Monday, July 27, 2015

A Bittersweet "Last Five Years"


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For Something Different, “The Last Five Years”

By Skip Sheffield

Looking for something different in live theater? Evening Star Productions is offering “The Last Five Years” through Aug. 2 at Sol Theatre, 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
“Last Five Years” is a two-person musical by Jason Robert Brown, whose musical “Parade” was produced by Slow Burn Theatre last season. It has a different kind of structure from what we are used to in a play. Events unfold backward for Cathy (Sara Grant) and forward for Jamie (Ben Sandomir). At about the midpoint of the 90-minute performance, Cathy and Jamie meet in the same time frame for their marriage. Be forewarned this is not a happy musical. It is about the breakup of a marriage, from two points of view. It begins with Cathy in the depths of despair and Jamie giddy with the hope of new love. The songs are not simple but tricky. You won’t hear a “hit single,” but you will hear deeply thought, insightful lyrics about the fleeting qualities of romantic love.
Sol Theatre regular Sara Grant (she is founder Rosalie Grant’s daughter) is a good singer and very effective actress. Ben Sandomir is a good actor and an exceptional singer. The way he caresses high notes is simply beautiful. Also exceptional is violinist Lehins Aragon, who caresses notes in concert with the singers. Also in the three-piece band are musical director and pianist Jason Buelow and a very young bassist named Brad Miller.
“The Last Five Years” is not the kind of musical that will leave you singing a favorite tune. However, it will get you thinking about what you might have done wrong in your own love life. For me the answer is plenty, but “It is better to have loved and lost…”
Shows are at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Aug. 2. Tickets are $25 ($10 students. Call 561-447-8829.



Thursday, July 23, 2015

Coming of Age in Orlando

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A Not Weepy But Wise “Paper Towns”

By Skip Sheffield

Sometimes it seems like we never leave high school. No matter what success failure, or mediocrecy we achieve later in life, what we were in high school remains an integral part of us.
This thought came to me after seeing “Paper Towns.” It’s a romantic comedy set in senior year of high school in Orlando. The script, by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, is based on the young adult novel by John Green, who collaborated with the screenwriters previously on the weepy drama “The Fault in Our Stars.”
“Paper Towns” is no weeper. In fact it is rather uplifting. Quentin meets Margo as a young boy in their Orlando suburb and is immediately smitten. Even as a little girl Margo is gorgeous and different, marching to the beat of her own drummer.
“She loved mysteries because she became one,” Quentin muses.
Quentin who grows into a nerdy teenager played by Nat Wolff, and Margo, who has only grown more beautiful, played by British fashion model Cara Delevigne, have drifted apart. One night, only about a week before senior prom, Margo climbs into Quentin’s bedroom window and lures him into an all-night caper of revenge against people she feels has wronged her. Quentin is apprehensive and fearful, but he goes along, and as the night progresses he becomes bolder- and more in love with Margo.
Quentin has two outsider best friends: Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith). Radar has a long-time girlfriend Angela (Jaz Sinclair) he dotes upon and plans to take to the prom. Ben has no girlfriend, but he dreams about pretty Lacey (Halston Sage), who goes with an arrogant jock.
Shortly after their all-nighter, Margo disappears. She leaves behind cryptic clues on where she might be. Quentin enlists his friends as detectives and cajoles them on a mission that ultimately takes them to a “Paper Town” (a town that exists only on maps) in upstate New York
Credibility is not the strong suit of “Paper Towns.” Quentin seems to have an endless supply of money, and parents that don’t care if he takes off with their car. Likewise his friends take off on an adventure with no regard to their parents or worry about cops or school officials.

“Paper Town” is a fantasy, but it is not sugary sweet or sappy. Everyone learns a valuable lesson save Margo, who remains an enigma. Perhaps that’s how it should be. We all need a little mystery in life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Special Opening Night With Ali MacGraw & Ryan O'Neal

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Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal Deliver a Special Evening

By Skip Sheffield

Who knew two people, an older man an older woman, sitting at a table, wearing reading glasses and reading letters could be so entertaining?
When the older people in question are Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal and the words they read are by A.R. Gurney, believe it. It is entertaining, funny, meaningful and moving. It’s no wonder “Love Letters” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1989.
“Love Letters” has been performed by a variety of celebrities because it requires minimal rehearsal and it is simply read rather than memorized. The impact of the words depends on the unspoken emotion of the actors. Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal have a long history, having rocketed to stardom together in a little 1970 movie called “Love Story.” They have each had their ups and downs in the years since. It is this unspoken back story that gives A.R. Gurney’s fanciful story of a man and woman over 50 years its power. Melissa Gardner (Ali MacGraw) is a rich girl. Andrew “Andy” Makepeace Ladd III (Ryan O’Neal) is not poor, but not nearly as well-off as Melissa. The story begins at a birthday party on April 19, 1937. Melissa asks Andy if he will be her Valentine. Andy says yes. So begins a relationship mostly through letters; most often Christmas cards, as both attend prep schools and colleges, have romances and breakups and begin careers. All the while there are missed opportunities. Though they are quite different (she’s an arty rebel, he’s a conservative conformist), there is the sense they are destined to be together- yet that destiny is not to be fulfilled. Performed in only about 90 minutes without intermission, the play builds in power as it approaches its finale. By then it is quite emotional and both actors are visibly moved.
July 21 was opening night for a ten-city national tour. It was a special evening, and Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal were rewarded with a much deserved standing ovation. See it if you have a chance.
“Love Letters” runs through Sunday, July 26. Tickets start at $35. Call 800-745-3000 or go to www.browardcenter.org.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Leon Russell Helps Funky Biscuit Celebrate Fourth Anniversary

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Funky Biscuit Is Four Years Old

By Skip Sheffield

Funky Biscuit at Royal Palm Place is celebrating its fourth anniversary in a big way, starting with a kick-off party Thursday, July 23 with Heavy Pets, Crazy Fingers and the Dirk Quinn Band.
“We are having three local bands for the kick-off party,” reports Funky Biscuit owner-manager Al Poliak. “Then on Friday we have Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen. He’s fabulous. He’s been here twice, so I know. Then we have Leon Russell for the first time Saturday and Sunday. He is truly a living legend.”
Leon Russell is indeed a living musical treasure. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native has been a professional musician since 1956. He turned 73 on April 2, but he continues to perform and tour. Russell is proficient on piano, organ and guitar and he sings in a distinctive twangy “Okie” style. As a Los Angeles session player he played with virtually all of the greats of the 1960s and 1970s. He has written many songs that have become standards. These include “This Masquerade,” “Tightrope,” “Superstar” and “A Song for You.”
Opening for Leon Russell is Richie Schmidt, a Funky Biscuit regular. With his wife, Tess Smith, the couple performs at a 5 p.m. Thursday Happy Hour as Twocan Blue. Schmidt is also lead guitarist with the popular rock group The Fabulous Fleetwoods. At 9 p.m. this Friday, July 24, New Orleans-based, British-born pianist Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen take to the stage. Tickets are $30-$45 ($35 day of show), and this is a show where fans under 21 are permitted with parent or legal guardian for just $10.
The Saturday Leon Russell show is sold-out and tickets for $45-$60 are going fast for the Sunday show. Music continues Monday, July 27 with a Biscuit Jam with Mark Telesca and the Funky Biscuit All-Stars. Al Poliak often joins in on keyboards. Tuesday, July 28 features the Fireside Prophets with Oli & Davy ($5-$7), Wednesday, July 29 is classic rock with Twocan Blue & Friends, Thursday, July 30 is The Naughty Professor and the month wraps up with Bobby Messano and Dark Horse Flyer.
The month of August begins with a Jerry Garcia Birthday Celebration Aug. 1 with Crazy Fingers and Unlimited Devotion.
“We had to start modestly,” Poliak says. “It takes time to become known to booking agents and managers. People in the business know who Funky Biscuit is now. We are at the point where I wish we could add more seating.”
The phone number is 561-395-2929 and the web site is www.funkybiscuit.com.



Friday, July 17, 2015

"Lila & Eve" No Chick Flick

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“Lila & Eve” No Ordinary “Chick Flick”

By Skip Sheffield

When I saw “ChickFlicks” as a producing partner for the Samuel Goldwyn Classic film “Lila & Eve,” I thought uh-oh. However, “Lila & Eve,” which opens July 17 at Living Room Theaters, is anything but a standard chick-flick romance. No, this is a grief, revenge and women’s solidarity story written by Pat Gilfillan, directed by Charles Stone III and set in the present in the “bad part” of Atlanta.
Viola Davis plays Lila, a single mom whose older son Stephon (Ami Ameen) is shot dead by a stray bullet in a gang shooting. Lila joins a support group of grieving mothers who subscribe to a 12-step program of dealing with their anger and sorrow. Eve (Jennifer Lopez) is a member of the group who is skeptical of the advice given, and storms out of a meeting. Lila confronts Eve and asks her if she could be her sponsor.
“We aren’t real to them,” Eve says of Atlanta Police. “Hell, they don’t even see us.”
Feeling powerless, Lila and Eve decide to take the law into their own hands, with dangerous results. “Lila & Eve” is “Dirty Harry” crossed with “Thelma and Louise.” It’s a short, tense ride through the mean streets of Atlanta, with a surprising outcome.

“Palm Beach County During World War II”

Boca Raton Historical Society curator Susan Gillis is the proud co-author of “Palm Beach County During World War II,” recently published by Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, South Carolina. Gillis and co-authors Debi Murray and Richard Marconi of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County will present a short talk and book-signing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 at Old Town Hall, 71 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
“You could say I have wanted to do this since I first got here in 2002,” said Susan Gillis last Thursday at Old Town Hall. “Last summer I got together with my dear friends Debi and Richard and said why don’t we write about World War II for all of Palm Beach County, not just Boca Raton Army Airfield? The war affected people of all walks of life all over the county. There was a submarine base in Jupiter; the Breakers Hotel became a hospital and there was Morrison Field in West Palm Beach and the Lantana Airport, plus all the civilian sub-spotters and Civil defense workers.”
The $21.95 soft-cover book is copiously illustrated with vintage photographs lent by local citizens. Many of them have never been seen before. While the Boca Raton Army Airfield (BRAAF) was by far the largest base in South Florida, World War II affected all Floridians everywhere.
“If it weren’t for the Boca Raton Airbase we would not have FAU or the present airport,” said Gillis. “The town was devastated when the air base closed, but it made more than 6,000 acres of land available for development. Boca Raton would not be the same without BRAAF.”

Community Cabaret

For entertainment of a lighter sort, there is another Community Cabaret with 20 acts from teens to seniors at 7:30 p.m. July 22 at the Willow Theatre of Sugar Sand Park, 300 S. Military Trail, Boca Raton. Admission is just $5. Call 561-347-3900.




Thursday, July 16, 2015

Old Friends Exchange "Love Letters"

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Lovers on the Big Screen, Friends in Real Life: Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal

By Skip Sheffield

“Love Story” stars Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal are back together again. This time they are on stage, reading A.R. Gurney’s Pulitzer-Prize finalist work, “Love Letters,” at Broward Center for the Arts July 21-26.
“Love Letters” is a show designed for guest celebrities because it does not require lengthy rehearsals. It is more akin to reader’s theater, as the actors read the love letters of the title, sent between a man and a woman over a 50-year span. It helps if the actors are actually fond of each other. McGraw and O’Neal are.
“Ryan and I have travelled the world making appearances for `Love Story’ screenings,” she revealed by telephone from her home in Santa Fe, NM. “It seems everywhere we go, people know who we are. It is amazing that such a little tiny movie became such a worldwide phenomenon that continues to this day.”
“Love Story” certainly changed the life of Ali McGraw. It was only her second film after “Goodbye Columbus” in 1969. She won the Golden Globe Award as Most Promising Newcomer for her role as Richard Benjamin’s rich girlfriend in that film. In 1970 she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Ryan O’Neal’s doomed love interest in “Love Story.” In 1972 she was voted top female box office star in the world and was invited to put her foot and handprints at the walk of fame at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. In 1991 People magazine selected McGraw as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” In 2008 GQ magazine listed her in their “25 Sexiest Women in Film Ever” edition. Though she has allowed her dark hair to go silver, McGraw is still of the most beautiful women her age (76) in the world.
Elizabeth Alice “Ali” McGraw is also very smart. She is an alumna of Rosemary Hall (now Choate Rosemary Hall) on scholarship and prestigious Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
“My family was not wealthy, but I was on scholarship so I got to attend schools people associate with the rich,” she said. “I could see the differences between upper and lower classes in the 1960s. It was a time of extraordinary freedom.”
After appearing on Broadway, McGraw and O’Neal have taken their two-person act “on the road."
“I have never been to Fort Lauderdale, so I’m looking forward to that,” McGraw said. “I love working with Ryan. We have gotten together over the years for `Love Story,’ but `Love Letters’ is special. It’s a touching and funny depiction of a long-term relationship that I think people will enjoy.”
Tickets start at $35. Call 800-745-3000 or go to www.browardcenter.org.


Amy Schumer Goes Gonzo in "Trainwreck"

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Celebrity Cameos Spark “Trainwreck”
By Skip Sheffield

Amy Schumer is not shy. She is not modest or delicate either. She is kind of like one of the guys in “Trainwreck;” a film in which she stars and wrote the script.

“Trainwreck” is like an exaggerated version of Amy Schumer the brash and blunt stand-up comedian. The story begins with a flashback to when Amy was a child (Devin Farbry as a 9-year-old Amy). Her dad (Colin Quinn) is not exactly a model father. He drinks too much and messes around. “Monogamy is not realistic,” he lectures little Amy. The grownup Amy has taken this to heart. Amy sleeps with whomever whenever she wants- as long as they don’t stay overnight. She is a writer for a snarky New York magazine called S’Nuff, as in that’s enough. Her bitchy British boss (Tilda Swinton at her bitchiest) has given her an assignment she does not want: interview celebrity sports surgeon Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). “Sports are stupid,” Amy sniffs. Nevertheless Amy interviews Dr. Conners, and immediately they click. The role of Dr. Conners allowed Amy Schumer the writer to invite every celebrity sports star she knew to play themselves. For instance basketball star LeBron James plays himself as Dr. Conners’ patient and good friend. James is surprisingly good, and he delivers some funny lines about the Miami Heat and his defection to Cleveland. “Trainwreck” is like a Mad magazine of cameos. My favorite is a movie-within-a-movie called “The Dogwalker,” starring Daniel Radcliffe, with Marisa Tomei as one of his clients. Amy also called fellow comedians to play small roles. These include Jim Florentine, Bobby Kelly and Dave Attell. The small part of an elderly gentleman named Norman is veteran stage and screen actor Norman Lloyd, who turns age 101 on Nov. 8. Wrestling star John Sena has an amusing speaking role as Amy’s muscle-bound boyfriend Steven. Playing themselves are actor Matthew Broderick, tennis legend Chris Lloyd and sports announcer Marv Alpert. Schumer even has a celebrity director: Judd Apatow directing the first film he did not write. As for the romantic story line between Schumer and Hader, it is the least effective part of “Trainwreck.” Go for the laughs and leave it at that.