Marriott Theatre’s Murder for Two a Bonafide Musical Comedy Hit

Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire consistently provides some of the best theatre in the greater Chicagoland area, and is often on par with the level of talent seen on Broadway stages. Needless to say, the company’s newest undertaking does not miss the mark.

Simply put, Marriott Theatre’s Murder for Two is a masterful piece of entertainment.

The witty comedy is a musical murder mystery with a small-town police officer trying to earn a promotion to detective by solving the who done it crime.

To make things entertaining, all accompaniment is provided onstage by the skilled pianists in the cast.

To add to the mayhem of the story and the delight of the audience, the cast features only two actors, with one actor as the policeman and the other actor playing all twelve of the murder suspects. Both demonstrate great keyboard skill.

In the multiple roles of The Suspects, Jason Grimm provides a virtuoso performance. Each character is well-defined both physically and vocally, with total believability and humor to boot. Characters of both sexes range in age from child to senior citizen.

Not to be left out of the spotlight, Noel Carey as police officer Marcus Moscowicz is the glue that keeps the story together and allows for Grimm to shine in spectacular fashion. It is not surprising that Carey played the role previously in the National Tour.

The musical features book and music by Joe Kinosian and book and lyrics by Kellen Blair. Direction by Scott Weinstein provides for an ingenious use of the stage and well-choreographed physical humor. Music direction by Matt Deitchman enables Carey and Grimm to shine vocally and tickling the ivories of the onstage grand piano.

Set designer Scott Davis works magic with the intimate space, employing a rotating set to give every seat in the house a clear view of the action. Lighting design by Jesse Klug, sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin, and costumes by Emily Arnold add to the over enjoyment of the theatrical event.

This is a hilarious romp that is sure to entertain. Expect Marriott Theatre’s Murder for Two to be a big player come awards season. It is that good.

Running through August 26, Murder for Two plays Wednesdays at 1:00 PM and 7:30 PM, Thursdays at 730 PM, Saturdays at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM, and Sundays at 1:00 PM and 5:00 PM. There are also select Thursday 1:00 PM showings. Tickets range from $50 to $60, including tax and handling fees, with student, senior, and military discounts available. A limited number of dinner-theatre packages are available on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. The theatre provides free parking at all performance.

For ticket reservations call The Marriott Theatre Box Office at (847) 634-0200 or go to www.ticketmaster.com. Visit www.MarriottTheatre.com for more information. The theatre is conveniently located at 10 Marriott Drive in Lincolnshire.

Peace. Love. Trust.

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Reminiscing about The Barbarian Brothers

As a child, I was fascinated by the sport of bodybuilding. I have a very slight bone structure, so no matter how much I worked out I was never going to have an Arnold Schwarzenegger physique – even if I was to resort to the massive amounts of steroids that permeated the sport. But, that didn’t stop me from being a fan of those who did have the skeletal frame and body mass to excel.

Enter “The Barbarian Brothers” – David Paul and Peter Paul. The brothers were identical twin body builders who parlayed their physiques into low budget films. Among those films was the 1987 treasure The Barbarians.

The Barbarians was a not-so-thinly-disguised rip off of the 1982 Schwarzenegger film Conan The Barbarian and its 1984 sequel Conan the Destroyer. Of the two Conan films, the latter was my favorite. Director Richard Fleischer had more fun with the Conan characters than the helmsman of the original film: John Milius.  Plus, Conan the Destroyer featured some great stunt casting bringing in Grace Jones and Wilt Chamberlain as Conan’s warrior comrades.

The Barbarians featured David and Peter Paul as identical twin barbarian warriors battling an evil overlord (Richard Lynch) to save their gypsy-like tribe. The acting was horrible. The script was a disaster. Yet I loved the film for all its muscle flexing and absurdity. I was thrilled when my local library was recently able to track down a copy of the film for me.

You gotta love the library. What they don’t have, they will seek to borrow from other libraries on your behalf – all you have to do is ask. Occasionally I come up with a title that they can’t secure, but usually they come through no matter how absurd my requests.

David and Peter Paul disappeared from the public eye after a few more forgettable films: Double Trouble in 1992 and Twin Sitters in 1994. I watched all of about 10 minutes of Double Trouble a decade ago before giving up on it. I have not seen Twin Sitters at all, although Amazon.com offers the title for the low low price of $68.86 on DVD.

But The Barbarians? That’s a film I love and will continue to love for its inane story and horrific acting that somehow translate into superb entertainment.

Since exiting the bodybuilding world, David Paul has redefined himself as a photographer, painter, and musician, Peter Paul has been more of a recluse only showing up in a Youtube video reciting a combination beat poetry and evangelical religious doctrine outside the campus the University of Rhode Island.

I doubt there will ever be another pair like the Barbarian Brothers. Like the 1980s they represented in their heyday, David and Peter Paul were all glitz and nothing but a good time. I’ll treasure the memories.

Peace. Love. Trust.

Top 10 Movie Musicals of All Time

Top 10 Lists are all the rage, and I’m not one to be left out of the epicenter of trends. So, I’ve put together my list of the Top 10 Movie Musicals of All Time. Some of them are classics, some are modern masterpieces, and some you might not even have heard of. As a career star of musical theater and the host of a popular weekly radio show on movie, television, and film musicals, I have some degree of “expertise” in musicals – but a knowledge of the genre doesn’t necessarily mean my taste is “right”. My hope is that if this list does anything, it makes you think about and share with the world your own favorites.

 

10) The Sound of Music – is a 1965 American movie musical starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer based on the Rodgers & Hammerstein stage musical of the same name. It was produced and directed by Robert Wise. Based on the true story of the Von Trapp family, the film follows a young Austrian Woman who is studying to be a nun. She is sent to be the governess of seven children of a widower retired naval officer. The would-be-nun and the officer fall in love and together engineer an escape from the Nazis for them and their children. It won the Academy Award for both Best Picture and Best Director.

9) Purple Rain – is a 1984 American rock movie musical starring rock star Prince as “the Kid” – a semi-autobiographical role about his start in music in the Minneapolis club scene.  The film was written and directed by Albert Manoli and featured appearances by Appolonia and Morris Day.  It won an Academy Award for Best Score.

8) The King & I – is a 1951 movie musical based on the Rodgers & Hammerstein stage musical of the same name. It stars Yul Brynner – on of my personal heroes. An English woman and her young son go to Bangkok where she has been hired to teach English to the children of the King of Siam. Although the King and Anna clash in personalities, they both learn from each other and learn to respect one another. Brynner won an Academy Award for his performance.

7) Wizard of Oz – is a 1939 American musical fantasy film that stars Judy Garland as a girl swept up in a tornado and transported toe the magical world of Oz. It features the talents of Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, and Margaret Hamilton. It won Academy Awards for Best Original Song for “Over the Rainbow and Best Original Score. Garland also earned an honorary Academy Award for her work as a screen juvenile.

6) Little Shop of Horrors – is a 1986 film directed by Muppets legend Frank Oz that combines horror, music, and comedy. Featuring the talents of Rick Moranis, the incomparable Ellen Green, and Levi Stubbs as the voice of a man-eating plant from outer space set to take over the earth. The movie is based on the stage musical, which was itself based on a black and white Roger Corman horror film.

5) Singin’ in the Rain – is a 1952 musical directed, choreographed, and starring Gene Kelly – one of my all time favorite movie musical icons. The film also stars Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, and features a command comical performance by Jean Hagen who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. The story is a light-hearted take on the 1920’s move from silent movies to talkies and features amazing dance and song numbers.

4) Jesus Christ Superstar – was immortalized in two amazing film adaptations. While I love the 1073 film starring Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson, it is the 2000 straight to video film starring Glenn Carter as Jesus that lands at number four on my list of all time best movie musicals. JCS is based on the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice rock opera of the same name – one of the greatest musicals ever. The sung-through movie musical depicts the last days of Christ against a futuristic post-apocalyptic background.

3) Grease – premiered in movie theaters in 1976. Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, Grease the film replaced many of my favorite numbers from the stage production with songs that work just as good in the film. The film is different than the stage product, but it is iconic in its own right thanks to amazing performances by my idol John Travolta and his co-stars Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing, and Jeff Conaway. The story follows the good girl falling for the bad boy theme that always invites a charming love story.

2) The Five Heartbeats – is a 1991 musical film from director and writer Robert Townsend, co-written by Keenen Ivory Wayans. Townsend stars alongside Michael Wright (in an amazing performance), Leon, Harry J. Lennix, and Tico Wells. The story follow the musical journey of a Motown-like five man vocal group over three decades. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. It’s that good.

1) West Side Story – is a 1961 film adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical that changed musical theater forever. The story was conceived by Jerome Robbins who also choreographed and co-directed the film with Robert Wise. It stars Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno, and George Chakiris. Chakiris and Moreno both won Academy Awards for their performances. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 10 including Best Picture. It is a modern retelling of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet set against the backdrop of New York and racial tensions between Caucasians and Puerto Ricans.  It features music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Peace. Love. Trust

Mister Rogers Documentary a Blessing

Like many people, I grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS. So even though the movie theaters are offering a number of block buster action and comedy films fueled by big name stars, my son and I chose to see Won’t You Be My Neighbor? this weekend – a documentary about the man who was Mister Rogers.

Fred Rogers was an ordained minister who found his calling in public television. He didn’t wear a white collar on his show, he wore a sweater. And he didn’t preach about God directly, he enlightened our youth about morals and values through example and simple lessons. Most importantly Mister Rogers instilled in his young viewers the notion that everyone of us is special.

Over the course of his career, Rogers wrote, produced, and starred in over 1,700 episodes of his landmark show.

A leader in child development, Rogers’ shows dealt with real issues faced by children, and the public in general. When Bobby Kennedy was assassinated, Rogers addressed it on a child’s level for his audience. When racism permeated our society and blacks were not allowed to swim in the same swimming pools as whites, Rogers addressed it on his show. When the Challenger space shuttle exploded on live television killing its crew, Rogers addressed it on his show.

There was no topic that Rogers could not distil down to a level that children could understand.

One thing that amazes in this intimate portrait of a truly good man, is that there were people who actually had the audacity to blame Rogers for problems in the world. The documentary showed news reports of misguided individuals blaming Rogers for the sense of entitlement some people felt simply because Rogers expressed that everyone was special. Sadly this is not the only time we have witnessed misguided people blaming others for their problems.

Another thing that surprises in the film is that homophobic people picketed Rogers’ funeral because he was tolerant of homosexuals. Rogers was not gay, nor did the protesters feel he was, they simply despised the man because he didn’t condemn homosexuals for living an alternative lifestyle.

In an era where the President of the United States brags about sexually assaulting women, where celebrities like Roseanne Barr make racist statements and think nothing of it, where congressional candidate Nathan Larson openly admits to being a pedophile, where retired NBA player Tim Hardaway has gone on record saying “I hate gay people”…it is a nice reminder that this world has produced people like Fred Rogers who are good through and through. And that is just what the film Won’t You Be My Neighbor? does.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a poignant look at a man who did good, who was good. It instills in us a hope that Rogers will not be alone in history, that others can and will do things to benefit the world and not add on to its mounting problems.

You don’t have to be a longtime viewer of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to enjoy Won’t You Be My Neighbor?. Even if you have never seen an episode, this documentary will still touch your soul. The movie is, like Rogers himself, a blessing.

Peace. Love. Trust.

What is a “Hateful Liberal”?

Recently a dear friend of mine called me a “Hateful Liberal” and threatened to terminate our friendship because I don’t agree with her opinion that Donald Trump is a truthful or qualified president.

I found this very distressing for multiple reasons.

For one, I would hope that a friendship cultivated over twenty years would be stronger than a political disagreement.

Secondly, I was perplexed by the label “Hateful Liberal.”

I have voted for Democratic candidates, Republican candidates, and Independent candidates over the years. Did I vote for Donald Trump in the last presidential election? Most definitely not.

In his campaign Trump lied repeatedly, made racist and sexist statements, bragged about committing sexual assault, made fun of the disabled (of which I am one), and allegedly colluded with a foreign government in attempts to get elected. He lost the popular vote by more than 3 million votes – so I was not alone. And, even if I was in the minority, I would still stand by my opinions.

Here’s what I stand for:

Racial equality.

Gender equality.

LGBTQ rights.

Protecting the rights of the disabled.

Investing in education.

Cutting taxes on the poor and middle class while asking the upper 1% to pay their fair share.

Protecting Social Security.

Protecting Medicare.

Protecting Medicaid.

Universal healthcare.

Do these positions make me a liberal? Yes. I have no issue with the label liberal. To be honest, it’s a badge I wear with pride.

I just don’t understand why Trump and his supporters throw it at people as if it were an insult.

What I didn’t appreciate in my friend’s attack on me was the term “Hateful Liberal”. It’s a term Trump’s camp has coined to try to perpetuate their myth that liberals are somehow evil.

There is nothing wrong with having liberal political views. So, since labeling people with mindsets like mine as liberal didn’t elicit the negative feelings Trump desired, he added the word “Hateful” to the moniker.

Name calling is what Trump has done throughout his public life, so it comes as no surprise that he feels it necessary to attack those who speak the truth about his lies. He doesn’t like it when unbiased media report the facts that paint him in a negative light. So, he calls them “liberal media” or “fake news.”

Isn’t it funny how we didn’t have any “fake news” before Trump?

But, I digress. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Mine is that Trump is a disgrace. Should that be the grounds for ending a friendship? I certainly hope not.

Peace. Love. Trust.

Lost in Space – a reboot that works!

I was never a fan of the original Lost in Space television series that aired from 1965 to 1968.

First of all, I wasn’t even born yet. I only caught glimpses of it years later as filler programing on late night cable. Secondly, I thought the acting was forgettable, the stories campy, and the production value poor by modern standards.

There was a film version released in 1998 that starred William Hurt, Mimi Rogers, Lacey Chabert, Gary Oldman, and Matt LeBlanc. Despite the star power in the cast and increased production value, the story was still forgettable.

So, let it be said I am not a die hard Lost in Space fan.

However, the new 2018 Lost in Space series now airing on Netflix is a winner. I simply love it.

The writers took a tired premise and gave it a complete overhaul. The story is gritty and entertaining with cliff hangers in every episode. The characters are well drawn out, as are their relationships to each other. And, the production value is through the roof cool.

Most intriguing is the character of Dr. Smith played in this incarnation by indie film queen Parker Posey. It’s immaterial to me that they changed the gender of Dr. Smith, what resonates with absolute creativity is the backstory of how Dr. Smith became Dr. Smith. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is a great plot twist.

This is not a retelling of the same old story, it takes the characters and general plot of the previous versions and injects them with true originality. In the original series and subsequent film, the Robinson family is marooned in space along with a robot, the mysterious outsider Dr. Smith, and all-American military flyboy Donald West.

In the 2018 version of the story, the Robinsons are not alone in their lost outpost. In fact, a whole tribe of characters join them in their peril – entire families of other space refugees who alternate between working together and plotting against each other. Don West is also no longer a military pilot, here he is a lowly mechanic who also smuggles luxury goods. In my opinion it is flawed characters that are the most interesting to watch.

Some might say the reboot is similar to that of what Sy Fy Channel did with Battlestar Galactica in 2004. In that series retelling, the producers took a campy storyline and turned it gritty and dark. In that regard, the Battlestar Galactica reboot and the Lost in Space reboot have something in common.

However, while I was a fan of the original Battlestar Galactica series as a child, and thus blessed with fond memories of it, I found the reboot a bit too dark and trying too hard to be different. That is not the case with Lost in Space 2018.

Perhaps it’s because I don’t have fond memories of the original Lost in Space series that allows me to so thoroughly embrace the reboot, or maybe it’s because the storytelling is so completely different that I like it so much. All I can say is that I binge watched the series in one weekend and can’t wait for season two in 2019.

Peace. Love Trust.

What’s Your Real Height?

The WWE professional wrestling promotion is notorious for exaggerating the height of their athlete entertainers.

The late Macho Man Randy Savage is my favorite wrestler of all time. He was listed at 6’2” but I got to meet the man once and have a picture to show for it. I stand 5’11” and in the picture we appear essentially the same height. So, there’s really no way you’re going to convince me he as 6’2”.

The NBA also has a tendency to exaggerate height. Kirk Hinrich is one of my favorite Chicago Bulls of recent memory. He was a tough, scrappy guard who always impressed me with his balance of tenacity and professionalism. He’s listed at 6’4”. Like with the Macho Man, I have a photo of Kirk and I together. Again, we are almost eye to eye. I’d say he is an honest 6’ even.

But the over exaggeration of heights isn’t the only fibbing in the NBA. There are a few players who like to downplay their height. For some odd reason “The Kid” Kevin Garnett didn’t want to be considered 7’, so he was always listed at 6’11”. Some commentators joked he was 6’12”.

In the current era of basketball, Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors lists himself at 6’9”. This is ridiculous, of course, because he easily towers over other seven footers. I would put his height as at least 7’1”.

Hollywood is also known for fictionalizing the height of its famous members. Mel Gibson is listed at 5’10. In truth, he is no taller than 5’7”. The same applies to Tom Cruise – he too is listed at just two inches under 6’, but when pictured next to Nicole Kidman or Katie Holmes you can tell he’s no bigger than 5’7”.

There was an interesting rumor about me floating around Hollywood for a while that I stand 6’2”. I would love it if that were true. But, it’s not. I’m 5’11”. But I’m in fine company. Elvis Presley was 5’11” until he started doing Hollywood films. After that he was listed at six feet tall. I guess your ability to customize your height goes along with the amount of fame you have. I can only hope one day I will be famous enough to be six feet tall.

Peace. Love. Trust.