Archive for August, 2010

Trick Boxing: A Rump Review

Posted in CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, Dance, Indie Theatre, Sport & Recreation with tags , on August 31, 2010 by travsd

One is never quite out of the woods. At the last minute I decided to catch one last Fringe show to add to my previous bunch for an even eleven (eleven is even in some other country, I forget where). Trick Boxing had great word of mouth and proved to have much merit. The title holds no secrets. The play in question is a boxing story and that’s all you need to know about the plot. There is only ONE boxing story. Ever. (Mug with natural talent is discovered by handlers. Handlers develop but exploit mug. Betting spoils mug’s potential. Mug’s girlfriend is voice of reason.) This one has a new twist, though: guilt-stricken fight manager becomes potato salesman. That twist notwithstanding, there’s not a lot to occupy the mind during the show and one wonders if it is intended as children’s or family theater. (It may well be and I missed the notation in the catalog). That said, it’s only the script that bores, and there’s tons else going on. Co-creators Megan McClellan and Brian Sostek of Sossy Mechanics are superlative dancers. In those moments between the pedestrian talk the show soared and I found myself so excited I was at the edge of my seat. During the half a dozen or so extended movement segments, the production springs to life, and looks something like…well…that picture at the top of this post. One of the sections is inspired by actual boxing moves, and is very intricate and clever. My inamorata is a far better dance critic than I am; you can read her insightful take on it here. I really think the whole piece should be strictly about the movement; you could easily toss away the dialogue. I imagine that two people dancing continuously might be rather strenuous for a full length piece, however. And, to be fair, the show offers some other diversions that do break it up. Mr. Sostek plays at least a half dozen characters with widely divergent voices and body types, often changing personality on a dime in a manner that is very impressive. And there is some cute, if derivative puppetry. But I’d rather have a 20 minute show that kept me excited than an evening-length one that kept me tuning in and out. Knock ’em out after one or two rounds and keep dancin’, you mugs!

Hipster Kickball

Posted in BROOKLYN, Sport & Recreation with tags on August 31, 2010 by travsd

Kickball is one of the few sports a clumsy, spastic daydreamer like me can play and I imagine that’s why it’s so popular among the graphic artists, weekend musicians, and copy editors of my beloved borough. That, and that the average American adult nowadays suffers from arrested development, but that’s a separate blogpost. Actually, probably an entire book. At any rate, any two year old can kick or catch a big, yellow, inflated playground ball, and I’m proud to say, so can I!

I wrote to the folks at Brooklyn Kickball seeking an interview, but apparently they were too embarrassed and no one got back to me. At any rate, myself and two young sports fans who look remarkably like me decided to go over to McCarren Park for the regular Sunday game and check it out for ourselves. We took the attached photographs of the grown-up children, and you can decide for yourself if you want to join such a thing (which, okay, it looks fun). They have Tuesday night games, as well. For more info, go here.

Stars of Vaudeville #221: Joan Blondell

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Broadway, Hollywood (History), Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , on August 30, 2010 by travsd

Joan Blondell was one of those vaudevillians whose career spanned so long those of us growing up in the 1970s knew her entirely from contemporary entertainment, little dreaming of the four distinguished decades that preceded. She was a regular on Here Come the Brides, and a guest star on shows like Starsky and Hutch, Fantasy Island, Bonanza and many others, and in films like Grease (1978) and The Champ (1978). It never occurred to me to realize that my grandmother probably watched her in first run movies too – in 1930.

Rose Joan Blondell (born this day in 1906) was a second generation vaudevillian. Her father, Eddie was a vaudeville comedian and was in the 1903 stage play adaptation of the comic strip The Katzenjammer Kids. Her mother was also an actress. As with Buster Keaton, its rumored that Joan’s cradle was literally a steamer trunk. She made her stage debut in her infancy. She traveled the world with her performing family throughout her childhood, finally settling in Dallas, where she won the Miss Dallas pageant in 1926 (placing fourth for Miss America). The next year, she moved to New York to become an actress. The breakthrough was Penny Arcade, which with Al Jolson’s support, became the Warner Brothers film Sinner’s Holiday, which put both her and James Cagney on the map. She was in a zillion movies through the 30s, including classics like Public Enemy, Three on a Match, andGolddiggers of 1933. By the next decade the pace slowed down, but she never stopped working, and her presence is memorable in films as diverse as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) and The Cincinnati Kid (1965). Her stock in trade was the wisecrack, delivered with a sly smirk and a twinkle in those huge baby blue eyes. But she could handle drama, too, and won a Golden Globe Award for her work in The Cincinnati Kid.

Her marital career was just as interesting as her professional one. Husbands included her sometime co-star, the multi-careered Dick Powell and controversial stage and screen producer Mike Todd, whom she once claimed hung her outside a window once by her ankles. Her younger sister, also in show business, was married to Cubby Broccoli, producer of the James Bond pictures. She died in 1979.

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Stars of Vaudeville #220: Fritzi Scheff

Posted in Classical, German, Music, Singers, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags on August 30, 2010 by travsd

Fritzi Scheff (b. Fredericka Scheff Yarger on this day in 1879) was a prima donna in every sense of the word. A second generation grand opera singer from Vienna, a tour to the U.S. exposed her to the profitable world of light operetta and musical comedy, where she became a star in the early years of the twentieth century. When the Palace opened in 1913, she was among the class acts that Martin Beck brought there, and she continued to work the lucrative big time as long as the opportunities existed — through the 1920s, and a few years later in a revival at Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe. Having played the great halls of Europe and having come to the U.S. initially at the behest of the Metropolitan Opera, she was known in the business for being correspondingly demanding and haughty in the lowly precincts of vaudeville. For her last quarter century she didn’t have it to kick around any more. She passed away in 1954.

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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The Brooklyn Theatre Index

Posted in BOOKS & AUTHORS, BROOKLYN, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, PLUGS on August 29, 2010 by travsd

I know to some of you this is about as sexy as a dose of cod liver oil in the basement of King Tut’s Tomb, but, well, it interests me. Cezar Del Valle, THE go-to guy for Brooklyn theatre history, has a new three volume set out called The Brooklyn Theatre Index and will be talking about it today at the Coney Island Museum at 4:30pm. Full details are here.

Stars of Vaudeville #219: Donald O’Connor

Posted in Acrobats and Daredevils, Child Stars, Circus, Dance, Hollywood (History), Irish, Vaudeville etc. on August 28, 2010 by travsd

He was born in 1925, and raised in “the O’Connor Family—the Royal Family of Vaudeville”. Theirs’ was a family act, consisting of singing, dancing and acrobatics. The O’Connors started out in the circus. His father was an Irish dancer, comedian and acrobat who had been with Ringling Brothers. His mother was a tightrope walker and bareback rider. Donald was their 7th child. He was first onstage at 3 days old, although at that point his act consisted of laying on top of a piano. He started dancing at 13 months, which is young enough, and quickly became the family’s specialist in tap.

O’Connor’s father died onstage when the boy was a year old. Usually that’s just a figure of speech, but in this case it was literally true. Donald’s oldest brother Jack came back into the act at that point, bringing his wife and child with him. The family worked the Loews, Gus Sun, and Franchon and Marco circuits. There were so many of them that they hired their own railroad car.

At age 12, Donald was discovered for the movies by Paramount and his life changed forever. He appeared in the 1938 film Sing You Sinners! In the 40s he was cultivated by the studio as one of the era’s token teenagers, and placed in a group called the Jivin’ Jacks and Jills, with whom he appeared in 14 films. By the late 40s, he was best known as the star of the “Frances the Talking Mule” series, a concept so bad it was revived by television a decade later as Mr. Ed. In 1952, O’Connor was tapped (ha!) by Gene Kelly for his most famous role in Singin’ in the Rain, wherein he performed his comic masterpiece of dancing, the much loved “Make ‘Em Laugh” number. Subsequent films included: Call Me Madam (1953) and There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954).He passed away in 2003.

To find out more about these variety artists and the history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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Lingerie Football League

Posted in Sport & Recreation with tags on August 27, 2010 by travsd

Forgive me, John Devore, for working your side of the street on this update, but I would simply like to pass along the timely news that today is the opening day of the Lingerie Football League’s Fall season. I’ll confess it doesn’t look very interesting to me.  I was hoping for more of a Howard Stern trip, with girls in Victoria’s Secret nighties and highheels running up and down the field to the tune of the “Yakety Sax.” As with Vince McMahon’s short-lived XFL, this one just looks too serious. Judging from the photograph below, for example, it appears as though the women actually play football. Bleccccch! Who wants to watch that? Creeps, that’s who! If you’re one of ’em, be my guest. The full details are here.

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