Tuesday Afternoon Special

Tuesday Afternoon Special

This past weekend has been a veritable buffet of entertainment - a smorgasbord of movies, television, music, books, and even a trip to the theater for yours truly.

Jim Ortlieb (L) of the Chicago cast of "Billy Elliot" chats with Steve Leventhal (R) after a performance of the hit musical.

We'll start with late last week as I was polishing off the last third of "Moment of Glory - The year Underdogs Ruled Golf" in preparation for our interview with author John Feinstein on Saturday's radio show.  The full review of the book will be unveiled tomorrow. 

On Thursday, I took some visiting out-of-towners to the Art Institute to catch their special exhibition - Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917.  French painter Henri Matisse, is best known for his paper "cutouts, " as well as his unique use of color and post impressionistic paintings.  This exhibit gathers a number of his paintings, drawings, and sculptures from this important period in his development as a prominent artist.  Unfortunately, tomorrow is your last day to catch it.

Saturday afternoon I ventured into the city to watch the USA - England soccer match at McGee's, then I raced back to suburbia to catch Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers at Ravinia. I had heard that the best part was the banter by the actor/comedian between songs.  In that regard, he didn't disappoint. Example:"My family rents a house in North Carolina, and they told me there's a local band who plays here, and I thought how cute.  But then they came over and played, and it was fantastic.  We got along and now here we are. That story doesn't really go down well in Hollywood, so there I tell people we met in rehab."

While Martin isn't going to make it into the bluegrass hall of fame, he
certainly holds his own on stage.  The nearly two hour show was mostly
his originals; a mixture of traditional bluegrass, plus compositions
with lyrics you'd expect from Martin, such as "Jubilation Day," about
the breakup of a romance, or "Late for School," where he races off to
school, dodging all kinds of obstacles, only to realize it's a Saturday
morning.  The funniest tune, however, was "Atheists Don't Have No
Songs." Martin makes a show of handing out the lyrics every show to his sidemen, and the Rangers join in
acapella.  Below is a YouTube video. The opening act was
the Punch Brothers, whose bluegrass tunes tended to skew almost towards
alternative, especially material from their forthcoming album,
"Antifogmatic."

(Lyrics at the end of this article)

On Sunday, my family caught a matinee performance of "Billy Elliot" at
the Oriental Theatre. The Tony award winning play takes place in
northern England during the mid-1980's as Margaret Thatcher's
Conservative Party's attempts to break a year-long strike by the National
Union of Mineworkers.  Eleven-year old Billy is taken to the gym by his
widowed father to get  boxing lessons.  However, the boy becomes
enamored of dancing instead, when he catches a ballet class that
follows the boxing. 

Naturally, Billy's father and older brother disapprove of dancing in
typical chauvinist fashion, that even the editors of BoothReviews would
frown upon. Elliot remains undeterred, and with the help of the ballet
teacher, who recognizes his natural gifts, continues his lessons in
secret, while the men are on the picket lines.

Eventually Billy's father Jackie realizes that his son is indeed
talented and pledges to do whatever it takes help his son, including
crossing the picket lines.  His fellow miners refuse to let him do that,
and raise money for Billy to audition in London.  The music is terrific
and the dance numbers are fabulously choreographed.  The character of
Billy is on stage in every scene.  That, as well as the difficulty of the
routines, requires that a rotating group of four boys play the title
character.

Unknowing to us, our seats were in the first row.  That would be great
for a rock concert, but we found ourselves watching the performers from
the knees up.  We were so close that Jim Ortlieb, who plays George the
boxing instructor, recognized us after the show while we were
waiting for our ride. He was very nice and posed for pictures with us. He also hit a bit part in an episode of "Gray's Anatomy" two years ago.  He probably looks familiar. Catch this play while it's still here.  It's a winner.
A home run - three and a half stars.

Finally, I know I should split these writeups over several days, but I'm still
learning this whole blogging thing.  That, plus watching all this
soccer has played havoc with my schedule.  I'm actually crafting this
prose while the Sox-Pirates game is going on.  But I digress. Last night
with no Cubs, Sox, Hawks, or Lakers I finally got to finish watching
"Crazy Heart" on DVD.  Jeff Bridges gives his Academy Award winning
performance as "Bad" Blake, a down on his luck, alcoholic, country
musician.  Blake was once modestly popular, but his life is reduced to
living from gig to gig, driving in a beat up truck.  Two things are
about to change.  His love life, as he meets a pretty young single
mother working for a local Santa Fe newspaper, and his career as his old
protege asks him to pen some new tunes. 

Blake, self-destructive behavior gets in the way unless he decides to
make some major lifestyle changes.  Maggie Gyllenhaal plays the
reporter, and Robert Duvall is his friend who owns small club in
Houston.  Colin Farrell as Tommy Sweet.  Outstanding performances, great
scenery, superb story.  Both Bridges and Farrell do their own singing,
even more amazing.  The DVD version I saw only had the film.  Hopefully
it was part of a two-disc set.  A solid gold Home run - three and a
half stars.

      **********************


Atheists
Don't Have No Songs

    Christians have their hymns in pages.
    Hava Nagila's for the Jews.
    Baptists have the Rock of Ages.
    Atheists just sing the Blues.

    Romantics play Claire de Lune.
    Born-agains sing He is Risen.
    But no one ever wrote a tune
    for godless Existentialism.

    For Atheists there's no Good News;
    They'll never sing a song of Faith.
    In their songs they have a rule:
    the "he" is always lower case.

    Some folks sing a Bach cantata.
    Lutherans get Christmas trees.
    Atheist songs add up to nada.
    But they do have Sundays free.

    Pentecostals sing, sing to heaven.
    Coptics have the book of scrolls.
    Numerologists count to seven.
    Atheists have rock and roll.

    For Atheists there's no Good News;
    They'll never sing a song of Faith.
    In their songs they have a rule:
    the "he" is always lower case.

    Atheists don't have no songs.

    Christians have their hymns in pages.
    Hava Nagila's for the Jews.
    Baptists have the Rock of Ages.
    Atheists just sing the Blues.

    Catholics dress up for mass
    and listen to Gregorian chants.
    Atheists just take a pass,
    watch football in their underpants.

    Atheists don't have no songs.

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