Our Favorite Horrors — By Friends of the Blog

Roy Sexton (Reel Roy Reviews):

Thanks for the shout out, Gabriel! “Film/theatre critic Roy Sexton, who’s been a great supporter of our site, offered The Shining, Scream, and Psycho, but added ‘sometimes the best “horror” movies are those that deal with the terror of the mundane and, if that’s the case, one of the best recent examples for me would be Prisoners.'” Read more and be sure to follow his site below …

Originally posted on Gabriel Diego Valdez:

Alien violation

by Gabriel Valdez

I recently conducted a poll regarding artists’ and filmmakers’ favorite horror movies, and the results aren’t what I expected at all. Now, this poll is about as scientific as my foot, so take it with a grain of salt, but it ended up being a tale of three very different movies:

Now, I wanted the artists themselves to define what “favorite” meant, and when pressed, I described it as “the movie you’ll berate your friends about until they sit down and watch it” and “the movie you’ll watch when you get home after a hard day and pull over yourself like a warm horror blanket.”

Playwright and critic Chris Braak, who wrote not just one, but two of the best articles of this past year, broke the question down into categories: which is the best movie, which is scariest, and which one does he like to watch the most?

View original 2,418 more words

We’ll find ourselves floating down the street in our useless leather-seated SUVs when the polar ice caps finally evaporate: Cowspiracy

Description: Film poster; Source: Wikipedia [linked]; Portion used: Film poster only; Low resolution? Sufficient resolution for illustration, but considerably lower resolution than original. Other information: Intellectual property by film studio. Non-free media use rationales: Non-free media use rationale - Article/review; Purpose of use: Used for purposes of critical commentary and illustration in an educational article about the film. The poster is used as the primary means of visual identification of this article topic. Replaceable? Protected by copyright, therefore a free use alternative won't exist.

[Image Source: Wikipedia]

God love people like John Mola and Susie Duncan Sexton and Kim Elizabeth Johnson. If it weren’t for folks like them, I’d have no social conscience at all. The former two (John and Susie) supply me with the information and the education on how poorly we treat this planet and all of its inhabitants, and the latter (Kim) keeps me informed about similarly-themed events here in Southeast Michigan (though I have been plenty remiss in availing myself of all the opportunities).

And all three set a fabulous example for sustainable living, kind diets, and compassionate hearts.

Last night, per Kim’s invitation, I went to Royal Oak’s Main Art Theatre for a special presentation (benefiting wonderful VegMichigan) of the film Cowspiracy. Yes, you read that title correctly. Cowspiracy. What is this documentary about? Well, in short, it’s about how willfully reckless we all are with this planet’s future in our rampant (some might say rabid) consumption of animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, etc.).

The documentary filmmakers posit that most of us could give one whit about the environmental impact the food we eat creates. We have been conditioned to see our food as simply a commodity – disassociated from its source (i.e. living beings like you and me) – by culture, family, big-ag industries, grocery stores, and even our own environmental action groups.

(Shame on you, Sierra Club! Bunch of well-scrubbed yuppies bedecked in Ralph Lauren plaids and denims who fancy themselves latter day Ansel Adamses for whom mountain ranges hold more appeal than living beings. Yeah, I said it. What strikes you in watching these talking heads is just how self-satisfied and out. of. touch. they really are.)

The film in its casual, loping, conversational style visits all quadrants of the food industry, from factory farming to lobbying groups, from so-called “humane” organic ranches to various environmental action groups. Cowspiracy‘s central thesis is that there is no sector – not energy, not manufacturing – that is having a larger negative impact on the environment (e.g. greenhouse gasses, pollution, global warming, deforestation) than meat/dairy/poultry/fish. Nor is there an industry more in denial – malicious or otherwise – about said impact.

Let me add that I’ve been a vegetarian for nearly four years now, and after seeing tonight’s film I’m likely to go full vegan. Yes, I love animals, and, yes, some of the aforementioned family members helped pave the way for me. However, the tipping point as captured in this film is that this “industry” is not only supplying us with a food product we don’t actually need (and is quite unhealthy for us) but is destroying the planet in the process.

The land and resources (and, yes, lives) gobbled up to create one (gross) Big Mac is mind-numbing. You, like some of the interviewees in this film, may chalk that up to some hippie dippy mentality. But if you give this film a chance, it gives a logical argument to why we all need to eat much differently…or we’ll find ourselves floating down the street in our useless leather-seated SUVs when the polar ice caps finally evaporate.

Limiting oneself to dairy or eggs or fish and eliminating red meat, pork, or poultry just doesn’t cut it. The carbon impact of these “foods” on the environment is, well, ridiculous. The amount of grains and beans produced to feed animals that we, in turn, consume is, as they say, a “false economy. ” The film is not a polemic. You won’t feel chastised watching it (unlike how you probably feel reading this review) but you will be entertained and enlightened, and, well, you’re gonna laugh … a lot.

What this film does so very well is humanize the impact that animal products have on our economy and our environment. Our guide in the film, Kip Andersen (also the film’s director and co-producer), looks like he took a left turn out of Ann Arbor’s SkatePark and, whoa, decided to make a moooovie, man. And he is perfect. Clearly a sensitive soul, Andersen has been deeply impacted by Al Gore’s seminal An Inconvenient Truth, but, through the course of Cowspiracy which builds on the foundation laid in Gore’s documentary, our eyes are opened as Andersen’s eyes are opened, discovering truths even too inconvenient for Mr. Gore.

Anyone who has ever watched a Frank Capra movie (or, hell, a Martin Scorsese one) knows that people don’t like change. Don’t mess with my family, my food, my culture … but when those life choices are destroying us all, a change is long overdue. That’s the epiphany Andersen has during the course of this film.

There is a very real and frightening issue bearing down on all of us, namely that our rampant consumption of meat is unsustainable. Yes, for animal lovers like myself that is a no-brainer. Eat more carrots. But the carbon footprint of meat production is destroying this planet. Cowspiracy does a beautiful job without being ham-handed (no pun intended) or overbearing, illustrating the very practical impracticality of turning all that grain into a nasty fast-food burger.

If you give this film a chance, you will be highly entertained. It’s a breezy 90-plus minutes, and the movie is making its way to festivals around the country and hopefully soon will be available on home video and via streaming. Dare we not ask the question, the intimate question, of how what we eat affects not only ourselves but the entire world around us?

Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Congrats to my mom on her Hall of Fame nomination (and save the date for upcoming author appearance)!

Susie at Chamber Event 1Congratulations to my mom Susie Duncan Sexton (www.susieduncansexton.com) for being nominated to the Whitley County Hall of Fame (a new honor developed by the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce – www.whitleychamber.com).Susie at Chamber Event 2

 

 

She was nominated for her contributions to local arts and culture, animal welfare, and for helping to preserve the history of her hometown via her columns and books and other research.

susie with certificate

 

 

Kudos to the Chamber’s new Director of Marketing Jennifer Zartman Romano for what sounds to have been a marvelous event last week to celebrate all the honorees (and thanks to Jennifer and my dad for the photos below).

hall of fame certificate

 

 

Also, for those of you in Northeast Indiana, my mom will be appearing Saturday, November 8 from noon to 3 pm as part of the Allen County Public Library Authors Fair – a copy of the flyer appears below and more info can be found here.

Enjoy these fun photos from the Chamber event last week!

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Author Fair Poster for Public-jpeg

Tomfoolery Sells Out Every Show. Encore Date Added!

Roy Sexton (Reel Roy Reviews):

Another great night of Tomfoolery – sold out – and hardly any tix left for November 9! Thanks to Diane Hill, Naz Edwards, Rich Geary, Kelly Little, Jim Lynch, Melynee Weber, Nina and Bob Schwartz, Jason Ringholz, for coming this week and to anyone I missed! I’m spent! Read more below…

Originally posted on The Penny Seats:

Guys. Can you believe it?  Our little show, Tomfoolery, sold out Every Single Performance at Conor O’Neill’s this month. Every single one!  How thrilling!  We filled the restaurant.  We sang our hearts out.  We even got to talk about it on the radio.  The phone rang off the hook all month, and we’ve been overwhelmed with support and warm fuzzy goodness.

Which brings us to this:  Due to high demand, we added one additional performance: Sunday, November 9th. Same time, same place, same everything.  Just on a Sunday.  Audience members can purchase tickets for the dinner-and-show package for just $20, or for the show only, for $10. Click here to buy tickets, or just call us at (734) 926-5346.

Brent, Roy, and Matt sing a Southern Song.

Brent, Roy, and Matt sing a little Southern Song.

We were thrilled at the reception this got, from patrons and critics alike. See this awesome review for Encore…

View original 182 more words

“In fact, they should ‘be prepared’ to spend every week at Conor O’Nell’s. I’m expecting a long, long run …” Additional performance date added for Penny Seats’ Tomfoolery (Sunday, November 9)

Irish Ballad (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Irish Ballad (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Through the month of October, The Penny Seats enjoyed a sold-out run of the musical revue Tomfoolery, celebrating the words and music of satirist, mathematician, and cult favorite, Tom Lehrer, at Ann Arbor’s Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, 318 South Main Street, Ann Arbor. The two companies have partnered to offer this cabaret-style show, with dinner seatings available starting around 6:00 pm, and performances at 8:00pm. Due to high demand, an additional performance date has been added: November 9. Audience members can purchase tickets for the dinner-and-show package for just $20, or for the show only, for $10. Advance tickets (which are encouraged) are available online at www.pennyseats.org or by phone at (734) 926-5346.

Silent E  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Silent E (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Featured performers are Ann Arborites Matt Cameron, Laura Sagolla and R. Brent Stansfield, and Roy Sexton of Saline. Lauren London (of Ann Arbor) directs the show, with musical direction and accompaniment by Rebecca Biber (also of Ann Arbor). Victoria Gilbert (of Ypsilanti) oversees choreography, and Stephen Hankes (of Ann Arbor) designed the set and will stage manage the show.

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Poisoning Pigeons in the Park (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

In his review for Encore Michigan, Martin F. Kohn writes, “A spirited four-person cast and piano accompanist have a ball with such Lehrer favorites as ‘Be Prepared’ (‘Don’t solicit for your sister, that’s not nice/ Unless you get a good percentage of the price’), ‘The Masochism Tango’ (‘You can raise welts/ Like nobody else’), ‘The Vatican Rag’ (‘Ave Maria/ Gee it’s good to see ya’) and ‘The Irish Ballad’ (‘She weighted her brother down with stones/ Rickety-tickety-tin…/And sent him off to Davy Jones’). … Matt Cameron, Laura Sagolla, Roy Sexton and Brent Stansfield are lusty singers whose appreciation for the material is fully evident. … Director Lauren London has added inspired props and bits of business to many of the numbers.”

Masochism Tango  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Masochism Tango (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Fellow critic Davi Napoleon observes, “I suppose it’s kind of mean to tell you how much fun Tomfoolery is – they keep adding chairs to accommodate the crowds, but I doubt the room at Connor O’Neill’s will even have SRO for the next show. But really, it’s that much fun. … Maybe The Penny Seats can be talked into extending the run. … In fact, they should ‘be prepared’ to spend every week at Conor O’Nell’s. I’m expecting a long, long run …”

I Hold Your Hand in Mine  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

I Hold Your Hand in Mine (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

With the announcement of the additional performance, music director Rebecca Biber notes, “I am excited for this encore show, as I never grow tired of the material. Lehrer is a master satirist, not only of cultural tropes and historical moments, but of music itself.   He will pair a romantic parlor waltz with ghoulish lyrics, or use a peppy march to skewer jingoism and lockstep thinking. He always picks his musical forms for maximum humor and maximum discomfiture, and that funny/squirmy quality keeps us performers as engaged as our audience.”

She's My Girl  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

She’s My Girl (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Cast member Brent Stansfield, a faculty member at the University of Michigan, echoes this sentiment, “The show combines all my favorite things in life: satire, science, jest, education, politics, math, irony, and of course music. Better yet, it does it in a smart, sassy, gleeful, and naughty way. The Penny Seats cast and crew is also smart, sassy, gleeful, and naughty and they bring an ocean of joy and verve to these songs. Best of all, ‘Tomfoolery’ is tailor-made for an Ann Arbor audience who, as I have now learned, can be relied upon to bring their own smarts, sass, glee, and naughtiness! Each show has been raucous and I have had so much fun performing in it.”

Folk Song Army  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Folk Song Army (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Gonna Go Back to Dixie  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Gonna Go Back to Dixie (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Director Lauren London, who was recently interviewed about the production alongside Conor O’Neill’s Caroline Kaganov for The Lucy Ann Lance Show, adds, “This show has been a pure delight, from the first rehearsal through every single performance. It plays to our strengths as a company and fits perfectly with the jovial tone at Conor O’Neill’s. It’s a comfortable, fabulously funny night, and we’re ecstatic that so many people want to experience it. This is one of those lightning-in-a-bottle moments for us. We couldn’t be happier with Conor’s as a partner, and I hope we have the chance to do this again, soon!”

We Will All Go Together  (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

We Will All Go Together (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Stansfield concludes, “Tom Lehrer’s work is beloved for good reason. He’s a sharp intellectual with a gallows humor (much like some of my other heroes: Edward Gorey, Ambrose Bierce, George Romero, et alia) and his songs are at once titillatingly dark and eerily catchy. His wit is incisive but never derisive. It’s so easy to fall in love with these songs that performing them for people who have never heard them before is an honor as much as it is a pleasure. I’ve been so excited to work with The Penny Seats again. Every rehearsal has been full of playfulness and silliness, and our director, Lauren London, has managed to funnel all of that love and sweat directly into the show. It’s 90 minutes of frenetic romp, but after each performance I’ve felt like doing the whole thing again. Well, maybe after a cold pint of beer. We are performing it in one of Ann Arbor’s best pubs, after all.”

For more information, visit the group’s website, www.pennyseats.org, or call 734-926-5346.

Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

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Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

WAHOO! We’ve added an encore date of Tomfoolery! November 9

Matt Cameron and Yours Truly

Matt “Smut” Cameron and Roy “Prurient” Sexton (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Wow – this Tomfoolery is such a fun show to do! We’ve added an encore date to our sold-out run of Tom Lehrer’s Tomfoolery: November 9, dinner around 6 pm, show 8 pm – get your tickets pronto here.

Thanks to Mark Lezotte, Patti Little, John DeMerell, Rebecca Hardin and family, Rebecca Dale Winder, Nan Reed Twiss, Ian Reed Twiss, Jim and Linda O’Hara Cameron, Ed and Anne Young, Esther Dale, Leslie Pardo, Steve Pardo, and, heaven knows, anyone I missed who came to see the show last night! Such an appreciative and delightful audience, and we (Laura Sagolla, Lauren M. London, Matt Cameron, Brent Stansfield, Rebecca Biber, Skippy Hankes) seem to be hitting our stride. This show is just unadulterated yet saucy fun! TWO more shows now – 10/23 is sold out, but tickets are still available for 11/9. Don’t miss it!

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Brent "Shredder" Stansfield (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Brent “Shredder” Stansfield (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Through the month of October, The Penny Seats have enjoyed a sold-out run of the musical revue Tomfoolery, celebrating the words and music of satirist, mathematician, and cult favorite, Tom Lehrer, at Ann Arbor’s Conor O’Neill’s Irish Pub and Restaurant, 318 South Main Street, Ann Arbor. The two companies have partnered to offer this cabaret-style show, with dinner seatings available starting around 6:00 pm, and performances at 8:00pm. Due to high demand, an additional performance date has been added: November 9. Audience members can purchase tickets for the dinner-and-show package for just $20, or for the show only, for $10. Advance tickets (which are encouraged) are available online at www.pennyseats.org or by phone at (734) 926-5346.

Featured performers are Ann Arborites Matt Cameron, Laura Sagolla and R. Brent Stansfield, and Roy Sexton of Saline. Lauren London (of Ann Arbor) directs the show, with musical direction and accompaniment by Rebecca Biber (also of Ann Arbor). Victoria Gilbert (of Ypsilanti) oversees choreography, and Stephen Hankes (of Ann Arbor) designed the set and will stage manage the show.

Laura Sagolla and Lauren London (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Laura “Tectonic Plates” Sagolla and Lauren “Plate Tectonics” London (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

In his review for Encore Michigan, Martin F. Kohn writes, “A spirited four-person cast and piano accompanist have a ball with such Lehrer favorites as ‘Be Prepared’ (‘Don’t solicit for your sister, that’s not nice/ Unless you get a good percentage of the price’), ‘The Masochism Tango’ (‘You can raise welts/ Like nobody else’), ‘The Vatican Rag’ (‘Ave Maria/ Gee it’s good to see ya’) and ‘The Irish Ballad’ (‘She weighted her brother down with stones/ Rickety-tickety-tin…/And sent him off to Davy Jones’). … Matt Cameron, Laura Sagolla, Roy Sexton and Brent Stansfield are lusty singers whose appreciation for the material is fully evident. … Director Lauren London has added inspired props and bits of business to many of the numbers.”

Fellow critic Davi Napoleon observes, “I suppose it’s kind of mean to tell you how much fun Tomfoolery is – they keep adding chairs to accommodate the crowds, but I doubt the room at Connor O’Neill’s will even have SRO for the next show. But really, it’s that much fun. … Maybe The Penny Seats can be talked into extending the run. … In fact, they should ‘be prepared’ to spend every week at Conor O’Nell’s. I’m expecting a long, long run …”

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common

like osage county only with males, males, males: Guest review of The Judge (2014)

Description: Film poster; Source: Wikipedia [linked]; Portion used: Film poster only; Low resolution? Sufficient resolution for illustration, but considerably lower resolution than original. Other information: Intellectual property by film studio. Non-free media use rationales: Non-free media use rationale - Article/review; Purpose of use: Used for purposes of critical commentary and illustration in an educational article about the film. The poster is used as the primary means of visual identification of this article topic. Replaceable? Protected by copyright, therefore a free use alternative won't exist.

The Judge

I received the following email from my mom Susie Duncan Sexton last night, and I thought it was pretty funny, succinct, and spot on … and definitely worth sharing here (especially since it saves me from having to see this one, which from the trailers looked a bit too Hallmark Hall-of-Fame/Lifetime TV-movie for me). Here comes … The Judge!

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From: Susie Sexton

Sent: Monday, October 13, 2014, 1:14 AM

To: Roy Sexton

Subject: not good

not worth bothering with…like osage county only with males, males, males…and that love interest sure looks like william macy’s wife…thought it was her through entire film…but this girl was in UP IN THE AIR and the stupid PSYCHO series on tv…only went for billy bob who has not much on-screen time.

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postscript (added by my mom in the comments section below … )

oddly, today, I began to extol bobby “sarah-palin-loving-conservative-tango-expert” duvall…he avoided SANTINI-esqueness, no doubt so that he can do the santini sequel itself about next. shining through some ooky clichés, like chatting at urinals and in contrived dives and on front porches, appeared some pretty cleverly packaged backstories to bring us up to speed as it were? even 8 MM home-made films to let us better understand a deceased mom’s loving parenting skills? else the film would have required serialization.

I am guessing that reviewers should wait one full day to critique because GONE GIRL I fell out of love with in 24 hours…THE JUDGE I began to reconsider. but where was it filmed???? …not MY Indiana…some other Indiana…the tornado has received disses as a tired metaphor for family strife…but the tornado was maybe the ONLY hoosier touch…or at least that business of retiring to the basement jazz that we still think about doing in hoosier-ville. but the bit-o-honey BIT I myself dissed everytime it showed up! probably have spiked your interest now? c’mon, admit it!

post-postscript

googled, and the danged thing was filmed all over MASSACHUSETTS??????? and I read a review criticizing the backstory provided between dueling pop and sonny boy via the gimmickry of screaming expository material (highlighting past events) at each other every so often…I love that description! yep, no mountains or rolling hills or slick scenery in the whole (hole) of Indiana! told ya!

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Susie and Bobby

Susie and Bobby (Kennedy)

So, there you have it, neither Robert Downey, Jr., nor Robert Duvall, and certainly not Vera Farmiga (let alone “Mr. Cellophane” Billy Bob Thornton) can save this train-wreck of a film. (Well, Duvall might have redeemed himself a bit upon reconsideration of the film.)

Skip it, and go see Gone Girl (maybe?) or stay home and watch PBS’ The Roosevelts instead. Or hope that the next Downey film features Felicity Huffman!

And be sure to check out my mom’s funny, provocative, educational, and interesting blog by clicking here – topics include animal rights, culture, movies, nostalgia, equality, and other progressive causes. She is a monthly columnist in Indiana who has published two books Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-up More Secrets of an Old Typewriter: Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels (click the titles to order). And you can find out more about her, read her columns, and view photos at her website www.susieduncansexton.com.

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

“The right accessory can change your life.” Two Muses production of new musical “At the Bistro Garden”

At the Bistro Garden Cast  (Photo by Melissa Tremblay of Platinum Imagery)

At the Bistro Garden Cast (Photo by Melissa Tremblay of Platinum Imagery)

The 1980s are hot again. I guess nostalgia must have a 25-to-30-year sell-by date when it really kicks in. Fifteen years ago, the 1970s were the rage, and we may be on the cusp of the 90s making their grungy resurgence, but right now the 80s are where it’s at.

Perhaps it’s because, like that bygone day-glo era, we still live under a perpetual shroud of Armageddon, be it chemical or nuclear or viral. Perhaps it’s because we again exist in a politically divisive age where neither political party nor our president seem terribly interested in what any of us day-to-day schmucks think or feel. Perhaps it’s because our celebrities from then and today seem interchangeable, wearing outfits that look like they were designed by circus carnies.

Regardless, the 1980s are au courant, which is perfect timing for Two Muses Theatre’s Midwestern debut of the big-haired/shoulder-padded musical At the Bistro Garden. (In the spirit of open disclosure, I know personally many of the folks involved with this production and even helped with some of their marketing, including this interview with the show’s creative team.)

Nonetheless and perhaps in part because of this, I enjoyed the show a great deal. In similar fashion to two other beloved broadly comic artifacts from my youth – Designing Women and Steel Magnolias – the show recounts the trials and tribulations of three women caught between a rock and a hard place, proto-feminists whose formative years may have been haunted by Donna Reed and Gidget but whose present days are shaped by Gloria Steinem and Madonna.

The three ladies who lunch – Abigail, Cheyenne, and B.J. – have more money and time on their hands than they should and meet every Friday at Beverly Hills’ famed Bistro Garden restaurant to kvetch and kvell about family and friends. The plot wouldn’t have been out-of-place in a very special episode of the aforementioned Designing Women but offers enough meaningful complications to give this talented trio some great scenery to chew. As expected for a show set in this era, there’s much talk of divorce and alimony, illegitimate children … and shopping. An early number – the zippy “A Sale at Neiman’s” – celebrates the joys of retail excess, offering the bon mot “the right accessory can change your life.”

At times, the cartoonish whimsy of life in the 80s takes on an almost allegorical quality, highlighting the disconnect between narcissistic artifice and the very real pain (and reward) friendship and family can bring. The lilting tunes and snappy patter neatly propel the show and its themes.

The cast functions very well as an ensemble, each shining particularly in the more poignant moments. Sometimes the rat-a-tat dialogue gets a little lost in translation, where the wit should come from speed not emphasis, but when this cast clicks, they really click.

At the Bistro Garden

At the Bistro Garden

Carrie Jay Sayer as “Lady of the Canyon” Cheyenne and AlissaBeth Morton as her daughter Destiny (yeah, those names are a time warped hoot) steal every scene with a believable familial dynamic that engenders laughter and tears. They really do a solid job finding the humor in the pathos.

Amy Lauter as Abigail, a sweet-natured if misguided women-done-wrong, and Diane Hill as B.J., a not-as-sweet-natured but equally misguided woman-done-wrong, both have many touching moments as they explore the betrayal of a dream deferred. Both actresses excel in their plaintive solo numbers, plumbing new depths of heartache.

John DeMerell as master of ceremonies and the restaurant’s maître d’ sparkles – the catalyst that gives the production forward momentum and a refreshing lightness. He has a ball playing several additional bit parts throughout the show, aided and abetted by clever costuming and no end of silly accents. Miles Bond and Rusty Daugherty are fun as a sort of campy Greek chorus, offering arch commentary as waiters, moving men, clerks who float through the proceedings.

Indeed, the costuming by Barbie Amann Weisserman is perfection, loving and warmly funny but never satirical, which is a tricky balance to pull off. Lesser costumers end up making fun of a garish era such as this one, forgetting that people actually intend to look attractive (usually) and it’s only later in time when we realize how odd some of our fashion choices actually might have been. Everyone in the show does in fact look gorgeous, even if the styles and patterns and prints make us giggle with knowing recognition.

A narrative highlight – musically and acting-wise – is the number “Just Another Baby.” A scorched-earth, toxic meltdown that B.J. (Hill) delivers at a baby shower, ridiculing our nation’s unyielding mania for infants and our collective fixation on insipid names, miniaturized fashion, and corrosive parental competition. Hill nails it, and, as the show’s creative team (Deborah Pearl on book, David Kole on music/lyrics) continues to refine this work, they might consider sprinkling a bit of that second act’s number’s funny-as-h*ll venom throughout the softer/gentler first act.

(One minor quibble is the use of a pre-recorded accompaniment in this production. There is a live keyboard for some of the numbers, and those particular songs/performances had a warmer, more organic quality. No doubt this hybrid approach was driven by resource availability, but, at times it is a bit distracting.)

Jules Aaron’s direction is efficient and witty and makes effective use of the tight space with multi-functional set pieces and clever blocking. He has done a fabulous job forging a tight ensemble with rich stage life and believable connections, clearly key to making this show sing (pun intended).

As a new work, this show is worth catching to see how it continues to develop. The first act could use a trim here or there as it serves chiefly to set up the soap opera-esque fireworks of the second act (think Douglas Sirk meets The Carol Burnett Show – and that’s a good thing). After the intermission, the show speeds along as all of the puzzle pieces established in the first act come together. The show has one more weekend so be sure to stop by The Bistro Garden, to reminisce about a bygone era that is still surprisingly and perhaps sadly relevant today. Tickets can be purchased at www.twomusestheatre.org.

Two Muses Theatre performs in the Barnes & Noble Booksellers Theatre Space, 6800 Orchard Lake Rd, West Bloomfield, MI  48322, South of Maple (15 Mile). Enter the bookstore, and the theatre is on the left.

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Watch me get kicked out of Seth Rudetsky’s master class Nov. 2 (Plus, Tomfoolery update!)

Tomfoolery Cast (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Tomfoolery Cast (Photo by Victoria Gilbert)

Second performance of Tomfoolery was a hit! What a fun night – with a record attendance for us li’l Penny Seats!

Thanks to everyone who attended (and anyone I missed):

Roxane Raffin Chan and Kevin Chan, Magda Gulvezan and Dan Johnson, Sam Gordon, Linda Hemphill, Angie Choe and Sean, Jeff Weisserman, Barbie Amann Weisserman,  Bob Hotchkiss, Beth Kennedy, Nick Oliverio, Meredith Brandt, Alex and Cristina Rogers, Davi Napoleon, Jason Gilbert, Trista Selene Kreutzer-Whalen, Roxanne Kring and Joe Diederich, Kyle Lawson, Sean Murphy, Rachel Green Murphy, the Biber family, and Ryan Lawson.

Get your tickets, kids, for 10/16 or 10/23 – they are almost all gone … and that’s no “tomfoolery” –  http://pennyseats.org/box-office/

Seth RudetskyAND, thanks to the Farmington Players and Amy Becker Lauter for including me among Seth Rudetsky’s “students” for their upcoming master class with him on November 2 from noon to 3 pm.

Should be fun! I’m honored to be a part of this. He might kick me out of class – you don’t want to miss that!!  Here’s the event description (tickets available here) …

The Farmington Players Barn (Photo by Don Sexton)

The Farmington Players Barn (Photo by Don Sexton)

You may know Seth Rudetsky from his Sirius/XM Satellite Radio show “Seth’s Big Fat Broadway” or his viral “deconstruction” videos on YouTube where he breaks down the elements of classic musical theater songs and singers. Now our local performers and patrons have the opportunity to participate in a Master Class Workshop.

A varied and talented group of local performers have been selected to Sing for Seth – and for you! They will each get personal attention and will receive advice on how to improve their audition and overall performance skills.

Registration is still open to be an audience member for only $25! You will learn from the advice Seth provides to the singers – and get to experience some of the area’s finest performers.

  • Taylor Alfano
  • Tony Battle
  • Rachel Biber
  • Gary Castaneda
  • Joshua Coates
  • Katie Dodd
  • Elizabeth Heffron
  • Joel Hunter
  • Grace Knoche
  • Maryanna Lauter
  • Amy Malaney
  • Marc Meyers
  • Roy Sexton (ME!)
  • Nina White
  • Jason Wilhoite

The event begins with an informative lecture from Seth, continues with each of the Master Class Students’ performances and ends with a Q&A – so come prepared with a question.

This is a once in a life time opportunity so register today!

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Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.

Get those Tomfoolery tickets … regardless your state of origin or spelling ability

Thanks to The Columbia City, Indiana Rotary for the Tomfoolery shout out (lower right corner below). Er … translation of what you will discover therein: “Carmen O’Neill’s” in “An Arbor” would be “Conor O’Neill’s” in “ANN Arbor.” :)

(Possible song inspiration for Lehrer … or London?)

Get your tickets, regardless your state of origin or your spelling ability, at http://pennyseats.org/box-office/

#readingisfundamental, #spellcheck, #gottalovehometowns, #cute, #pennyseats, #annarbor, #conoroneills, #michigan, #tomlehrer, #tomfoolery, #rotary

Rotary!

Rotary!

________________________

Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery

Reel Roy Reviews is now a book! Thanks to BroadwayWorld for this coverage – click here to view.

In addition to online ordering at Amazon or from the publisher Open Books, the book currently is being carried by Bookbound, Common Language Bookstore, and Crazy Wisdom Bookstore and Tea Room in Ann Arbor, Michigan and by Green Brain Comics in Dearborn, Michigan.

My mom Susie Duncan Sexton’s Secrets of an Old Typewriter series is also available on Amazon and at Bookbound and Common Language.