Tag Archives: musicals

“Wicked” at the Hollywood Pantages

Although Christine and I saw the Tony-award-winning musical “Wicked” a couple weeks back, am finally just now getting around to blogging about it. But please don’t take the delay as a lack of enthusiasm, because this show rocked our world…HARD!

Not only are the songs great and totally catchy, but the story itself is really, really cool and after seeing the show in person at the Pantages, I gotta tell ya, “Wicked” is well on its way to being one of my favorite Broadway shows ever.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Christine how many times I’ve played the rocking soundtrack while cleaning the kitchen…let’s just say she knows all the songs by heart now too. Ha!

I don’t know if it’s the fact that the book of the musical was written by one of my favorite screenwriters, Winnie “My So-Called Life” Holzman, or the fact that it deals with such deep, socio-political issues in such a frothy, lighthearted way, but “Wicked” is way deeper and darker than it need be. And if you ask me, that is totally a good thing!

Loosely based on the best-selling novel by Gregory Maguire, the musical version of “Wicked” is, on the surface, the story of what went down with the “The WIzard of Oz” witches Glinda and Elphaba (aka The Wicked Witch of the West) before Dorothy arrived on the scene. But deep down, the show is about how difficult it is to be different, and the price one pays for daring to stand up for something you believe in, in a society where it’s much easier to simply blend.

I know…deep, huh? I told you! If you’ve seen the classic movie (and, well…who hasn’t?) you know that the so-called Wizard of Oz is a fraud. One of my favorite things about this show is that when Elphaba learns this and threatens to expose the phony Wizard to all of Oz, she is quickly branded “wicked” by the powers that be and banished to a life in the shadows.

Hmm…you might almost say Elphaba is being “unpatriotic” by speaking up and, like some of her modern-day American contemporaries, she pays a stiff price for her views. Hell, there is even a song dealing with the fickle nature of history and how it is essentially written, and often re-written, by the victors. Really interesting stuff any way you look at it.

And when you couple all that depth of content with some seriously kick-ass songs by Stephen Schwartz — the first act closing number “Defying Gravity” will leave you breathless! — and those dazzling sets and costumes, this is a show for the ages, amigos. Even my brother, who generally loathes musicals, loved it.

But “Wicked” is leaving L.A. in January, so, if you live in town, check it out while you can at the Pantages. I mean, shit, even if you don’t like the show, you gotta love that theatre. Just looking up at all those cool green lights outside the facade…wow, it’s like the freaking Emerald City, baby! Awesome!!

Oh yeah, and despite what you read in the paper or online there are TONS of cheap seats available for all shows. We got $100 rear orchestra seats for $50 at Goldstar.com and if you buy you tickets in person at the Pantages box office, they’re even cheaper. Ryan and Laura paid $32.50 a seat the day of the show with not a handling fee in sight! Yee-haw!

Go, “Wicked”!

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Elvis movies: “Viva Las Vegas”

Nerdy as it sounds, ever since our memorable trip to Graceland last year, Christine and I have been trying to see all 31 of Elvis Presley’s movies. Now, if you’ve seen even one of them for yourself, you know how truly difficult this task really is. Because, well…most of them kinda suck.

But with the lone exception of the King’s first movie “Love Me Tender” (1956), which I think was an outright bomb, everything else we’ve seen has at least one or two elements or songs that make them fun and totally worth watching. And despite some awkward turns in a few of the clunkier pictures, Elvis is still freaking Elvis, baby, so…he still totally rules!

For example, “Kissin’ Cousins” (1964) has the King playing a military man and his blond hillbilly cousin, and better yet has not one, but several scenes with a fleet of hooting, hollering mountain gals called the “Kittyhawks” descending upon the homestead to steal single men. I kid you not, that happens at least two or three times in the movie. Crazy!

“It Happened at the World’s Fair” (1963) has a funny cameo by a pint-sized Kurt Russell and some gorgeous shots of Seattle and it’s then brand-spanking-new Space Needle. “The Trouble With Girls” (1969) is a period piece set in and around a traveling roadshow type of deal called a Chautauqua — don’t feel bad, we’d never heard of a freaking Chautaqua either! — and features some of the strangest camera angles you’ve ever seen in a Hollywood movie. It’s downright groovy, man. Gotta love those late-60’s filmmakers…wow!

“Girl Happy” (1965) and “Clambake” (1967) both feature a super-cute Shelley Fabares playing basically the same role in basically the same movie, but “Clambake” has a way better theme song!

“Blue Hawaii” (1961) has Elvis surfing with a bunch of adoring Hawaiian kids and a strangely-sinister Angela Lansbury playing his mom. Yes, his mom. I don’t know if Lansbury was gearing up for her iconic role in “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) or what, but she is crazy weird in this movie…yikes!

And of course, the best of bunch we’d seen to date was “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) which is not just a great Elvis movie, but is also a really great movie in its own right. Cinematic, funny, dark, and beautifully shot in a brooding black and white, there is a reason Elvis fans love this movie. For not only is this probably the King’s best role — playing essentially, a twisted version of himself — this movie is just plain awesome! Seriously, if you were ever gonna buy an Elvis movie on DVD, this is the one to get!

Which brings me, finally, to the most recent Elvis movie on our list…“Viva Las Vegas” (1964). Christine had already watched — and insanely raved about! — this movie without me when I was in Santa Fe, and now we finally caught it again on TCM…and let me tell ya, this is the only other Elvis movie that you simply must have on DVD!

I think Elvis is usually better in his comedies, and here again, he shines playing a gambling race car driver/waiter at the Flamingo Hilton. But this time, the King is joined onscreen by the spectacularly gorgeous Ann-Margret. I don’t know exactly when the term “knockout” came into favor, but I can guarantee you it had something to do with Margret. Seriously, that face, that hair, those legs, that um…posterior…wow, this chick has it all.

And not only can she hold her own with Elvis in the singing and dancing department — actually, I think she’s a way better dancer, but that’s just me — but Ms. Margret can act too. And as written by Sally Benson — who also co-wrote my favorite Hitchcock film, “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943), yay! — her character is no throw-away girlfriend role, but rather a living, breathing firecracker-of-a-swimming-instructior to be reckoned with.

And the chemistry between her and Elvis…wow, I kid you not, you can almost see the sparks crackling off these two onscreen. They are incredible together, and though the first five minutes of so of the movie kinda dragged a bit, the minute Ann-Margret showed up in those skimpy white hot pants…it was on, baby!

Yes the movie has some crazy shit in it — their first date includes a dance class, skeet shooting, water skiiing, a helicopter ride over Hoover Dam and ends on a houseboat, where Margret lives with her father! — but the chemistry between these two keep everything rolling at such a crackerjack pace that you hardly care.

And the extended race car sequence at the end of the movie is really something to behold, especially when you consider the fact that they didn’t have CGI back then! Those are real cars, driven by real stunt men, yo!

I know that George Lucas has said that the chariot race sequence from “Ben Hur” (1959) inspired little Anakin’s pod race scene in “The Phanton Menace” (1999), but I swear to you, there are more than a few similarities between the race in “Viva” and the one in “Menace”. Don’t believe me? Read a hilariously geeky break down of the similarities here.

Anyway, another thing we both loved about “Viva Las Vegas” are the songs! This is one of the first Elvis movies I’ve seen that featured so many rocking duets, and though the title track is still the star, the rest of songs seriously kick ass. And when you factor in two (!) smoking solo songs for Ann-Margret, well, how can you go wrong?

So, if you like your movies loud, fun and loaded to the gills with out-of-control star wattage, check out “Viva Las Vegas”. And if you have a favorite Elvis movie you’d recommend we check out, by all means, let us know.

We’re still dying to see Presley’s last movie — “Change of Habit” (1969), with Mary Tyler Moore as a nun! — but they never play it on TV and the old-ass versions on DVD look pretty crappy. Here’s hoping a deluxe edition is in the works! And in the meantime, we’ll busy ourselves with some of the other movies on our list…next stop, “Harum Scarum” (1965)!

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“The American Mall” billboards

OK, I know I probably sound like the world’s most self-involved goober right now, but after doing some business in Hollywood yesterday, I actually drove around looking for “American Mall” billboards.

I had heard from my brother Ryan and my friend Patty that there were several buses driving around greater Los Angeles with “American Mall” posters on them — Ryan said he even had the oddly surreal thrill of seeing my name scroll into view outside the window of the El Pollo Loco where he was eating breakfast! Ha! — but until yesterday I had not seen any of these posters for myself.

So, like all first-time screenwriters, I cruised Sunset Blvd. stalking buses and looking for billboards for my new movie. And to my amazement, I actually found three gigantic billboards within a few blocks of one another in the heart of downtown Hollywood.

The easiest one to spot was towering over a shockingly-clean Mobil gas station on the corner of Sunset and LaBrea. This was also the easiest billboard to take pictures of as they had a parking lot…yeah!

Next up was a billboard perched way up high on an office tower near Sunset and Las Palmas. This one was harder to shoot as I had to hurriedly park in a red zone, ignore the glaring Cholo gangbangers at the bus stop nearby and snap away. Yikes…don’t try this at home.

And finally, the last billboard I found on my adventure was placed right on top of a really lovely little “rooms-by-the-hour” motel about half a block from Las Palmas. Kind of a seedy locale for a squeaky-clean poster like ours, but hey, at least they had a parking lot!

So, as the mumbling homeless couple on the corner stared at me like I was crazy, I just smiled and thought to myself…hey, if you squint real hard, you can almost see my name! Yeah!

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“The American Mall” premiere party @ The Cabana Club!

Located just around the corner from the Cinerama Dome, the Cabana Club on Ivar has a really cool “old Hollywood” vibe that I kinda love. There’s a little swimming pool-like water running through the place, bridges to the bar, and crazy cool cabanas everywhere you look. I swear to God, this joint is so retro, you half expect to see Louis B. Mayer boozing it up Errol Flynn in the corner.

"The American Mall" neon sign over the bar

"American Mall" after party @ the Cabana Club

Christine and I had been here once before, for the WGA’s post-strike “Contract Celebration Party” in March, but obviously, this party was a lot more fun. And unlike the WGA bash where the bar was only halfway “open”, on Monday night, the free drinks were flowing freely, amigos!

And though most of the food was delicious, I’d have to say the highlights were the “American Mall” cookies and the Ben & Jerry’s booth — there is a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream cart prominently featured in the movie — that came stocked with five yummy flavors of ice cream.

There was also a hugely popular Sears Arrive Lounge photo booth near the dance floor (we took two sets of pics) and an area where people could spread out and play MTV’s hit video game “Rock Band” — which is also featured kinda prominently in my movie. I know, I know…product placement much? But, hello, this movie is set in a mall…so, what better place to, um, place some products?

Ooo, speaking of branding. I know they probably do this at all the Hollywood premieres, but another thing I totally loved was the fact that they slapped “The American Mall” logo on EVERYTHING. Napkins, the food trays, cookies, a super cool neon sign over the bar, hell, even the wait staff and bartenders wore “American Mall” t-shirts. It was awesome!

But the highlight of the evening was really just chilling with the cast and crew from the movie. I had met all of the core cast members when I visited the set in Utah back in February, but Christine was meeting them all for the first time and had a blast. Everyone — and I mean everyone — both in front of and behind the camera was crazy nice! Seriously, it was like old home week…

I’m sure you’ll recognize some of the more famous guests at the party — Jai Rodriguez from “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” told me he loved the movie as did the super cool African-American chick from “High School Musical”, Monique Coleman — but, mark my words, the rest of the “Mall” cast is gonna be huge. And they deserve it, because, in my totally unbiased opinion, they really rocked that mall hard, baby.

So with Christine’s feet ready to fall off — those heels were high, yo! — we stumbled back to our car just before midnight and hurried home to open our gift bags! Sadly, no “Rock Band”, but we did get some cool guitar string bracelets like the one the Ally character wears in the movie, “American Mall” t-shirts, stickers, a CD of the soundtrack and loads of Clean and Clear products…so, hey, not a bad way to end the night.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to rinse off my new deep-cleansing acne mask and go to bed. Que viva la Mall!

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Back-to-school shopping @ “The American Mall”

With a nifty new Clean & Clear “The American Mall” premiere party sweepstakes already in the works on the movie’s official website, MTV announced plans this week for a massive promotional tie-in with Sears. Yep, you heard me…Sears!

Being a long-time Sears shopper — when we were kids, it was the only place my Dad had a credit card at, so we wore a lot of Sears brand finery in our day — I was kinda thrilled to learn that Sears stores nationwide would be pushing “Mall” hard in the next few months. I mean, hey, what better place to promote my mall movie than the place where I learned to shop. Cool, huh?

Timed to coincide with the crazy-profitable back-to-school shopping season, Reuters is describing the Sears partnership as: ”A multi-layered integrated marketing campaign built around the movie target[ing] the core MTV audience on-air, online and in stores — in time for the back-to-school shopping season.” Wow…you said it Reuters!

And let me tell ya, Sears isn’t missing a beat with this one. The Associated Press is reporting — yes, clearly I’ve been kind of over-googling lately — that Sears even has a new tagline for the back-to-school push: ‘Don’t just go back. Arrive”.

And even though they also announced a special website for the promo called the “Sears Arrive Lounge”, I was not able to load it this afternoon, so…not sure if it’s up and running yet.

And the Sears “Mall” mania doesn’t end there, folks. The venerable retail institution will also be featuring “Mall” cast members in their TV, radio, and print ads, distribute special VIP access cards to teens nationwide and even incorporate something called “Sears in-store experience zones”, which will feature “Mall” character looks as created through consultation with the movie’s costume designer, Cynthia Summers. Rock on, Cynthia!

But perhaps the coolest element of the Sears tie-in is that they’ll be releasing scads of officially-licensed “The American Mall” merchandise and a special edition of the DVD (available only at Sears!) with an entire bonus disc of exclusive material. Whew…good thing I didn’t pre-order my DVD at Amazon yet!

Anyway, I know it’s totally lame to be geeking out about all this, but, I gotta admit that I am a little excited at the prospect of shopping for clothing inspired by my characters at my local Sears. I guess the biggest thing I have to worry about now is whether or not Joey’s super cool “janitor coveralls” come in a XXL…

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