can anyone take us seriously when we aren't taking ourselves seriously? We need to figure out what's important and what's not. There are bigger things, and bigger fish to fry; we gotta get our priorities straight as a community. That's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to let it be known that we don't have to divide! We can be diverse, but we do not have to divide. There is strength in numbers, and if we can get all together, we can make change happen faster than we are now. We're doing this stuff so slowly because everybody isn't on board!
In addition to bringing the house down with your performances onstage, you officiate weddings! What has been the best part of that experience for you?
It has really changed my whole outlook on the marriage situation. Never in my life was it even a consideration for me to be married, because it was always to be between a man and a woman, and I knew that I was never going to be with a woman, so that was not an option. To see that I am living in this day and age where not only is it legal but I am in a position to make it happen, to officiate and actually be a part of this huge movement in history, it's just amazing for me. To see and experience the families, the two sides coming together, and it not being a "gay" issue is incredible. It's about two loving souls that are coming together and want to promise and make a commitment about their love for each other in front of their loved ones, and that is just the ultimate for me. I get to sit and have dinner with Grandma and Memaw and Pop Pop; it's all so full of love. It really opened my eyes. I'm very inspired by it.
I just caught your cameo on this week's episode of Drag Race, which was hilarious! Who are some of the queens you're keeping your eye on this season?
Definitely Kennedy Davenport, Jasmine Masters, Jaidynn, Katya. I love me some Katya! I love Tempest! They're fabulous!
Photo by Jose Guzman Colon
Drag, like culture in general, is always in a constant state of change. Especially looking at the Internet now, people are able to find inspiration (and makeup tips) from places that 20 years ago did not exist as resources. What do you think the biggest change in drag culture has been since you started performing?
Really the biggest change is this whole Internet wave of drag, which is cute for a taste but not for a swallow. What the Internet is producing is a bunch of pretty drag queens with no talent. If painting your face was the talent, then we would all be out of jobs! There is a lot more to being a drag queen than painting a pretty face. That is not going to hold the audience, and that is not going to make people scream and yell for you. It makes for about 10 or 15 good seconds when you first walk out, and then what after that? That's the biggest thing that has happened. These girls, when they're researching how to do their makeup, should also be researching how to perform. Look up Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Madonna. Look up the girls who have paved the way and really know how to put on a show -- Janet Jackson, Cher, all the legends that have made drag what it is. That's what we as men, as drag queens, pay homage to by doing their characters still today and making it hot and relevant. Look at Chad Michaels! That's why Chad has been in the business so long. That's why I've been in the business so long. You will not have longevity if you can't adapt and stay relevant, darling!
What has been the biggest change in your life since appearing on Drag Race?
The biggest change has been becoming an entity. I am a full corporation! I am not where I want to be yet, and I love that. Drag Race has been a goal for a lot of people's careers, and it was a goal for me too, but it was a goal as a stepping stone, for a platform, so that I can really be elevated and do what I really want to do. I am still striving for excellence, and I have goals that I'm trying to achieve, and we are well on our way. We're on our fourth year, and that says a lot for someone in my position who did not win the show. I feel like I've won, because I'm here, and I'm still relevant, and I'm still doing bigger and better things. You will always hear, as long as I have breath left in my body, from Latrice Royale. Trust and believe I'm not going anywhere!
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Celebrities Have Been Working Out A Lot Lately, And They Have The Instagrams To Prove It
Earlier this week, "Girls" star Lena Dunham posted a "workout selfie" on Instagram along with a powerful message about the importance of exercise, especially when it comes to mental health.
"To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it's mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen," Dunham wrote. "I'm glad I did. It ain't about the ass, it's about the brain."
Dunham isn't the only celebrity who wants the world to know she's a fan of exercise. From gym selfies to scenic hikes, these famous women are all about getting their sweat on.
While Dunham preached...
Promised myself I would not let exercise be the first thing to go by the wayside when I got busy with Girls Season 5 and here is why: it has helped with my anxiety in ways I never dreamed possible. To those struggling with anxiety, OCD, depression: I know it's mad annoying when people tell you to exercise, and it took me about 16 medicated years to listen. I'm glad I did. It ain't about the ass, it's about the brain. Thank you @tracyandersonmethod for showing me the light (and @bandierfit is where I bought my Florida mom inspired workout look.) #notsponsored #stillmedicated
A photo posted by Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) on
Karlie Kloss went for a jog in Paris.
Actress Jessica Alba showed off her toned arms ...
A photo posted by Jessica Alba (@jessicaalba) on
... And model Miranda Kerr proved just how high she can lift her leg.
A photo posted by Miranda (@mirandakerr) on
Dunham's "Girls" co-star Allison Williams had mad Pilates skills.
A photo posted by Allison Williams (@aw) on
Britney Spears demonstrated her pro hiker status ...
A photo posted by Britney Spears (@britneyspears) on
... And singer Demi Lovato owned the trampoline selfie.
A photo posted by Demi Lovato (@ddlovato) on
"Glee" star Lea Michele fit in a workout during a busy day.
A photo posted by Lea Michele (@msleamichele) on
Khloe Kardashian's orange kicks starred in this selfie.
A photo posted by Khloé (@khloekardashian) on
Actress Minka Kelly next-leveled with a video demonstration of her mad kickboxing skills.
A video posted by Minka Kelly (@minkak) on
Ready to hit the gym yet?
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Joan Smalls Is A Bombshell (Per Usual) And More Beauty Looks We Loved This Week
It's not hard to be impressed by a supermodel. Especially when said model is Joan Smalls.
The Puerto Rican beauty took our breath away this week, as always, when she stepped out at Vanity Fair's 2015 Tribeca Film Festival party in New York City. The combination of her sleek hair and bold lip is a look we can all emulate, sans the supermodel status.
In addition, we were also blown away by beauty moments that came courtesy of Scarlett Johansson, Rose Byrne and few more celeb favorites.
Check out all the ladies below and tell us which looks you love in the comments section.
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9 Tidbits From George Lucas' Chat With Stephen Colbert At The Tribeca Film Festival
The chance to see George Lucas discuss his career ranked fairly high in our Tribeca Film Festival priorities, especially with Stephen Colbert conducting the interview. Apparently we weren't alone: The festival sold out one of its largest flagship auditoriums for Friday's hour-long panel, part of the Tribeca Talks series, and spectators lined up with posters and DVDs for the "Star Wars" overlord to autograph. Inside, it took no time at all to realize there is very little the 70-year-old Lucas hasn't already been asked about his well-documented career.
Even an adept moderator (and "Star Wars" obsessive) like Colbert couldn't squeeze out many fresh tidbits from the talkative director, though he did display his signature wit throughout, particularly when Lucas sneezed and Colbert responded by saying, "May The Force be with you." These guys! So silly!
But even the nerdiest of "Star Wars" fans can stand to revisit morsels about the iconic franchise -- and hey, maybe there's even something in here that you didn't already know. Here are nine quickies from Friday's conversation:
1. George Lucas is not a fan of being a celebrity. He's happy to wear sneakers and avoid Hollywood galas, which has prompted some in the industry to liken him to the reclusive Howard Hughes.
2. There's at least one downside to directing "Star Wars." "The one thing I regret about doing 'Star Wars' is I never got to see it," Lucas said when asked whether he's anticipating "The Force Awakens," which opens in December. "I never got that thrill."
3. "American Graffiti" started as a dare from Francis Ford Coppola. The duo became pals after Lucas won a scholarship in film school that allowed him to work on a Warner Bros. project of his choosing. He selected "Finian's Rainbow," Coppola's 1968 musical starring Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. (Coppola was 29 when "Rainbow" opened; Lucas was 24.)
In 1969, the directors opened their own studio, American Zoetrope, which released Lucas' infamous 1971 sci-fi flop "THX 1138." (It was a joint venture with Warner Bros., which "told Francis Ford Coppola and me, ‘We want our money back,'" Lucas said. In order to pay off that $350,000, Coppola made a little film called "The Godfather.") Coppola then told Lucas to lay off the experimental "robot" stuff, daring him to write a comedy instead. Confident he could do it, Lucas channeled his California youth to write "American Graffiti," which went on to earn five Oscar nominations and become 1973's third-highest grossing movie across North America.
4. Lucas is fully aware of what you think about his most recent "Star Wars" scripts. "I'm notorious for wooden dialogue," Lucas said, presumably referring to criticism that defined the franchise's second trilogy. Frankly, he doesn't care, largely because dialogue, in his mind, is secondary to visuals and sound. In keeping, he considers "Star Wars" a silent film that generates meaning from its movement. "You could be 2 years old and not understand what anyone’s saying, but still understand the movie," he said.
5. The only one of Lucas' director friends who supported "Star Wars" was Steven Spielberg. Lucas' posse includes Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese, but Spielberg was the only one who said "Star Wars" would be a hit after Lucas screened it for his buddies. De Palma, who released "Carrie" a year before 1977's "A New Hope" opened, instead asked, "What the hell is The Force?"
6. Lucas learned of the "Star Wars" momentum from a news report. Alan Ladd Jr. was the producer who gave "Star Wars" the green light, and he remained Lucas' only supporter when 20th Century Fox wanted to nix production due to escalating budgets and location snafus. Lucas insisted Ladd wait a few weeks after "A New Hope" opened to gauge its performance, once the movie could transcend the fanatics who will show up for any sci-fi flick. A week after the movie hit theaters, Lucas was on vacation in Hawaii when he saw a CBS news story showcasing the fandom that had already erupted -- it was then that he grasped its proliferating impact.
7. But Lucas never wanted to make Hollywood blockbusters. He was interested in experimental films, à la "THX 1138." Today, he says he's retired and tinkering around with the type of movies that studios didn't want him to make. "They’ll probably never get released,” he joked. “I’m just screwing around in my garage.” He can afford to screw around because he worked to secure "Star Wars" sequel rights from 20th Century Fox after "A New Hope" became a hit. “That’s how I got to be rich," he said, smiling.
8. As of Friday, Lucas hadn't seen the latest "Force Awakens" trailer. And he has no idea what the new movie is about, despite receiving a "creative consultant" credit. (He didn't watch the first teaser until almost two months after it debuted.) "I'm excited, I have no idea what they're doing," he said. The original, however, remains a family saga -- his intent was to make a movie about "the father, the children, the grandchildren.”
9. Lucas thinks Colbert should replace Jon Stewart. "Don't you think the perfect choice to replace that Jon Stewart fella would have been you? And now you're working at 'Late Show,' where nobody sees you," Lucas quipped, to which Colbert responded by saying that he was previously on at 11:30 p.m. and will now be on at 11:35. He never wanted to take Stewart's gig because he would forever live "underneath his shadow."
Theater: City Of Lights Musical Smackdown: "Gigi" Vs "An American In Paris." And The Winner Is....
GIGI * ½ out of ****
NEIL SIMON THEARE
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS ** ½ out of ****
Two musicals set in Paris opened on Broadway within four days of each other. Both are shows that began as musicals created for the movies, something almost unheard of today unless you're an animated princess. Both won the Best Picture Oscar. An American In Paris won in 1951, when the far superior drama A Place In The Sun should have triumphed. Gigi beat a very weak field in 1958. Vertigo or Touch Of Evil or A Night To Remember should have won, but they weren't even nominated. I suppose I'd pick the problematic adaptation of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof that was nominated as a worthier winner.
Curiously, both films - huge triumphs in their day - have fallen hard in critical standing over the years. An American In Paris is politely remembered for its dance, while the paper-thin storyline is passed over in silence. Both director Vincente Minnelli and star Gene Kelly did much better work.
Gigi has fared even worse. The follow-up to the smash Lerner & Lowe hit My Fair Lady (often dubbed the "perfect" musical, fairly enough), Gigi was a blockbuster. But time hasn't been kind to it. My Fair Lady led to a steep decline artistically, with Gigi and Camelot (which has a great score but a terrible book) and On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and the movie Paint Your Wagon all proving increasingly problematic, especially in their books. (Alan Jay Lerner also wrote the book for An American In Paris, whose music is by the Gershwins, of course.)
An American In Paris didn't have enough substance while Gigi in a way had too much. It's a romanticized tale about selling off the favors of a young virginal woman and its highlight is the now creepy sight of the aging Maurice Chevalier crooning "Thank Heaven For Little Girls."
American In Paris gets a dramatically beefed up story courtesy of Craig Lucas, changing its setting to just after World War II, adding in details of collaboration and post-war tension, not to mention turning the lone suitor of Gene Kelly into three different men vying for the affections of our heroine. More importantly, it has embraced the strength of the film: the dancing. Director Christopher Wheeldon - a huge talent in the ballet world - is making his Broadway debut and he's cast major ballet stars in the lead roles.
Gigi has gone in the opposite direction, downplaying as much as possible what the story is actually about, casting her lover as a man essentially the same age as our little girl and taking away "Thank Heaven For Little Girls" from the old rogue Honoré and giving it to Gigi's grandmother and aunt.
From afar, An American In Paris has succeeded better. Neither show got raves; neither show is a smash hit. But An American In Paris has done substantially better at the box office, while Gigi has struggled. Yet in a way, An American In Paris is more disappointing because it actually had the chance to be very good.
First, Gigi. Gaston (Corey Cott) is a handsome, charming heir to a fortune in sugar. A Kardashian sort of celebrity, Gaston feels obliged to feed the gossip pages for some reason; he is always wooing some new beauty and showering her with jewels until he or she or both of them become bored and move on, preferably with some spectacular blowup that can be the talk of the town.
But what Gaston truly enjoys are the quiet, simple moments he spends with Mamita, the one-time love of his uncle Honoré and the grandmother to the spunky little Gigi (Vanessa Hudgens). Gigi doesn't like him for his money or wealth, not her. She teases him mercilessly, much prefers chocolates to furs and when they're together they laugh and laugh.
But what's this? Gaston goes away for a few days and returns to realize Gigi has become...a young woman. A very pretty young woman. He loves her; she loves him, but first they must do a tiresome little dance where Gaston offers all sorts of inducements to her protectors in order to ensure that Gigi will be financially set once Gaston has moved on. True love never comes into it, except for the two young folk and not until the last moment.
Among the many missed opportunities in what should have been a rethought Gigi, our heroine might have been surprised by the negotiations taking place. She should be angry with her grandmother and aunt for putting a price on her love; she should be angry with Gaston for thinking she could be bought and need to be wooed all over again. Instead, they spend a miserable couple of scenes together going through the motions of man and mistress. When you think they'd both rather just quit, suddenly they're getting married.
By and large, the older folk have it better in this Gigi. Howard McGillin has the right glib air for Honoré and is easily matched by Victoria Clark as Mamita. They have fun with "I Remember It Well" and the show's purest musical highlight is Clark's lovely delivery of "Say A Prayer" as the eleven o'clock number. Dee Hoty is also fun as Aunt Alicia.
Hudgens makes a respectable debut as Gigi. She has a lovely clear voice and sings with pleasurable attention to the lyrics, as opposed to vocal flourishes. At first, her plucky nature (typified by Gigi stretching her arms out behind her in exuberant delight) works fine. Unfortunately, it's the only note director Eric Schaeffer elicits from her and the longer the show goes on, the more repetitive it becomes. Nonetheless, she is comfortable onstage and handles the choreography of Joshua Bergasse with skill. With work, Hudgens might have a bright future on the stage.
Steffanie Leigh is good as a rival of sorts (she plays Gaston's lover at the start of the show) and scores with her comic number "A Toujours." The show might have had fun with the disparity between this tall blonde beauty and the pint-sized Hudgens but no such luck, just one more example of a lost opportunity.
The songs are far from top drawer, for I've already mentioned the two best. Would be show-stoppers like "The Night They Invented Champagne" fall flat. The comic relief of battling lawyers in "The Contract" is painful to watch. And every tune seems to drag itself out, playing out at a slower and slower pace till you're left waiting for them to end.
The scenic design by Derek McLane begins handsomely, with a sweeping metal staircase and arches filling up the set at the start. But it never seems to go away and is just a smidge too busy. Like everything else, it wears out its welcome. The costumes by Catherine Zuber seem to get less attractive as well, especially the poorly thought out black and white number for Gigi's coming out scene. She's not a willowy creature and this might have been entirely rethought rather than echoing Leslie Caron and Audrey Hepburn (earlier Gigis in both the musical and play versions).
With forced humor and scenes of gloomy unhappiness rather than blooming romance, the second act proves a struggle. Happily, the show has one saving grace: Corey Cott as the young Gaston. He replaced Jeremy Jordan in Newsies and it's immediately clear why when you see him. Mind you, casting Cott throws off yet one more element of the story. (In age, Gaston should be like a much, much older brother or uncle, not a fellow playmate.) The fact that he's not an older gentleman but rather a contemporary makes it all the more confusing that their romance can't just blossom.
But Cott has a winning charm and a lovely voice and stage presence to spare. The story becomes nonsense and the song isn't good enough, but the title tune where Gaston begins in anger only to realize he's deeply in love almost works here thanks to him. It's hardly enough to rescue a show that has a weak score and a weaker book and was a poor choice for reviving in the first place. But like any sophisticated Parisian, one seeks out pleasure wherever one can.
Looking for the good moments in Gigi is like panning for gold: they appear far too infrequently. It's quite a different story in the musical An American In Paris. This show starts off strongly and moves briskly through its confident first act. Then just as you're getting excited, it falls completely apart on every level in the second act.
Not even a big dance number - which should be the show's crowning achievement - can rescue it. Still, it's good enough to hope choreographer and director Christopher Wheeldon will return to Broadway soon. Flawed as it is, An American In Paris easily has the best dancers, the best use of choreography to move the story along and even the most fluid and graceful set changers on Broadway.
The story is now set in 1945, right at the end of the war. Our hero Jerry (Robert Fairchild) is a brash young American soldier who wants to be an artist. He is painting and sketching everything in sight. Jerry spots a beautiful young woman (Leanne Cope) but loses her in a crowd. The city is a little grey and cloudy (even though it's Paris) because the war still haunts everyone, naturally. A collaborator is denounced and pounced upon by an angry crowd.
Nonetheless, our hero loves the place and when he finally gets a ticket to head home, he tears it up and stays. Before you can blink, he's in a small café answering the rat-a-tat questions of a fellow American and fellow artist, a would-be composer and war veteran named Adam (Brandon Uranowitz). Adam's working on a classical piece and also decided to try his luck in Paris. He's creating a night club act for the wealthy but dissatisfied Henri (Max von Essen) whose very respectable parents demand propriety at all times. Henri perhaps is not so terribly interested in the fairer sex, though the idea occurs to his mother (a very amusing Veanne Cox) and friends more than it occurs to him. Nonetheless, he should get married and soon...preferably to the adorable young Jewess Henri's family sheltered during the war.
That Jewess is Lise (Leanne Cope), the very same beauty Jerry fell hard for his first day in town. And what do you know? Adam plays the piano at ballet auditions and falls for Lise as well. All three friends keep their romance a secret from one another: Adam is composing a ballet for her, Jerry sketches her during the afternoon and Henri tries to gin up some enthusiasm for marrying her, all while preparing his scandalously common nightclub act of song and dance.
So there you have it. The drama-free plot of the movie has become a love quadrangle with three men vying for the heart of Lise. Book writer Craig Lucas also throws in some murky issues about the Resistance that are poorly explained, not to mention a wealthy American patroness of the arts named Milo (Jill Paice). She eyes appreciably the backside of Jerry during their first encounter, keeps him around as arm candy for her many evenings out and then -- darn it -- falls hard for the guy herself.
All this works well in the first act, where the dance is more integrated into the story. Jerry's first day in Paris, meeting Lise, the angry mob tearing into a collaborator, his burgeoning friendship with Adam and Henri all are told essentially through fluid, lovely dance pieces. The scenes flow together nicely, aided by a smart visual conception for the show. The set and costume design is by Bob Crowley with projection design by 59 Productions. In combination with the lighting of Natasha Katz, they've created a visual sketch of Paris. Sets are often suggested by drawings that fill in on the back wall or a series of movable antique mirrors that are arranged here and there on the stage. It all works very well, creating a large open space where the excellent dance ensemble Wheeldon has created can move unimpeded by bulky sets.
The peak of this conception is the meeting place where Jerry and Lise meet in the afternoons. It's sketched in with just a low wall and a bench as props, including two small boats that hang down from the ceiling but seem to be floating in the canal behind them. It's simple, lovely and quite graceful. When they return to the scene again a little later, it's now developed a little further through the eye of Jerry who paints what he saw in a more modern, suggestive style.
Fairchild has a direct, vaguely arrogant American manner about his character, much like Gene Kelly in the movie. It works well at first, though it becomes a little boorish as the show goes on (which isn't always Fairchild's fault). However, all is forgiven when he dances.
Jerry makes his friends to the tune of "I've Got Rhythm." He sings "I've Got Beginner's Luck" and then dances with humor while wooing Lise in a department store (one of the show's best numbers, all of which take place in this first act). Cope solos capably on "The Man I Love," her one big number. And "'S Wonderful" and "Shall We Dance?" and more all move with grace and charm.
So what happens? The story they've begun in Act One is bungled and then just gets in the way during Act Two. The three way competition for Lise's heart proves a bust. Henri is never that interested to begin with, it seems. Worse, the intellectual Adam who might plausibly compete by creating great music for Lise turns into a schlub whenever he's around her. With Jerry arrogant and apparently shacking up with a wealthy woman, Adam could have had a shot. But Lise sees him as nothing more than a friend, instead of the musical genius who might celebrate Lise as his muse and make them both world famous. In fact, they barely speak so one can't even enjoy their artistic collaboration.
And a subplot about Henri's family is unnecessarily confusing. All Lucas wants to suggest is that while they bravely served in the Resistance, it's too soon for the family to reveal what they did or claim credit for saving Lise's life. Quite simply, too many people still in power were collaborators and might enact revenge. Also, it's unclear what might happen post-war and whether the right sort will regain power, which is why the Resistance continued even after the war ended. But the show is unnecessarily tight-lipped about this, making one wonder exactly what Henri's parents did that might seem shameful. (When Milo toasts their bravery, it makes matters even more confusing.)
All of this pales in comparison to the real problem: the musical numbers collapse in sense. Act Two begins with Jerry getting bored during a hokey ballet piece that gives him "Fidgety Feet." This makes him look a little obnoxious and feels unmotivated by anything to do with the actual story at hand. Thus, this Act Two opener plays more like filler than an exciting resumption of the romance we're supposed to care about.
That's followed by two duets that clash horribly. In the first, Milo and Henri sing "Who Cares?" upon discovering Jerry and Lise are deeply in love. Unfortunately, because of the arrangement or the orchestration or the staging or the incompatibility of their voices or whatever, they don't even begin to get in sync. It sounds like two people singing two different songs in two different scenes accidentally overlapping. The exact same problem bedevils "But Not For Me," a duet that features Adam and Milo.
Then Henri has his big nightclub debut and in another misjudgment, most of it takes place inside Henri's mind. In real life, he starts off stumbling around and barely getting the lyrics out to "I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise." Yet in his head it becomes a lavish, Vegas sort of number, the sort Peter Allen would perfect in decades to come. Then the fantasy ends and Henri recovers despite the shock of seeing his parents in the audience and he reaches the end of the song acquitting himself decently.
However, we want to know if Henri really has talent, so letting his big moment take place in his mind confuses our burning question: is he any good? Also, "I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise" just isn't a very good song so it's not terribly interesting as a song or as a minimal dance piece. So it ends and we're still not sure if he's actually any good. Then his dad embraces Henri as if the man were the next Maurice Chevalier and no one could ever doubt it.
The last big number is the big ballet, the piece we've been waiting for. It too is a disappointment. The film's big number for Leslie Caron is the one unqualified success of the film. Here we have a period-influenced piece (my guest hated the Mondrian-inspired costumes and the retro air). It takes flight briefly when Jerry and Lise don black and dance together during her fantasy scene interjected in the midst of Lise's big moment. It can't compete with the film's highlight, which is a pity since the film could be outpaced easily in so many other ways.
Fairchild is an appealing lead, even if this first stab at holding center stage in a Broadway musical isn't a complete triumph as actor and singer. Both he and Cope of course dance beautifully; Fairchild in particular looks like he could explore more such roles and grow into a complete actor. The supporting actors are good, with Veanne Cox especially funny in the droll turn of Henri's mother (she looks a dead ringer for a sister of Tilda Swinton throughout).
Uranowitz is the narrator and would-be competitor, though the show doesn't let him out of the starting gate in terms of romance. Essen has a harder part, since the show's biggest bungle is the suggestion that Henri is gay. We don't expect him to form a local chapter of the Mattachine Society (which of course didn't exist until 1950). But Henri's mother bluntly asks him if he doesn't really care for gays. And when Henri mentions a secret, his two best friends immediately say "Which one?" So why the timidity over what he really wants?
The show can't even give Henri the dignity of realizing he's gay or god forbid singling out one of the many handsome dancers on hand for a future dalliance. Instead, he remains opaque and not in an interesting way. The closest the show gets to suggesting the truth is the rather embarrassing moment when Henri compliments the woman Milo on her shoes and she asks him to join her on a shopping expedition. If you're not going to deal with it in an emotionally satisfying or even sexy way, why bring it up in the first place?
So with Gigi, we have a bad movie that isn't improved by fleeing from the story it's telling. In An American In Paris, we have a new talent on Broadway in the form of Wheeldon who delivers a solid first act and shows a real flair (naturally) for telling story through dance. It's somewhat an improvement on the film, if far from a musical worth reviving in years to come without a lot more work on the book and that second act.
It's always charming to visit the city of lights in real life. That charm is mostly lacking in Gigi (despite a game cast) and only somewhat present in An American In Paris. A truly great musical creates its own magic but these two at best can only borrow a little.
THEATER OF 2015
Honeymoon In Vegas **
The Woodsman ***
Constellations ** 1/2
Taylor Mac's A 24 Decade History Of Popular Music 1930s-1950s ** 1/2
Let The Right One In **
Da no rating
A Month In The Country ** 1/2
Parade in Concert at Lincoln Center ** 1/2
Hamilton at the Public ***
The World Of Extreme Happiness ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year 1915-1940 **
Verite * 1/2
The Mystery Of Love & Sex **
An Octoroon at Polonsky Shakespeare Center *** 1/2
Fish In The Dark *
The Audience ***
Josephine And I ***
Posterity * 1/2
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame **
Lonesome Traveler **
On The Twentieth Century ***
Radio City Music Hall's New York Spring Spectacular ** 1/2
The Heidi Chronicles *
The Tallest Tree In The Forest * 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1941-1965 ***
Twelfth Night by Bedlam ***
What You Will by Bedlam *** 1/2
Wolf Hall Parts I and II ** 1/2
Nellie McKay at 54 Below ***
Ludic Proxy ** 1/2
It Shoulda Been You **
Finding Neverland ** 1/2
Hamlet w Peter Sarsgaard at CSC no stars
The King And I ***
Marilyn Maye -- Her Way: A Tribute To Frank Sinatra at 54 Below ***
Gigi * 1/2
An American In Paris ** 1/2
Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming website BookFilter, a book lover's best friend. Trying to decide what to read next? Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter? Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It's a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It's like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide -- but every week in every category. He's also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It's available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.
Note: Michael Giltz is provided with free tickets to shows with the understanding that he will be writing a review. All productions are in New York City unless otherwise indicated.
Ben Affleck Reportedly Asked PBS To Censor His Slave-Owning Ancestor
The PBS series "Finding Your Roots" is all about uncovering the ancestry of the show's celebrity guests. But according to a hacked Sony email, one guest requested to have his family tree censored.
Ben Affleck was featured in a "Finding Your Roots" episode from last October, "Roots of Freedom," which discusses his Freedom Rider mother, a Revolutionary War ancestor and his third great-grandfather. But according to a hacked Sony email posted by WikiLeaks on Thursday, Affleck reportedly asked PBS to edit out information about an ancestor who owned slaves.
In the email, "Finding Your Roots" host Henry Louis Gates Jr. emailed Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton for advice regarding the request, the New York Daily News reported. In the email dated July 22, 2014, Gates wrote, "For the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors -- the fact that he owned slaves."
Lynton replied, telling Gates to take it out if no one knew the material was already in the documentary. "I would take it out if no one knows," Lynton wrote, "but if it gets out that you are editing the material based on this kind of sensitivity then it gets tricky. Again, all things being equal I would definitely take it out."
Gates responded saying that removing the information would be "a violation of PBS rules, actually, even for Batman." The host later added that Affleck's ancestor "wasn't even a bad guy," noting that four or five of the other guests from the show that season, including Anderson Cooper, were descendants of slave owners.
Both Gates and PBS released statements on the network's website Friday regarding the hacked emails and the episode.
"Ultimately, I maintain editorial control on all of my projects and, with my producers, decide what will make for the most compelling program," Gates said. "In the case of Mr. Affleck -- we focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry." The network expressed its support for Gates and his producers' "independent editorial judgment to choose the most compelling narrative."
In a statement to The Huffington Post, a representative for Sony criticized WikiLeaks for the “indexing of stolen employee and other private and privileged information.”
“We vehemently disagree with WikiLeaks’ assertion that this material belongs in the public domain and will continue to fight for the safety, security, and privacy of our company and its more than 6,000 employees," the statement read.
A rep for Affleck did not immediately respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.
The Most Stunning Celebrity Spring Weddings
You may have more than a few nuptials on your calendar this Summer, but wedding season is really a year-round affair, and Spring is just as good a time as any to tie the knot.
Ben Stiller Announced Penelope Cruz Will Be In 'Zoolander 2' In The Best Way
Okay "Zoolander 2" fans, the flick just got a hot new cast member!
Ben Stiller announced on Instagram and Twitter that none other than the beautiful Penelope Cruz has joined the cast in the fashion comedy.
Kylie Jenner Debuts Cotton-Candy Pink Hair at Coachella
Breaking hair news, again: Kylie Jenner has a new hair style for Coachella this weekend, which she debuted while at the arts and music festival with her rumored boyfriend Tyga.
Beyoncé Stuns In Bikini Pics From Hawaii Vacation
Queen Bey has got that vacation life on lock.
Beyoncé's Hawaii trip with Jay Z made Internet rounds earlier this month when a picture captured the star giving advice to a young fan planning to sing at her upcoming school talent show.
Now, Beyoncé has taken to the Internet herself to share some gorgeous snaps from the rest of the vacation. On Instagram, Beyoncé shared a video slideshow featuring stunning water views, bikini pics and shots of flowers and palm trees.
A video posted by Beyoncé (@beyonce) on
Over on beyonce.com, the star shared some additional gorgeous pictures and GIFs that will leave you majorly craving some salty beach air.
How long until we can break out our summer wear?
Bill Pullman Is Back For 'Independence Day 2'
You know you're psyched to see Roland Emmerich blow up more stuff in "Independence Day 2: Independence Harder" (just kidding, it's called "Independence Day Forever," and it'll have two parts).
Podcast Review: <i>To The Manor Borne By Robots</i>
It's great discovering new entries to Podcastland, particularly those that push the boundaries of what we get to hear. While To The Manor Borne By Robots is largely comedy-flavored, it is also by turns social commentary, science fiction, mystery, intrigue, with a helping of noir narrative ladled over the top.
The overarching story involves a horrible monster, The Beast, who comes to Earth in the 25th century, bent on humankind's destruction. It turns out this creature can be lulled to sleep by telling it stories and therein lies the hook: Each episode features a stand-alone story that's ostensibly being read to The Beast, but these stories also fill in the blanks between our present time and the age where Earth gets ravaged.
Episode 3's story, for example, deals with near-future technology that can take over and "drive" people like you would pilot a drone.
Laced around these elements is a half-human cyborg from the future that has switched places with his 21st century ancestor in an attempt to discover the origins of The Beast and stop it before it can wreak havoc.
This is one of the most layered 50 minutes of podcasting I've ever heard. Employing decent writing and great voice acting, the show is the brainchild of John Eder from Los Angeles and I find it very compelling.
Podcasts I'm also listening to this week: If I Were You Epi147: Strangling w/Jon Wolf, and The Blank Planet #8: The Sacred Clown
This review originally posted as part of This Week In Comedy Podcasts on Splitsider.com.
Drew Carey Just Married The Entire 'Price Is Right' Audience In Massive Wedding
Forget the bidding. On Friday, "The Price Is Right" was all about holy matrimony.
In possibly one of the most epic mass weddings ever, host Drew Carey married the entire audience of "The Price Is Right" for a special episode that aired Friday. The event, which was filmed earlier this year, featured dozens of real-life longtime couples. Carey told People magazine that he'd gotten legally officiated in order to conduct the ceremony.
"In the big wheel of love, may you always spin a dollar," Carey told the audience, before pronouncing the couples "all married." What better place to tie the knot than on TV at the Bob Barker Studios (besides live at the Grammys, of course).
Rihanna Soaks Up The Sun In A Bikini
Rihanna is catching the rays you wish you could.
The star took to Instagram on Friday to share a low-key bikini selfie. Get that Vitamin D, girl.
It appears the singer is doing her sunbathing while in Hawaii for a wedding. She posted another selfie on Friday with the caption "aloha muthaphucka," and a picture before that of a sign for a women's restroom with the word "Wahine" and the hashtag "#davis420wedding."
A photo posted by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on
A photo posted by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on
Um, can we get an invite?
Mad Men Season 7: Don's Long Goodbye
As Mad Men, the most profound series in TV history, draws to a prolonged denouement, we are treated to a tidy cavalcade of cameos of former regulars shuttling through the Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce-McCann-Erickson-yadda-yadda misogynistic ad world. Former friends are now enemies. Meamwhile, the truly egregious boors -- still the mainstay of the big-name ad world -- are running the show, as Peggy and Joan (and eventually Stan?) discover to their differently sized dismay.
Meanwhile, Don's forlorn odyssey through his romantic past rings necessary and true. He's chastened. He's sad. He's lonely. So sad, chastened and lonely, that he is willing to bestow all the goodness and compassion he didn't quite bestow on all his previous conquests on a seemingly random waitress he spies in a diner. At first, it appears as if genius show runner Matthew Weiner was up to what Vince Gilliam pulled off towards the end of Breaking Bad around what or who poisoned little Brock. That is, blowing up a secondary moment from a previous season into the signature trope that gives a series its rounded emotional core.
However, the semi-spectral waitress Diana (no last name given), whom Don thinks he knows from somewhere, is just a real-life amalgam of competing desires within him. A longing for a wounded, sad brunette vaguely resembling his stepmother Abigail, whom young Dick caught in flagrante delicto with sleazy brothel owner Uncle Mack? Or his own mother, who died in childbirth? A classy, but mournful, true companion along the lines of fellow outsider, Jewish shopping store maven Rachel Menken, whose mother also passed away in childbirth and who herself has since passed away from leukemia?
Don goes to the shiva for Rachel, only to be turned away by Rachel's prickly sister (and surrogate mother) because Jewish wannabe Don isn't Jewish or wanted.
Then there's the possibility that the new woman in Don's life simply represents a mature sex buddy along the lines of Don's neighbor Sylvia Rosen, whose shown with Don and Di in an elevator with her now drunk and heartless cardiologist husband Arnold.
For this new, repentant Don, she's probably all this and more, including, like Don, a refugee from two-car-garage suburbia (and the Midwest to boot).
There's something Shakespearean about Don's tour-de-regret, as if he is a ghost passing over the lives of people that he never bothered to deeply know because he was too busy bedding down the latest flame in a compulsive, sex-addicted quest to quell the sadness of his bred-in-bordello childhood. All the women that pass through Don's long goodbye are aspects of his own id; each important in their way, but fully, on their own, not enough.
There was never a woman who could be all that Don Draper needed in a mate. And each of his conquests knows this and hates him for it. Even though compared to some of the other more gauche boys in Don's manly orbit -- the formerly likeable, now creepy, Harry Crane is shown crudely hitting on Megan Draper -- what he has done to these women does not merit the treatment he is receiving in return.
However, that is the deeper "No Exit" point of Mad Men. There are forces at work in life greater than oneself -- whole histories of pain and suffering, as well as inherited beliefs and ideologies -- that predestine one's trajectory. In 2015 America, we just want Don to get sober and into therapy, but, for the true oversoul, pedestrian palliatives will not suffice.
At the beginning of episode 9, "New Business," Don is making a milk shake for his sweet son Bobby and second son Eugene. He seems at that moment to feel the greatest pull towards Betty Francis (the former Betty Hofstadt Draper). And rightly so since she was his first wife and the mother of his three children. Moreover, you see in the still child-like Betty that winsome desire to earn Don's approval, and to gain some lebensraum for herself amidst the claustrophobic ennui of her politician-wife milieu. Betty is going to get a Masters in Psychology. "People love to talk to me," she smiles.
There is something tragic about both Don and Betty at that moment, which suggests, in the end, they were meant for each other: both in love with the façade, yet capable of bringing out the depths in others, even as they struggle to mine their own. If only they could get out the Kodak carousel "time machine," and travel back to that delightful summer camp episode with Bobby, when they finally seemed happy.
Yes, Betty Francis will make a splendid therapist. And, yes, Henry Francis drank the rest of Don's milk shake in the show's best slam yet at the political class: sanctimonious towards Madison Avenue swells, but prostitutes all the same.
That whore metaphor from Don's childhood doesn't stop there, especially as Megan's sexy mom, Marie Calvet, demands that Roger Sterling bring over $200 in cash immediately to pay Megan's movers. Then Marie subsequently proceeds to demand that an always-frisky, always-hilarious Roger bed her down. These two pleasure-seeking creatures understand and deserve each other.
However, this is Don's story. And everyone else in Mad Men -- despite their own intriguing arcs -- exist as a reflection of what's up with our protagonist. Though he is still able to bring out a complex web of emotions in others, you want to cry for this broken and suddenly honest Draper. The man who had it all is now -- thanks to Megan's vengeful mom -- even without furniture in his groovy Manhattan bachelor pad. This coup de Quebecoise comes on the heels of Don gullibly writing a $1 million check to formerly decent, now empty vessel, Megan, who, even with her "Zoobie Zoobie Zoo" charm, has become more interested in her vapid soap acting career -- gifted to her courtesy of Don, and going nowhere since his departure -- than our antihero's true needs.
The tragedy of King Draper is that now that he is "ready" (as he tells "Di"), the tough new girl in his life reveals that she is not. She needs to suffer a bit more for her past misdeeds.
And so it goes. The heaping mess of karma, born long before Dick Whitman even entered this world, is still inflicting its vengeance on our late-blooming ad man.
What will Don do now? Where will he go? What will he become? Millions of similarly cuckolded men, born of Eros and of dust, and struggling with quandaries similar to those of our tragically flawed Achilles, are dying to know.